By Brig. Anil Gupta*
The recent terrorist attack in Gurdaspur has confirmed three things beyond doubt. Firstly, in Pakistan it is General Raheel Sharif who calls the shots and not Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned. Secondly, the script of India-Pakistan relations does not fall in the realm of foreign policy but defence policy, and hence is formulated in GHQ Rawalpindi and not Islamabad. Thirdly, Pakistan Army unashamedly continues to use terror as an instrument of policy against India, disregarding international opinion and UN pronouncements.
The terrorists have also conveyed an unambiguous message that they can strike at will where and whenever they want. They are not afraid of extending the arc of terror to anywhere in India. They follow the Clausewitzian strategy of “Flowing Water”, like the water continues to flow by changing its course when confronted by an obstacle so will the terrorists be pushed into India unmindful of the resistance on the Line of Control or International Border. So, finding the troops in IB sector in Jammu-Kathua belt alert and better prepared after two consecutive terror attacks in the recent past, the focus has now shifted to the other border states. One must be clear that it is not a policy shift but just a change of strategy. Contrary to the popular belief, annexation of Kashmir to complete the unfinished agenda of Partition is not the ultimate aim of the enemy, but it is to ensure total disintegration of India to justify the “Two Nation Theory”. It is not merely an animosity between the two neighbours but a conflict of ideologies. Is the Nation not aware of this threat?
The TV footage of the encounter site made one wonder of the seriousness with which we are prepared to meet the threat. The scenes of policemen, inadequately dressed, with large pot bellies and behaving as if a scene for a Bollywood film is being shot, did not portray the professionalism of a force ready to thwart any challenge from a determined enemy. I do not blame the Punjab Police personnel for that but the government and senior police hierarchy. It is their responsibility to equip and train the police force. Sheer physical courage does not substitute the lack of proper training. The unprofessional way in which the policemen were huddled together in a straight line and trying to shoot at the terrorists, as well as the way the grenades were being hurled clearly displayed lack of proper weapon training and field craft – two basic necessities while fighting the enemy, in this case the terrorists. It is not the case only with Punjab Police but with most of the police forces in our country.
With Pakistan not afraid of spreading the arc of terror it is necessary that all our state police forces, particularly of border states, are properly equipped and trained to fight the terrorists. In all such cases, police will always be the first line of response till such time the other reinforcements like police commandos, NSG and the army arrive. The state police forces therefore should revise their equipment and training manuals as well as formulate the tactics to counter the terrorist threat.
The statement of the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal blaming the centre for poor border management does not augur well for national security. The menace of terror has to be fought jointly by the states and the central government. It is unpardonable that despite being victim of terror for more than three decades now we yet do not have a National Anti-Terror Policy. Petty electoral politics and lack of vision continues to override national interests. Lack of unanimity between the centre and the states continues to overshadow a joint approach to tackle the menace.
All forces operating in a state have to work jointly and not in water-tight compartments. Acts of terror cannot be tackled like routine law and order problems. Terrorism has blunted the very thin line between external and internal threat, particularly when terrorism is used by a hostile neighbor as a means to achieve the desired ends. In such a scenario the states and the centre have to be on the same page to ensure national security with state police forces playing a much larger role than merely maintenance of law and order.
Like a nation has no choice in choosing its neighbours, it has no choice as far as the terrain on the border. The nation has to find the ways and means to defend its borders irrespective of the terrain. If the border is riverine or porous it should not be an excuse to let the terrorists infiltrate at will. A proper analysis of the terrain would determine the means required to secure it. But problems occur when fixed templates or mathematical formulae are used to determine the same. BSF needs to do a serious introspection to analyse the causes for frequent border intrusions and means to solve them. If required methods employed by the army on the LOC should be studied as they have proved more effective. An analysis of the modus operandi of the terrorists can also be useful. A study of the previous attacks would suggest that proximity of NH1 and NH 15 to the IB permits the terrorists to attack targets in wee hours of the morning between 4.30 to 5 a.m.
Highest state of alert needs to be maintained at this time. Patrolling on the highways and villages around them needs to be strengthened after mid-night. There is a need to involve the locals as well. I remember that during the ‘65 and ‘71 wars there used to be a system of “Thikri Pehra” (roster based volunteer watch duties), wherein all able bodied males in the village used to perform rotational watch duties. A similar practice backed up with modern technology needs to be introduced in the settlements and villages around NHs.
The possibility of global terrorist outfits like ISIS (Islamic State) and Al Qaeda joining hands with the ISI for achievement of the ultimate aim of Gajwa-I-Hind (greater Pakistan) cannot be ruled out. The fact that the elephant is in the room can no longer be brushed under the carpet. In that case the threat is more deadly and brutal. Our response has to be more professional and swift. But are we really prepared?
Once again the onus of blunting the initial attack in form of first line of resistance would fall on the state police forces. Our intelligence agencies also have to gear up to meet the challenge. Time and again they have been found wanting. We need to invest heavily in TECHINT (technical intelligence) as well as HUMINT (human intelligence). There is no substitute to that. A reorganization of the Home Ministry is also needed. We also need to create a separate dedicated ministry for homeland security as was done by the USA after the 9/11 attack. Modernisation, equipping and training of the police should be the foremost priority. The British Raj ethos of use of police to run the writ of the state needs to end. The primary job of police should be crime prevention and to ensure safety and security of its citizens. The centre has to accept the responsibility of capacity building.
It is popularly believed that the Narendra Modi government’s Pakistan policy is ambiguous and jerky. All initiatives taken so far have met with stiff resistance from the Pakistan Army, which has been successful in preventing resumption of bilateral dialogue. I am confident that Modi government has a well-defined strategy to deal with Pakistan and the terrorist threat emanating from there. India is committed to regional peace and as a responsible nation is conscious of her role in ensuring stability in the region and global peace. India can no longer be treated as a soft state. Appropriate lesson will be taught to the perpetrators of terror if they do not mend their ways.
*Brig Anil Gupta is a Jammu-based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]