By Jai Kumar Verma*
United Jihad Council (UJC) took the responsibility of January 2 attack on Pathankot Airbase, however it was the handiwork of Jaish-e-Mohammed (J-e-M) and UJC owned it on behest of the sinister Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). UJC was constituted in 1994 on the initiative of ISI to unite the diverse terrorist groups operating in Jammu & Kashmir, so that more terrorist acts can be carried out.
Pathankot airbase, which is located near India’s border with Pakistan, was penetrated by six Pakistani terrorists who were equipped with lethal weapons. All six terrorists were killed, but in the encounter 7 security personnel including a Lieutenant Colonel were also martyred. The coordinated, joint operation in which National Security Guard (NSG), Indian Army, Punjab Police and Air Force participated continued for a long time because of the large area of the airbase, the intelligence reports which gave the number of terrorists in two digits. To top that, the need to sanitize the airbase that contains more than 3000 families was paramount.
Pathankot Airbase is the first line of defence against Pakistan making it strategically very important. It houses MiG-21 fighter planes as well as Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters. The ISI trained terrorists were instructed to destroy these very airplanes and helicopters in the base.
But, for the response from the Indian side, the J-e-M terrorists could not cause major damages to the high value assets because the intelligence agencies had prior information about the assault which was further confirmed with the abduction and subsequent release of the Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh. Unfortunately the security agencies wasted precious time to react on the information of SP Gurdaspur as there were few loopholes in his story. The authenticity of the facts and role of Salwinder Singh are being probed.
Interestingly, the security agencies had also sent the NSG commandos to Pathankot one day before the assault. National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval who is an expert on both Pakistan and terrorism himself had supervised the operation making coordination between various security agencies rather smooth. The Air Force base at Pathankot was also warned to enhance security arrangements; a kind of preparedness that prevented any major damages from being caused to the high value assets including aircrafts that were present in the base.
It seems that General Raheel Sharif, 15th Chief of Staff of Pakistani Army, was upset on the success of Modi’s stopover in Lahore and his successful meeting with Nawaz Sharif. Pakistani Army which flourishes on anti-India propaganda and on harping Kashmir issue discourages cordial relations with India. It knows that if Nawaz succeeds in establishing friendly relations with India, it will enhance the importance of the Pakistani civilian government which is not acceptable to an army that has effectively been the political master of the country.
Besides Pakistani army there is also a strong lobby backed by terrorist organizations, businessmen and others, who flourish on anti-India rhetoric, hence oppose amiable relations with India.
It has been reported that the ISI which works hand-in-glove with the Pakistani army had hatched the conspiracy through J-e-M, which itself was created to foment troubles for India. Given their anti-India stance, it does not come as a surprise that the intention behind the attack on the Pathankot base, apart from causing damage and massive casualties, was to stall the Foreign Secretary talks from taking place.
Should the talks get scuttled; the anti-India lobby in Pakistan will find a convenient alibi for blaming India for scrapping the negotiations and point-out to the increasing danger from India as well as from Afghanistan where the Indian influence is enhancing. However, Modi government should not become prey to the ploy of Pakistani army by postponing the negotiations.
Indian government should stress that it is competent to take stern action against terrorists and all the terrorists were killed without loss of any valuable asset and dialogue will continue.
All the senior leaders including Prime Minister Modi appreciated the great courage of security personnel especially the persons who gave the supreme sacrifice. The martyred security forces personnel performed their duty, now the indebted nation should reciprocate. The family members of martyred personnel must get Rs.1Crore within a week and then remaining benefits should be given.
Air Force bases, naval installments should be guarded by trained security agencies like Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) etc. instead of Defence Security Corps (DSC), Air Force or Navy personnel who are neither trained nor equipped for security of important installations.
The security agencies should also launch an enquiry to ascertain the route from where the terrorists infiltrated. The possibility that there are some hidden rivulets or tunnels cannot be ruled out. The terrorists took shelter in the area for about 24 hours and they were well versed with topography of the area hence it must be investigated that whether there were some support agents or sleeper cell who assisted the terrorists.
Unfortunately Pakistan does not reciprocate peaceful initiatives of India and continues sending terrorists to India, waging a low-intensity war against the country. Now India must covertly assist various secessionist movements in Pakistan including Balochis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Muhajirs, Hindkowans, Chitralis and Saraikis. More assistance should be rendered to Saraikistan Movement as Punjabi rulers in Pakistan do not want trouble in Punjab Province.
The theory that strong Pakistan is in interest of India is outdated and erroneous. India must ensure that Pakistan remains weak and engaged in its internal problems and has neither time nor resources to foment trouble in its neighbouring countries.
*Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. He can be contacted at: [email protected]