The car bombing of a CRPF convoy on February 14, 2019, 30 km short of Srinagar in Pulwama has claimed the lives of 44 CRPF personnel with more than 30 others injured. J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has called it an intelligence failure possibly because an intelligence advisory telex marked ‘extremely urgent’ of February 8, had warned all concerned including DIGs CRPF of North and South Kashmir that read “Before occupying your place of deployment, please sanitize the area properly as there are inputs of use of IEDs. Matter most urgent”. T
here suicide bomber had local support, which should have been considered after local connivance in other terrorist attacks, particularly by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), like at Uri army base in 2016 and Sunjwan army camp during 2018. How has 350 kg explosives been moved around and transported – where was our intelligence?
The first reports of the car bomb attack said the explosive-lade vehicle was parked on side of the road but later ones talked of the suicide bomber “ramming” his Bolero into the convoy. The fact that terrorists were able to fire upon the convoy after the blast raises questions about sanitization of the area and effectiveness of the road opening parties, given that much more caution was required when such a long convoy of 72 vehicles was ferrying over 2500 CRPF personnel. JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack and posted a video of the suicide bomber, a school dropout.
Whether we agree or not, government’s Kashmir Policy has been a complete mess – knee-jerk actions, akin to Parkinson’s. To begin with, government gave the Hurriyat separatists free hand to visit and interact with officials in the Pakistani High Commission at New Delhi. In fact junior ministers were detailed to attend some functions.
Separatists were also permitted to freely visit Pakistan and interact with Pakistani military, ISI, politicians and terrorists. This included a terrorist like Yasin Malik who boasted to Tim Sebastian on BBC that he had killed four IAF personnel. He is a free bird even now, perhaps under cover of being approver. Or is he paying ISI money to the intelligence agencies for his freedom; but what message are you giving to security forces? Forget separatism, China kills anyone criticizing the government and harvests his / her organs. Pakistan simply shoots Baloch separatists; they are all abroad.
The BJP coalition government with the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in J&K deteriorated the situation further. Governor’s rule should have been imposed if PDP didn’t have the numbers rather than the unholy alliance with a party that came up with support of the Hijbul Mujahideen.
The other major political party, National Conference (NC) too is linked to terrorist organizations and was clearly complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits but no action was taken against them. Intelligence agencies gave proof of Hurriyat separatist being financed by the ISI, which only led to some half-hearted arrests and proceedings against them. Mehbooba Mufti kept releasing stone-pelters under amnesty for small offences; their release timed just before terrorist attacks.
The state government failed to capitalize on the level of violence brought down by the Army periodically. On the contrary, ceasefire was granted during Ramzan to let the terrorists regroup and consolidate. According to the IB, Rohigyas colonized n Jammu despite Article 370 assisted JeM terrorists in the attack on Sunjwan army camp in January 2018 but none have been arrested and prosecuted.
Post the Pulwama car bombing, the question on social media and even headers on some national TV channels are asking whether we will go beyond rhetoric of ‘Kadi Ninda’ (condemnation), ‘Ghor Ninda’ (deep condemnation) and ‘Thos Kadam’ (concrete steps)?
Calling Pakistan ‘Kayar’ (Coward) is nothing beyond pulling out own hair in frustration because in sub-conventional warfare the question of morality doesn’t arise in the first place. The Pakistani High Commissioner to India has been handed over a demarche, who probably returning to the High Commissioned popped the bubbly. The world condemning the terror attack is routine and not to be exuberant about.
In fact, Imran Khan and his army chief must be quite amused with Donald Trump asking Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism. World including US also condemned the recent car bombing in Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran. Significantly both the car bombings in Iran and India coincided with visit of the Saudi Prince to Pakistan – is that a signal? FM Arun Jaitly saying the international community to isolate Pakistan is equally amusing considering China, Saudi Arabia and even the US seek strategic support from Pakistan; US for safe exit from Afghanistan.
Did it require this car-bombing to withdraw the MFN status from Pakistan? At a pre-election rally in Jhansi on February 15, 2019, Prime Minister Modi announced he has given a free hand to the Army to extract revenge at a place and time of their choosing. This is sweet music to public ears but would probably translate into artillery attacks in addition to a shallow raid like the one conducted in POK in September 2016, as response to the JeM attack at Uri army base that killed 19 soldiers and wounded over two scores.
In the unnamed operation termed ‘surgical strikes’ perhaps 2-4 regular army soldiers and some 30 plus terrorists were killed which may or may not be from JeM. But over politicization of this raid and aggrandizing the Prime Minister and the NSA through video clips and the Bollywood movie ‘Uri’ has made repeat of similar raids all the more difficult.
Next time, our Special Forces will likely encounter increased surveillance of likely ingress routes, as also IEDs and claymore mines with hidden trip wires. Incidentally, does the “free hand” to the Army include dealing with the enemy agents within the Kashmir Valley and rest of India – politicians, separatists, stone-pelting organizers, and the cross-section in India on ISI payroll?
The “free hand” that the Prime Minister just sanctioned is ‘no’ deterrence to Pakistan’s proxy war. Sub-conventional is part of hybrid warfare which needs a national level response on long-term continuous basis. This is the job of the national political hierarchy.
The NSA, in particular, should be working double time since as Joint Director IB in 2008 he was the chief negotiator for Masood Azhar and accompanied him to Kandhar; where Azhar was set free to transform into the Frankenstein of today. Does the blood drawn by Azhar not impinge on the conscience of the NSA? US exit from Afghanistan will make the situation worse for us. As it is, we should be ready for more car bombings, gas and drone attacks, use of radiological devices and the like.
Terrorist are developing new types of explosives experimenting with commercially available products like fertilizer and chemicals, coupling them with radioactive like material to increase destructive power. Terrorist organizations, particularly the ISIS, are developing CBRN capabilities, assisted by fissile material available in the black market. Toxic radioactive agents can be paired with conventional explosives and turned into a radiological weapon.
Revenge attacks are no recipe for coping with sub-conventional warfare. The time for pussyfooting with J&K and Pakistan has gone. We need to take control even if lives don’t matter in India, and this terror attack would be forgotten after the elections, till more rhetorical drama and sloganeering is enacted after the next terror attack.
Pakistani army has never won a war and would not like conventional war with India. We need to get hold of Pakistan’s multiple fault-lines, forcing it to seek war; quit harping on the need for a strong Pakistan, it is time to balkanize Pakistan once again.