The recent terrorist attack on a Border Security Force (BSF) Battalion Headquarters in Srinagar has confirmed three things beyond doubt. Firstly; in Pakistan alias Atankistan, the Army continues to call the shots and not the civilian government led by a dummy prime minister. Secondly; the realm of Indo-Pak relations does not fall in the domain of foreign policy but continues to be an adjunct of defence policy and hence is formulated in General Head Quarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi and not at Islamabad by the Foreign Minister. Thirdly, Pakistan Army unashamedly continues to use terror as an instrument of policy against India disregarding the international opinion and UN pronouncements. Pakistan Army has so far dismissed with contempt not only the stern warnings given by Trump Administration but also the friendly advice given by its all-weather ally China. But the fact of the matter is also that the Pakistan Army has been frustrated to such an extent that it was looking for an opportunity to convey a message that it still possesses assets that can cause damage to India within its territory and thus gain much needed publicity to keep the Kashmir issue alive globally.
The Deep State within Pakistan is hell bent to provoke India and either is not afraid of the consequences or is over confident that India would continue to exercise restraint. They are still looking for the red line drawn by India. Terrorists 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 continue to enter India unmindful of the resistance on the line of control (LOC) or international border (IB) until and unless we also leverage technology to stop infiltration.
Credit needs to be given to the BSF for the initial response and the determination with which the intrusion into their complex was contested which resulted in elimination of one terrorist at the entrance itself. Subsequent operation to eliminate the remainder two terrorists was also well executed with complete synchronization and coordination with other elements of security forces that participated in the operation. The loss of life and damage to own assets as well as collateral damage was minimized. In nutshell, it was an operation well conducted with professional finesse. Credit should be given to Atankistan for two things, the choice of Srinagar, the capital city and choice of the target, almost in the middle of the one of the most secured zones of Srinagar that houses not only a number of security installations, international airport but also a residential colony in which the who’s who of the government stays.
Why did they choose this time and place when Pakistan is already under international pressure to shun cross-border terrorism and has been put on a stern warning list by the Trump Administration? There have to be some compelling reasons. Such ‘High Visibility’ attacks are usually undertaken in order to break the shackles of frustration and desperation, to convey a message or to scuttle a move that may result in thaw in Indo-Pak relations. In the instant case, the Pakistan Army is facing a stiff challenge from the Army and BSF at the LOC and IB thus thwarting their multifarious attempts to push in as many Kashmiri terrorists as possible so that the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir can be portrayed to the global community as a ‘home grown’ movement. That is why the attack though carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is being projected as handiwork of Afzal Guru Squad, giving it a local flavour. Coupled with this is the extraordinary success achieved by the security forces in eliminating more than 150 terrorists in the hinterland which includes a large number of terrorist commanders. Operation Arjun launched by the BSF in IB sector has caused grievous pain and hurt to the elements of Deep State, selection of a BSF camp is possibly as a retaliation of the same.
The Pakistan Army does not subscribe to the “liability theory” of Foreign Minister Abbassi and hence has carried out this strike to convey to the civilian government and global community their disagreement and disapproval of this theory. The terrorists continue to be the assets of the Army and terrorism its preferred policy to deal with India. The Deep State is also wary of the latest peace overtures of the Central government and the signals being sent by the separatist leadership.
Through this strike the Deep State wants to convey that peace cannot return to trouble torn Kashmir till such time they desire it. Proving beyond any doubt that the turmoil in Kashmir is backed and financed by the Deep State. The squeezing of terror funds and exposure of Hurriyat as a conduit of terror funding has added to the frustration of the rogue Army of Pakistan. By choosing to attack Srinagar’s most secured location, Pakistan also wants to put a question mark on the impact of Operation ‘All Out’ and thus raise the sagging morale of the terrorists by conveying to them that it would continue to provide them the oxygen as and when needed.
Despite the fact that the operation was successful in minimizing the losses, Pakistan has succeeded in conveying the intended messages. It has also raised many questions that will require thorough soul searching and critical dissection to evolve a response to the nefarious designs of the rogue neighbour. How did heavily armed terrorists manage to enter the most secured zone of Srinagar and reach their target? Is any insider involved? Was it a reconnaissance for a bigger mission? Is the International Airport, the ultimate objective? Is it yet another intelligence failure? Did they infiltrate from the LOC or the IB? Was Mughal Road used to enter the Valley? Who provided them the logistics support after infiltration and the intervening period till the attack? With Hafiz Saeed in the docks and LeT suffering huge losses in Valley, has JeM reemerged as the ‘darling outfit’ of the Deep State? Are any more groups of suicide attackers hiding in the hinterland? In view of the forthcoming festival season, has Atankistan managed to induct such groups in other parts of the country as well?
One thing is clear that there is no change of heart as far as Pakistan is concerned. The utterances of its leaders are meant to play tricks with the global community as usual. Revival of militancy in Srinagar town is not a good omen. Its implications can be disastrous and adversely affect the security forces resolve to minimse militancy by this winter. It would be naive to assume that annexation of Kashmir to complete the unfinished agenda of partition is the only and ultimate aim of the enemy. Pakistan’s concept of nationalism is based on anti-India and anti-Hindu narrative. It considers India as an existential threat. Thus its national policy is to ensure balkanization of India to justify the “Two Nation Theory”.
The challenge posed by Pakistan needs a holistic response in political, economic, diplomatic and security domains. We have shown our resolve by giving a befitting reply on the LOC and IB. Despite best intentions of the government we seem to be not making much headway in revamping our internal security apparatus. Too much of diversity in form of plethora of security forces and multifarious agencies and lack of proper control and coordination continues to be our bane. Restructuring and revamping of our security apparatus is an urgent need. Much talked Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) should be installed on war-footing to stop infiltration as first step towards closing the tap of cross-border terrorism and to complement the valiant effort of Army and BSF. A serious move on forming a separate ministry of Homeland Security and rejuvenating the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) can no longer be ignored. Forming a dedicated Internal Security Administrative Cadre should be given a serious thought. We need to modernize and reorganize the intelligence set up as well. Capability to look over the hill, well inside the enemy territory, is needed. Technical Support Division which was created by Gen VK Singh as COAS and later disbanded for reasons non-military should be re-raised with greater teeth. HUMINT continues to be another weakness and TECHINT capability needs more investment.
Though, the government has earmarked funds for modernization and reorganization of state police forces, the project is yet to take off. Formal training capsules and modules for in service skill enhancement need to be evolved and introduced as part of systems approach to training for police personnel. Last but not the least there is a need to amend the Constitution to add internal security as a pillar of national defence. Internal security should be placed in Concurrent List separated from Law and Order which is included in the State List. To enhance our surgical strike capability adequate number of MQ-9 Reaper UAV should be procured from USA. Terrorism cannot be eliminated completely as long as the over ground terror support network is not dismantled. It is a herculean task because over ground network has penetrated all organs of the state and civil society and is spreading like cancer.
Enough has been written about political and diplomatic efforts to expose and isolate Pakistan and considerable success has also been achieved. A lot needs to be done domestically and globally for its economic strangulation. The country is dependent to a large extent on doles and foreign funds. All-out effort should be made to declare Pakistan a terrorist state by the UN and impose economic sanctions against it. Seeing the present trend, Pakistan is unlikely to relent unless the stakes are raised and unbearable pain caused to it. We have at some stage to say enough is enough and give a befitting reply to Pakistan. There are number of unexplored military options with India. We should consider to employ one of them even if it involves raising the bar as far as escalation is concerned. It may have to happen sooner than later.