Balance is the key

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February 17, 2018

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The recent attacks on the Sunjwan Military Station in Jammu, that has resulted in the deaths of as many as six soldiers and one civilian before the four terrorists could be neutralised, has come to underscore the vulnerability of the military camps and strategic security installations in India to fidayeen strikes. Though a similar attack on a CRPF camp in Srinagar on February 12 was thwarted by an alert sentry, here too the life of a CRPF Jawan was lost. He succumbed to his injuries caused during a gunbattle with the terrorists.

Seeing the string of attacks on security camps over the last couple of years, one may quite well infer that not much has been done to protect military installations in Jammu and Kashmir and those in other parts of the country, in spite of the bitter sagas of Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota attacks in the past, all of which saw major casualties. A top-level tri-services committee meeting headed by the former army vice chief Philip Campose, that took place in January 2016 under the grim shadow of the Pathankot aftermaths, did recommend a number of steps ranging from installation of modern access control, perimeter security cum intrusion detection systems, and better intelligence security coordination to provisions for new weapons, bulletproof jackets or ‘patkas’ and night vision equipment to personnel guarding the bases, after raising an alarm about the paltry conditions of the existing security infrastructure. Despite this, however, many of these recommendations have fallen on deaf ears for quite a few security camps in Jammu and Kashmir and many in the country are still ill-equipped and under-prepared to deal with such terrorist attacks and alien intrusions.

While the resources that are already there are not being used properly and effectively, further resources, in spite of being repeatedly asked for, have been late to arrive. Thus it hardly remains to be said that the so-called policy of tactical assertiveness that was adopted by the army after facing Pakistan’s Uri misadventure has not yielded many results in preventing cross-border terror raids. Also, it has already become clear that Pakistan has little desire to talk or to reconciliate. The repeated ceasefire violations across the borders that have resulted in a total disruption of the lives of people living near the borders, and the cross-border terrorist attacks on hard targets, bear testimony to this fact.

Amidst such conditions, New Delhi has no other option than to cushion up its defences by putting the missing parts together and filling up the loopholes; controlling infiltration and thereby raising the costs for Pakistan in carrying out such misadventures. Attempts at trying to diplomatically isolate Pakistan should continue side by side apart from the abovesaid efforts. Thus a formal dialogue between India and Pakistan at this point as has been pointed out by Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah as a solution to the cross border terrorist raids would hardly be a sagacious decision to be taken for it would only undermine India’s strategy at isolating Pakistan. Further it might well vindicate the Pakistan deep state’s use of terror to bring New Delhi round forcing India to negotiate from a point of weakness. Engaging Pakistan is however important for the fact that the 2003 ceasefire agreement has after ensuring peace for years has now started faltering. 2017 has seen the largest number of cross border firing incidents as compared to the earlier times. Talks to put an end to such miscreancy is undoubtedly important. Thus a cautious and a balanced approach is the key to diplomatic success when it comes to dealing with a garrison state like Pakistan that uses terror to manoeuvre its way out.It is pragmatic statesmanship and not impulsive brinkmanship that would bring about positive results. At present, however, New Delhi needs to open a back channel directly with the Pakistan Army – the one who gets to call the real shots in there, if at all feelers are to be sent.

Shore Up Defences, The Times of India, Kolkata, Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

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