Pakistan Army’s objective of activating the Line of Control (LOC) breaching the cease fire that has been in force since 2003 is apparently to reignite the dying embers of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a familiar strategy that has been adopted from time to time in the past whenever violence has gone down in the State. This includes activating the LOC by frequent incidents of firing which is used to push in terrorists particularly during the summer months. These hard core militants then conduct a series of terrorist attacks in the Valley giving fresh hopes to separatists.
With the pull out of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure to conduct operations against the Taliban, Afghan and Pakistan in the tribal areas in Khyber Pakhtoonwa is likely to go down. This will relieve much of the Pakistan Army deployed on the country’s Western borders to shift eastwards. More over a horde of motley hardened terrorists from varied groups primarily led by the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba will be available to increase the intensity of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
Against this backdrop there is a call by many in India to suspend diplomacy with particular reference to the Composite Dialogue process and expected meeting between Prime Ministers Dr Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif in New York in September. There is merit to the argument given failure of outreach by India leading to peace on the LOC or action against sponsors and perpetrators of terror who seem to enjoy a charmed existence in Pakistan.
What have remained unsaid including in the impassioned appeal by the galaxy of former military chiefs, diplomats and strategic experts are the security imperatives that underpin the Indo Pakistan process of dialogue. Thus while there have been generous recommendations for suspension of talks and making these contingent on progress in dismantling the terror infrastructure and action against the 26/11 culprits by Islamabad, the necessity to hard wire our counter terrorist structures has been ignored.
Given the asymmetry in the strategic decision making structure in Pakistan with difference of opinion on rapprochement between the civil and military that has persisted for over half a decade now if the period when former chief Pervez Musharraf donned the peace hat from 2004 onwards are ignored, there is a need for the security establishment in India to ensure that mishaps as that on the Line of Control (LOC) of August 6, 2013 and terrorist attacks attributable to Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba network are prevented.
The increase in the number of cease fire violations and attempts at infiltration this summer has been highlighted including by the Defence Minister Mr A K Antony in the parliament. That the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers had exchanged special envoys and were to meet in New York in September was also well known.
Under the circumstances anticipating the military and intelligence establishment in Pakistan which believes in security and not economic or trade quid pro quo with India to queer the pitch was but natural. This should have led to heightened alert on the LOC and not the shoddy standard of patrolling displayed in the Poonch sector.
The lapse is particularly glaring given that in January in the same sector Pakistan Border Action Team (BAT) had killed two Indian soldiers, mutilated their bodies and beheaded one of them. BAT actions are undertaken after an almost 100 percent chance of success, thus the ambush of the Indian patrol on 06 August would have been carried out after observing a general laxity in the patrolling pattern in the unit area. Given that Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh had given free hand to commanders for aggressive action on the LOC, these security gaps are perplexing to say the least.
What’s more they have created hurdles in opening engagement with Pakistan’s new leadership which had proposed a number of initiatives including energy trade which now will remain in limbo.
The importance of improving our counter terror structures in the hinterland is also underlined. While a number of reports have come up of complicity of the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba and its Indian cohort the Indian Mujahideen in the terrorist incident in Bodh Gaya on July 7, 2013 what needs to be underlined is that a specific threat to the site was well publicized almost a month before. Despite this those responsible for security of the shrine had failed to provide 24/7 physical security allowing the terrorists a free hand to enter and place a series of bombs comfortably in own time during the night. How those responsible have been held accountable for the lapse is not known, but suspension was more than warranted to send a signal to the security managers of need for greater perspicacity.
The curious cases of non-existing or non functional CCTV cameras also need to be underlined. On 10 August there was a grenade attack outside the house of Chief Minister of Manipur, it emerged that CCTV cameras in the high security zone were not functional as the annual maintenance contract had not been concluded. The inability of the Maharashtra government to install CCTV cameras before the Zaveri Bazaar blasts in July 2011 due to tendering problems is well documented.
The weak internal and sadly even external security structures are providing the antagonists across the international border and the LOC enough opportunities to carry out trans border and hinterland operations which in turn are leading to premature scuttling of nascent efforts at engagement by the Indian and Pakistani leadership.
This is not to say that Pakistan’s security and intelligence establishment is not blameworthy for sponsoring cross border terrorism. However by denying it an opportunity to strike by creating a shield of deterrence both on the LOC and the hinterland, we may be able to prevent such attacks thereby reinforcing the process of engagement.