Own your strategy

India must talk to Pakistan — and ensure that cross-border terror is on top of the agenda.

Written by D.C. Pathak | Published:January 5, 2016 12:07 am
flag meeting, india pakistan flag meeting, indo-pak flag meeting, latest news, loc, border, border tension, poonch, J&K, kashmir The Modi government should not make the mistake that the previous regime committed in the wake of the 26/11 attack.

The attack on the forward airbase in Pathankot on Saturday, perpetrated by terrorists who came from across the Pakistan border, yet again challenges India to find a way of keeping the India-Pakistan peace process on track despite providing a compelling case for New Delhi to give its Pakistan policy another critical look.

The event is being widely interpreted as the response of a hostile Pakistan army to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore in the last week of 2015 to greet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the latter’s birthday. Intelligence reports indicate a direct planning of this daring assault by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, a sub-set of the Pakistan army, confirming the impression that the Pakistan army was not in alignment with the peace initiatives being taken by the two civilian heads of government.

The Pakistan army’s reservations about a bilateral talks agenda that accords prime importance to the issue of cross-border terrorism first led to the replacement of Sartaj Aziz, a civilian, with a retired lieutenant general, Naseer Khan Janjua, as Pakistan’s national security advisor. And this happened soon after the Ufa summit meeting where the prime ministers of both countries had met for a substantive exchange of views.

The Pathankot offensive was audaciously planned in quick time and daringly executed by militants dressed in army fatigues. They were directed to hijack a taxi and commandeer a police vehicle in order to reach close to the air base and produce a decisive result. The modus operandi employed by the terrorists is reminiscent of the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 — another offensive by the Jaish-e-Mohammad — and the November 2008 Mumbai attack carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Pakistan army, even to this day, mentors both these outfits.

The attack on the Pathankot air base revives three questions that have a bearing on the future prospects of the India-Pakistan bilateral relationship. First, is the civilian leadership of Pakistan prepared to publicly accept the stipulation that violence shall not be used to press for a solution of the Kashmir problem? Second, can Pakistan’s prime minister declare that while the process of evolving confidence-building measures in order to reduce tension along the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir is on, such disruptions will not come in the way of talks on the economic cooperation front? And finally, will the Pakistan government announce disarming of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front outfits while expediting the 26/11 trial?

The reality of the Pakistan army dictating the agenda that the civilian leadership brings to the table in bilateral talks cannot be wished away. If our leadership believes our own intelligence agencies then it should firmly tell Pakistan’s prime minister that the argument of deniability, once again advanced by the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence in the wake of the Pathankot attack, just does not hold
any longer. India also has to impress upon the United States, whose persuasive pressure for the resumption of bilateral talks is
only too well known, that red lines will have to be drawn on the issue of terrorism if India’s help in the global “war on terror” is to make sense.

As far as the Pathankot incident is concerned, it is correct to take the line that enemies of humanity are responsible for the attack but it should also be stated that those who mentored such militants would be taught a lesson as well. Then, and only then, will the praise for the valour of our security forces have real substance. The Modi government should not make the mistake that the previous regime committed in the wake of the 26/11 attack — that of accepting the glib suggestion that some “non-state actors” were behind all the mischief of cross-border terrorism, which had afflicted India all these years. Already a section of the Pakistan media has unabashedly questioned the fact that the Pathankot airbase was attacked by elements from within Pakistan.

Modi’s effort to encourage his counterpart to take charge of the political decision-making in our neighbouring country must also bear fruit soon enough. Otherwise Modi’s Pakistan policy could start looking ambiguous.

India has to stick to the three-fold strategy of keeping cross-border terrorism on top of the agenda of bilateral talks, maintaining that India has no problem with bilateral discussion on Kashmir in accordance with the Simla Agreement (that gave no place to any third party like the Hurriyat), and, as a regional stake holder, demanding a role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

At home, India must prepare for an effective and integral response to the threat of cross-border terrorism. When it comes to dealing with terrorism, there is a need to further improve Centre-state collaboration as well as civil-military coordination.

In short, India need not shun talking to Pakistan — but without compromising on the above-mentioned parameters. At the same time, India should continue to bilaterally strengthen its friendship with all the countries in its neighbourhood, even if this means that we simultaneously deal with an unhelpful Pakistan with appropriate sternness.

Modi has handled foreign policy very well so far and he need not allow his approach towards Pakistan — a country controlled by the military — to diminish this achievement in any way. A recalcitrant neighbour promoting faith-based militancy against us has to be countered on the borders as well as on other planes through a comprehensive strategy that is our own and in sync with India’s strategic culture.

The writer is a former director of the Intelligence Bureau.

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  1. B
    Bnm
    Jan 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm
    Enough is Enough,strengthen border,stop all contacts,apply pressure from western countires on sthan
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    1. R
      Raj
      Jan 5, 2016 at 4:23 am
      Nobody is optimistic after the coward act in Pathankot. What prize we have paid- the nation had lost great people like Lt col Niranjan Kumar. The cross border terrorism need to stop for any peaceful activities.
      Reply
      1. S
        Satendra kumar
        Jan 5, 2016 at 8:38 am
        The choice for disarming thre terrorist groups specific for stan government will be welcome gestures claimants as a illegal organisation banned in the country.The Indian government should work with international forums of banning this organisation who does terrorism on behalf of religion.The cross border terrorist activities should be brought to world forums sending clear messages this criminal activities should be barred from the planet.
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          K SHESHU
          Jan 6, 2016 at 11:12 am
          The issue of terrorism is a matter of concern for both countries. Unless both sit to-gether and chalk out programme of action, the problem will continue to haunt both the countries. stan has military influence in political affairs and so it has to see that military does not scuttle the process of normalisation.
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            K SHESHU
            Jan 5, 2016 at 6:35 am
            The talks should proceed but both the governments should be aware of the fundementalists on both sides. There are detractors on either side of the border and they can wreathe havoc at any time. Strict vigil must be maintained to abort the evil designs of these elements.
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            1. S
              SK
              Jan 5, 2016 at 3:22 am
              I think the author of this article is living in fool's paradise. Has Pak done anything to prevent the cross border terrorism so far. The author think that Nawaz Shriff runs the government , certainly not it is the army which is not interested in peace. If Israel had taken the advice of this gutless person it would have been finished by the terrorists. for tat is the only answer for terrorists. By the way what are we going to achieve from these gutless people.
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              1. K
                Karunakaran
                Jan 5, 2016 at 7:50 pm
                Nobody that I know believes one word coming out of dopey Jaitley. I would not trust him even if my life depended on it. If BJP loses the next Lok Sabha elections, you will know whose presence made it happen. Remember that he lost the elections! But he managed to get in. But now, if BJP loses the next Lok Sabha elections, you will know who to blame. India must get ready to welcome Mr Nitish Kumar as the next PM. Mr Nitish Kumar has cl and substance. The crouching, dokhla-eating Gujjubhai whose chin touches his chest, is only good to run after the goras for selfies, and provide photoshopped black to pink images of himself to the media.
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                1. K
                  Karunakaran
                  Jan 4, 2016 at 11:25 pm
                  USA, UK, Israel also make good use of dogs (and reportedly other animals) to watch over sensitive sites - as humans tend to become terribly lazy after a few years of inactivity. Most Indian military officers do no manual work, and grow huge tummies! So, dogs come handy. Isn't it strange that the military sites so close to the border have no dog squads to provide an extra layer of security?
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                    Dipak
                    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:18 am
                    Mr. Author, are you stupid? Who would you talk to in stan? Nawab is just a Puppet without power. The other Sharif, Raheel is COAS Terrorist of stan? So do you want to go and beg to Hafiz Sayeed or Dawood? Don't publish foolish articles.
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                    1. d
                      dv1936
                      Jan 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm
                      It is an issue of state sponsored terrorism. Indians should see the writing on the wall. Make India strong to face it, you have no other option.
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                        dv1936
                        Jan 5, 2016 at 5:44 am
                        A pretty stupid nonsense
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                        1. P
                          PKR
                          Jan 5, 2016 at 8:48 am
                          For the peace talks India will bring Kashmir,Sir creek....to the table.What will stan offer in return?The terrorist are out of their control, Their economy is in bad shape and radicals rule by proxy in stan.What are the deliverables of the talk?
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                            Tellitasitis
                            Jan 5, 2016 at 6:26 am
                            There is an old saying: you can take the horse to water, but cannot make it drink. You can talk with stan n number of times and cannot make it see reason. The terrorist adventurism it has embarked on, independently or on the sage counsel of the great powers, has dragged on for close to seven decades and cannot and should not go on. The creation of stan was a mischief pla by the Brits and Indian leaders then acquiesced meekly. The Muslim majority stan soon realised that the community that gloated about ruling India for nearly a millennium and for subjugating the Hindus, had got a poor bargain in the truncated two piece stan that it was given. It created the bogey of Kashmir and has continued to harp on it. Kashmir too has its fair share of Pak sympathisers among its leaders, on regular payroll of stan of course, and they have purged the state of all Hindus, the Kashmiri Pandits. The rise of Muslim fundamentalism and stan's own role in its rise plus the megalomania it suffers from despite its poor state of economy will continue to push terrorists and India should beware of engaging in any talks with a perfidious neighbour.
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                              Asit Nag
                              Jan 5, 2016 at 12:20 pm
                              At this point of time the details about the terrorists and how they came into India etc are all under investigation.Till now six of them have been eliminated and thus the count has gone up from four to six. Now it is speculated in the media that the terrorists must have come in two seperate groups. There are also reports that Indian authorities had received prior intelligence inputs. Despite the advance information, the terror attack counld not be prevented. From the media reports it is evident that the terrorists were highly trained individuals and were heavily armed.All these facts indicate that even if they were non state actors, they received active support from some sections of the stan establishment. Otherwise, it is not possible to organise such an operation from accross the border. Obviously, the main objecdtive of this attack was to halt the forward movement in our bilateral relations with stan. If under internal political pressure and compulsion, the GOI calls off all talks whether at the level of Foreign Secretaries or at the level of NSAs, it would mean that the terrorists have succeded in reaching their objective. Therfore, it is necessary to continue uur interaction with stan, at the same time it needs to be ensured that cross border terrorism should be in the top of the agenda.This would be the appropriate reply to the terrorists and their handlers .
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                                Kumar A
                                Jan 5, 2016 at 7:17 am
                                Indians posting their comments here must understand the complexity of stan government system. Civilian government is in office but not in power. stan Army ISI wield power but it is not in office. JeM and LeT are semi independent terrorist outfit, neither in office nor in power. When this basic chemistry is understood then one can start from there.
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                                  RKSwamy
                                  Jan 5, 2016 at 2:36 am
                                  Can someone from the government articulate clearly what is to be achieved by talking to stan? Their civilian government is too weak to do anything and their military does not want to give up their covert game with "non-state actors" which has yielded them results that even their army cannot obtain for stan. Is the writer implying that stan is sending "non-state" actors across the border to kill people in India because India won't talk to stan? What is the purpose to be served by India keeping "cross-border terrorism" at the top of the agenda in talks with stan? While India is trying to put "cross-border terrorism" on the agenda and "impress" upon stan to bring to justice the stani perpetrators behind 26/11, the stani army/ISI has executed many more terror operations in India using these freely available "non-state actors" (wonder where the "actresses" are!) - the latest one being the Pathankot airbase strike, causing crores of rupees in losses to India besides loss of Indian lives. Imagine, they have shut down the Pathankot airbase for almost a week, got India to remove fighter aircraft, move hundreds of commandos, blow up buildings inside the airbase, etc. Besides, what is India going to talk with stan about Kashmir? Position of India is well articulated, Shimla Agreement not withstanding. If Nawaz Sharif wants to talk, have him talk to the Chief Minister of Punjab. Neither controls their nations' armies not their respective foreign policies.
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                                    Shahzad Munir
                                    Jan 5, 2016 at 5:08 am
                                    stan has its own problems to handle and is fighting a war against the terrorists since past so many years. The country lost over 60000 people and has suffered an immense economic loss of over 105 Billion US Dollars. While fighting this war, stan Army neither has time, nor wherewithal to initiate some operations against India, especially when the country is trying to mend its economy amid initiation of China stan Economic Corridor. stan Army was also fully cognizant of Prime Minister Modi's Visit and had no intentions to spoil the peace initiatives, while all political parties supported the process. Conversely, it was Indian media, political parties and some extremist groups which were opposing this initiative. Therefore, the chances of such elements staging this terror incident cannot be ruled out.
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                                    1. S
                                      sdas
                                      Jan 5, 2016 at 1:24 am
                                      Your essment is incorrect - it is better to send a message by NOT talking. Talk is cheap - 60 years and the net result is zero.
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                                        Thrinethran T
                                        Jan 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm
                                        Numbers two and three in cabinet from Lalu's family?
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                                          Thrinethran T
                                          Jan 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm
                                          Stupid comment making no distinction between foul speech and terrorism.
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                                            Vijay K
                                            Jan 5, 2016 at 9:04 am
                                            Talks with Pak by Mr Modi is an effort by him to stake a claim for the 'Noble Peace Prize', without realising that what he actually is going to get from pak Army is ' Bombs and Bullets'. How does it matter to him that Fathers and Mothers are loosing their sons, young wives their husbands and little daughters and sons their fathers ? He is happy to 'globe-trot'. This Govt is failing ia failing in all fronts !! Wah Modi Wah !!
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