Tuesday morning’s lethal attack in Nagrota has provided evidence, if more was needed, of the callousness of India’s security establishment. There was high-grade intelligence, this newspaper revealed on Wednesday, of a Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Nagrota; yet, the security measures put in place to preempt it proved inadequate. Like in Pathankot and Uri, or in Gurdaspur and Udhampur before them, perimeter security was clearly not of the standards that ought to exist in a region hit by one of the world’s more lethal Islamist insurgencies. In other countries, gross failures of this order would lead to an investigation of errors made, and the assignation of responsibility. In India, if the past is a guide, there will be silence until the matter is forgotten — until the next attack. Even as the country mourns the young soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty, citizens need to push their elected leaders to demand answers, for there is no other way to ensure more young lives are not lost in vain.
Perhaps just as important, the attack ought to be a lesson in the perils of the kinds of braggadocio that has characterised Indian security policy these past months. Following the cross-LoC strikes in October, planners should have foreseen an escalation in both infiltration and terrorist violence — Pakistan’s inevitable tactical response to Indian pressure. Instead, Indian leaders spoke as if a single series of limited actions had silenced the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate for good, and allowed themselves to be beguiled by their own rhetoric. In past weeks, as violence both on the LoC and inside Kashmir has escalated, New Delhi appeared to be flailing, uncertain of what its next steps ought be. These issues should have been carefully addressed before, not after, the cross-LoC strikes were carried out. It is still not too late for these new, and infinitely complex, security challenges to be addressed — but that will need seriousness, and candour.
“Nobody has been corrected”, the great French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord wrote in 1796, “no one has thought to forget, nor yet to learn anything”. That could well prove to be the epitaph for what was hailed as a new dawn for India’s security.