Terror attack in Nagrota – What beyond?

By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army


Pakistan-sponsored terrorists struck at two places in Jammu region of &K on November 29. In two major terror attacks, that rocked Jammu region on Tuesday, seven army personnel, including a Major, were killed and eight other security personnel, including a BSF DIG, were injured, before six heavily-armed terrorists were eliminated in the separate fierce encounters. In one incident, a group of heavily-armed terrorists in police uniform stormed an army unit in Nagrota, some three kms from the Corps headquarters on the outskirts of Jammu city, triggering an intense gun battle that lasted for hours. Seven army personnel, including two officers, were killed in this attack before three terrorists were killed in an armed stand-off. After initial attack by the terrorist, a hostage-like situation emerged with almost 12 soldiers, two ladies and two children held captive. However, the Army successfully freed all the hostages. Casualties suffered on own side were more in foiling the terrorists taking the hostages. Wives of the two army officers, who were on night duty when the encounter broke out, displayed exemplary courage as they blocked the entry of their quarters with all the household items, making it difficult for the terrorists to break into the houses. The second terrorist incident was around the same time when an infiltration was undergoing near the Chambliyal border outpost in Samba district of J&K, some 40 km away from Nagrota.

As per police sources, security forces engaged a group of infiltrators from Pakistan in a shootout near the IB. Three militants were killed in the heavy exchange of fire during which an ammunition dump caught fire and exploded, critically injuring at least six border policemen, including an officer of DIG rank. This was the seventh terror attack in the last seven days. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said statistics have shown that the terrorists are targeting mostly military establishments and not civilian areas as they seek support from the locals. Terror attacks in J&K have gone up exponentially after the killing of Burhan Wani. Wani’s audio-taped telephonic conversation with Hafiz Saeed has conclusively proved Pakistan waging proxy war in J&K. Post the Uri terrorist attack, Indian Special Forces undertook surgical strikes on multiple terrorist launch pads in POK. Then was the heinous border action team (BAT) of Pakistan in beheading an Indian soldier. India reacted at the time of its own choosing by flattening Pakistani posts in area of Kel. Pakistan continues with ceasefire violations and targeting villages with mortar and artillery fire, in addition to covering fire to infiltrating terrorist, latter being a periodic affair. The two terrorist incidents occurred on November 29 coincided with Qamar Javed Bajwa taking over as the new Pakistani army chief. With the escalation of violence, casualties have been heavy on both sides, however, while Pakistani military personnel would have been killed and wounded by our actions, bulk of the terrorists killed are riff-raff who are radicalized, some maybe even petty criminals, even though Pakistan mixes regulars with terrorists.

That is why it is a highly low cost option for Pakistan. The answer to sub-conventional war lies in the sub-conventional, not conventional. Pakistan knows this and therefore is provoking us at every opportunity knowing we have progressed little beyond an inward looking policy at physical level. Fire assaults and short-distanced surgical strikes are no deterrent. Conventional war too is not a solution even as these would be short and intense (in backdrop of Pakistan wagging her nuclear tail), wouldn’t resolve the problem of terrorism, but would regtard economy of both countries by few years. We must also acknowledged that having fanned radicalism in J&K, Pakistan can continue sustained terror attacks in conjunction infiltrating terrorists even with reduced ceasefire violations. So we are in a situation where casualties on our side, mainly security forces, may continue to rise on daily basis while the Pakistani army is hardly damaged. No doubt Pakistan’s obsession is to wrest J&K but her army dare not walk in knowing the very limited area of influence she has managed to create in J&K – that too restricted to the Valley. But the fact remains that we are on the receiving end and are suffering avoidable casualties because we are largely responding conventionally. We need to put in place sub-conventional response at the strategic level, integrating multiple non-kinetic measures. This has to be planned at the national level integrating external intelligence and Special Forces. Pakistan has so many fault-lines, which if exploited intelligently will snap their army beyond limits. That would is the only panacea for the region. Our strategic partnerships, especially with Afghanistan, can help tame Pakistan.