Taking terror threats lightly would be naïve especially when India is in election mode, polarisation is thriving and inimical forces, both internal and external, are trying their best to destabilise India
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The terrorist attack on a lone Army vehicle in the area of Poonch district of J&K on April 20, 2023 blew the rhetoric of “zero terror”, which anyway is not possible in a border state like J&K with the Line of Control (LoC) running along difficult terrain prone to infiltration and a hostile Pakistan. The claim of the Maoists insurgency having petered out was also shattered in January this year when Maoists fired on a helicopter and injured six security personnel. This was followed by an encounter with Maoists in February 2023 in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma in which three security personnel were killed and two injured. On April 26, 2023, Maoists ambushed a team of District Reserve Guard in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, killing 11 personnel.
Can we afford to forget that Pakistan has always been ruled by its military directly or indirectly and the Pakistani army would never allow normalisation of relations with India because it is the very basis of the army’s stranglehold over Pakistan? Do we expect the Pakistani army to change its DNA? Just because Pakistan is facing attacks by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and terror incidents are down in J&K doesn’t mean we have achieved zero terror. It requires very little effort to keep terrorism alive. The only norms terrorists follow is terrorism.
Just because terror incidents are down in J&K doesn’t mean we have achieved zero terror. It requires very little effort to keep terrorism alive.
The attack on the Army vehicle in Poonch was well planned. Terrorists used steel core bullets, grenades and incendiary bombs with petrol-chemicals mix – sticky bombs. The blast gave no reaction time to the occupants to fire back. Terrorists decamped with the weapons of the soldiers. Two grenade pins have been recovered from the site. Five army personnel travelling in the vehicle were charred to death in the blast and one soldier sustained serious injuries. Ironically, the vehicle was carrying fruits and other items for an iftar gathering meant to be held in Sagiote village later in the evening.
The People's Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Army vehicle and killing five Indian Army soldiers. The PAAF was established by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2020, and in that sense is not an offshoot but a front of the JeM itself, PAFF was declared a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on January 7, 2023.
JeM being the covert arm of the Pakistan army, the terrorist attack in Poonch was also instigated because of two reasons:
Bilawal’s anti-India stance and publicly calling Prime Minister Modi the “butcher of Gujarat” are well documented.
Now Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which is based in Pakistan and operates in Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, has threatened to avenge the death of slain mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmad and his brother, calling them “martyrs”. Atiq and his brother Ashraf were shot dead on live television by three men posing as reporters. Both men were interacting with the media while police personnel were escorting them for a medical checkup at the Prayagraj hospital.
If we really want to counter terrorism, we must acknowledge that complaining at the UN and other regional and international forums will not end or even reduce it
AQIS issued a seven-page magazine to deliver its message on Eid-ul-Fitr where it also vowed to liberate Muslims, saying, “From Texas to Tihar to Adyala, we shall liberate all Muslim brothers and sisters from their shackles.”
Taking the above threats lightly would be naïve especially when India is in election mode, polarisation is thriving and inimical forces, both internal and external, are trying their best to destabilise India. There is no dearth of illegal arms in India and Pakistan is pumping in more through drones, tunnels and over land routes. Automatic country-made pistols are available for 2,500 to 15,000. But then the assailants of Atiq Ahmad and his brother were carrying Turkish Zigana-F semi-automatic pistols that fire 15 rounds of 9mm bullets.
Finally, if we really want to counter terrorism, we must acknowledge that complaining at the UN and other regional and international forums only make the terrorists and their sponsors laugh at us. Do we realise that some of those who side with us at various forums actually want Pakistan as counter to India? We may keep saying that Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism but don’t we know which countries and their intelligence agencies are hand-in-glove with them? Ashley J. Tellis of Carnegie Endowment wrote in 2012, “India being continuously subjected to terrorism suits many. India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” Tellis did not elaborate who he meant by saying “suits many” but no special intelligence is needed to arrive at the answer.
We need a “pro-active” counter terrorism policy for which we have the wherewithal but lack the political will
“I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of “coercive diplomacy”, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups”, wrote M.K. Dhar, former Joint Director, IB in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s Intelligence Unveiled’. That book was published 18 years ago in 2005.
We should have got rid of our ‘soft’ approach long back. The only language that Pakistan understands is power, nothing else. We need a “pro-active” counter terrorism policy for which we have the wherewithal but lack the political will. Any terror attack must be responded to immediately – within 24 hours. The terror attack in Poonch must be avenged; Pakistan’s proxy war must be transported back into its territory. Additionally, development activities in J&K must be visible, not just promises of investments, and the interest of Gujjars taken care of.