Much has been written, said and debated about the recent ambush of a CRPF convoy in Pamporev – killing eight and seriously injuring 22. How many times Pampore has been mentioned in such notorious setting in the last 27 years of terrorism in J&K is anybody’s guess.
Incidentally, the first time when a vehicle was blown up in an IED (improvised explosive device) attack, it was an army one-ton vehicle travelling from Khrew to Srinagar, in 1990, in which an army JCO lost his legs. Now, as back then, the usual blame game is on.
A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) version of the incident quoted in a prominent magazine read, "While Road Opening Party (RoP) duties are of the CRPF, it is the Army's duty to dominate the area and protect the corridor. There were lapses at multiple levels, both by the CRPF and the Army, mainly in the Army's area of domination and corridor protection,"
"The stretch where the CRPF bus came under attack was completely unprotected. The bus got separated from the main convoy for a few minutes. That was time enough for terrorists to target it."
According to a CRPF official, “The army mine protected vehicle (MPV) response was delayed". So on and so forth.
According to the media, more MPVs are to be sent to J&K. The home minister is to visit J&K in the aftermath of the Pampore ambush. Statements have been made that the terrorists are feeling frustrated and want to keep the pressure up, and that the army is free to “react” in any manner.
Media has also flashed that the army is to conduct RoP duties – whether this is indeed an official direction which applies to the entire stretch of roads in troubled part of J&K, in addition to area under domination, is unclear. There have been plenty articles on the ambush, some suggesting that the convoy timings be reviewed, CI/CT (Counter-terrorism/Counter-insurgency) command structure be reviewed (actual unity of command instead of Unified Command), and highlighting the need for reviewing tactics; some suggesting that the Mehbooba government is taking baby steps to denounce terror, and the likes.
There are discussions on social media as as well about the need for cross-border raid(s) – like against two terrorist camps in Myanmar. One scholar has commented that the removal of bunkers close to roads in face of public protests (orchestrated by terrorists?) has increased the chances of terrorist strikes. All these recommendations and comments are germane to dealing with the issue undoubtedly.
However, two issues talked about by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interview to Arnab Goswami are also significantly relevant in the above context: First, the PM reflected aloud as to who should India talk to in Pakistan about the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ (read red lines) with respect to terrorism; will it be the elected government or with other actors. He also said that because of this India will have to be on the alert all the time.
Second, on the issue of terrorism, Modi said that, 'the world never bought India’s theory on terrorism. They would sometimes dismiss it by saying that it’s your law and order problem. Today, the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism. India’s dialogue on terrorism, the losses India has suffered due to terrorism, the losses suffered by humanity, the world is now acknowledging that.' What the Prime Minister said reflects the ground reality, but it needs to be examined more closely if we indeed want to change from our current CI-CT policies, and method of countering proxy wars being waged on us by our opponents.
In the above context, India must acknowledge the following ground realities that are likely to remain unchanged:
One, the Pakistani military’s control over their country is increasing by the day – the entire parliament meeting at Rawalpindi in the Army HQ being just one indication; Pakistani military ‘must’ continue to sponsor terror and persisting confrontation with India and Afghanistan in order to remain in power and make billions – the namesake democracy remains powerless; Pakistani military has bartered the country’s sovereignty, and not only for economic gains; to say that terrorists are getting demoralized is fooling ourselves considering that just eight to ten terrorists striking Charlie Hebdo shook entire Europe – and Pakistan is hatching thousands, if not millions, of radicals annually.
And, with Pakistan willingly providing China a lifeline to the Indian Ocean, China will wilfully partner Pakistan in terrorism, even nuclear terrorism – with Pakistan assisting China against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and whitewashing China’s genocide in Xinjiang in exchange for China's help in whitewashing the Pakistani genocide in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan – you scratch mine and I scratch yours; the US administration continues to back the Pakistani military – witness recent US announcement of $800 million aid to Pakistan simultaneous to Pakistan granting Rs 300 million to Darul Haqqania madrassa (University of Jihad) for the year 2016-2017 – Mullah Mansour Akhtar and Sirajuddin Haqqani being two of its prominent products.
There have been three major terrorist strikes in J&K on CRPF and BSF in the past five months (twice in Pampore), killing 15 security personnel. Whether there will be any incidents during the Amarnath Yatra that kicked off on Friday, is yet to be seen.
Sure, a review of all CI-CT measures including command and control, intelligence, timings of move, need for security bunkers etc must be reviewed, but is that all that needs to be addressed when cross-border terrorism is being sponsored by Pakistan, or shall we say China-Pakistan since China too is pumping in money to fuel terrorism in J&K?
The mere fact that China backed Pakistan is again demanding more evidence in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks clearly indicates that there can be no improvement from the Pakistani side irrespective of the false solace we are drawing from gloating that Pakistan stands isolated and no one can blame India for not trying for peace - the blame is entirely on Pakistan.
But, does this change the ground situation in any way? Is Pakistan really “isolated” with China completely supporting her protégé – with PLA (People's Liberation Army) inducted into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), with three army divisions eventually to be deployed, and the US looking the other way?
“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," wrote MK Dhar, former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’, published in 2005, 11 years ago.
"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”, Dhar wrote.
Merely saying that the army is free to ‘respond’ is pointless – unless we are content with artillery barrages or an odd tactical level raid to satisfy egos momentarily. Army’s existing sub-conventional doctrine with its much publicised cliché of ‘iron fist in velvet glove’ is totally inward looking.
Pakistan has co-located her terrorist training facilities with army establishments saying any strike on these would be considered an act of war. But then today’s war is at sub-conventional level and while conventional strikes remain an option, best will be getting hold of the numerous fault-lines of our opponents and exploiting them as deterrents.
This must be done through covert politico-military missions at the strategic level controlled by the highest political authority – the prime minister. In the absence of this, we can continue to remain in the current state of Parkinson’s from Pampore to infinity. Hiding behind the Emperor’s clothes of doing much cross-border does not match with the happenings on the ground.
(The author is a veteran Lieutenant General)