Srinagar: Three defence personnel including a Garud commando were martyred in the wee hours on Saturday after a group of Pakistan-based terrorists launched an audacious attack on the IAF base in Pathankot at around 3.00 am. The four-hour long siege ended with the gunning down of the four terrorists that has put the entire country on high alert.
The IAF base is situated around 250 km Chandigarh and about 30 km from the border area with Pakistan. The first terrorist was killed as he was climbing over the 10 meter high wall that also has razor wire on it.
“The gun battle between the terrorists and security forces ended by 8 am on Saturday,” HS Dhillon, additional director general (law and order) of Punjab Police, said. “However, the combing operation continues,” Dhillon said. The combing operation is still underway as the security forces are looking for a fifth terrorist, who could be possibly hiding in the area.
But the important question is what would be the impact of the Pathankot terror attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s renewed effort to infuse a fresh life into India-Pakistan relations.
"Pakistan is our neighbour and we want peace, but any terrorist attack on India will get a befitting response. Any aggression towards us will receive a befitting reply from our side," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in New Delhi.
Analysts say that any fresh initiative for warm relations between the two South Asian neighbours is bound to upset the terror establishment in Pakistan. Although media reports suggest the attackers were from Bhawalpur in Pakistan, complete details will be only known once the investigations are over.
“The Pathankot barbarism should no way affect the renewed bonhomie between India and Pakistan. It is nothing but test of Prime Minister Modi's statesmanship in the diplomatic front,” Peoples Democratic Party leader Javid Trali said.
“Whenever India and Pakistan tries to make fresh efforts to bring peace, an attack happens. That doesn’t mean we should stop talking. (If we do that) Then we have learned nothing from the past,” said Trali.
The attack, which took place just a week after PM Modi’s stopover in Lahore, has once again underlined the fact that the road to India-Pakistan peace process has never been a smooth one. According to initial reports, the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which was also responsible for the 2001 attack on Parliament, is suspected to be behind the Pathankot attack as well.
Last year in August, just weeks before the NSA-level talks were to be held, terrorists carried out two attacks in Udhmapur and Gurdaspur.
Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, said the attack on Pathankot IAF base was the first major challenge to prime minister's Pakistan plan and his party, BJP, has to move beyond its stand on talks and terror to insulate the dialogue process.
The attack comes 12 days ahead of the meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in Islamabad on 14-15 January. This meeting is likely to prepare a schedule for the comprehensive dialogue.
BJP leader from Jammu and Kashmir and Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Jitender Singh said after the attack that elements who can't stand peace carry out such attacks from time to time.
“There are forces who do not want peace between the two countries, they do such things to derail the talks,” Singh said.