Sunjwan army camp attacked: No point in chasing elusive peace with Pakistan; better if India pays back in same coin

Another Indian Army camp has been attacked, this time at Sunjuwan. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists sneaked into the camp in the early hours of Saturday morning, entered the family quarters of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and started firing at 5 am.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has spoken to DGP of Jammu and Kashmir regarding the incident. Media reports talk about the area being cordoned off; they say the army will talk about an "appropriate response" at the time and place. Another surgical strike may be ordered; the army will call Pakistan's nuclear bluff; so on and so forth. Reporters are demanding to know how the terrorists managed to go so deep into Indian territory — as if this is happening for the first time, as if Pathankot was right on the border. The media is speculating that Pakistan is "using terrorists because it's scared of India". They are calling the terrorists the 'Afzal Guru Squad of the JeM'.

As of 1 pm, the death toll stood at at two jawans killed and six, including the daughter of a JCO, were injured. The district administration has asked schools within 500 metres of the army camp to remain shut. Firing is supposed to have stopped at 6 am, but there aren't any reports about whether the terrorist(s) are still holed up. The army is hoping to catch them alive, but the operation is by no means over. It may take a few more hours, and the possibility of more casualties can't be ruled out.

The Sunjwan army camp in Jammu was attacked by JeM militants on Saturday. PTI

The Sunjwan army camp in Jammu was attacked by JeM militants on Saturday. PTI

When the dust settles, the home minister may warn Pakistan again. Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa may perhaps celebrate with Masood Azhar. The follow-up investigations will probably focus on ascertaining how the terrorists crossed the border and traverse the distance to get into the camp, who helped them, etc. Opposition parties will claim India isn't safe anymore, forgetting that despite the heinous beheading at the Line of Control (LoC) in 2013, the then foreign minister had met the Pakistan prime minister when the latter visited Rajasthan on a private visit, while the latter presided over an anti-India resolution in the Pakistan Senate immediately upon his return. One thing is for sure: TV channels will go berserk over the next few days, inviting the same old Pakistani "spokespersons" who will continue to jeer at your predicament.

This isn't the first time an Indian Army security camp has been infiltrated. It's a question of taking the initiative. Besides, when you impose excessive caution on opening fire and start filing cases against security forces for doing so, that motivates them further. There is no need to get overly impressed by these terrorists. They have no compunctions about entering family quarters and massacring innocent women and children.

And it's not even the first time this has happened. Terrorists had entered family quarters of an army camp at Kaluchak and fired indiscriminately, while a bus was also attacked 10 kilometres outside Kaluchak, in which 34 people, including 22 army personnel and their families, were killed. The response by the Indian State was the same then too.

Does it occur to our policy makers that the timing of the latest attack at Sunjwan is to show to countries being visited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India "absorbs" terrorist attacks while Pakistan plans the next one?

The million dollar question is where do we go from here? First of all, the most difficult part is for policy makers to acknowledge that assaults and the odd surgical strike cannot make the Pakistan Army see sense. Secondly, it's futile to still root for talks with Pakistan though NSA-level talks are continuing. Third, there is no alternative to developing coherent deterrents against unconventional threats; mere diplomacy has failed miserably and threats have magnified.

Our special forces' potential needs to be maximised and remain central in responding to asymmetric threats. This should be the bread-and-butter principle of the NSA. Not just specific to Pakistan alone, but also regarding all areas of strategic interests. Rest assured, China's special forces and the People's Liberation Army have been deployed in covert manners in the development projects of Maldives and other parts of the region as well, while India still can't think beyond Operation Cactus 2.0.

Fourth, the porosity of the LoC can't be one-way. We must respond quietly respond to such incidents "with interest and in the same coin". Raise interest levels till the measure reaches home. Let the military handle this without political interference and fanfare.

The bottom line is that the hybrid war must be carried inside enemy territory, without which we will continue to remain at the receiving end. We need to control the fault-lines of the enemy. Cross-border artillery firing is no deterrence and we are up against a determined enemy.

Afghanistan, and even Iran to some extent, are deeply impacted by Pakistani terrorism. Islamabad may be immune to diplomatic isolation, but is geographically enveloped by India, Afghanistan and Iran. It's these three countries that must come up with a joint action plan to deal with Pakistan — diplomatically, economically and militarily, including sub-conventionally and through information operations — in conjuction with other friendly nations.

We have to put in place a well-thought-through strategy to deal with the enemy, including selective surgery that will drive the right signal home.

All governments have been complicit in the deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The Union home minister in UPA-II had settled 4,000 Rohingya in Jammu despite Article 370 being in place, under the garb of United Nations Human Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Today, there are 734 Rohingya settled near police lines in Jammu near Channi Himmat, 206 near the army station in Sunjwan which was attacked, and 40 near HQ 16 Corps at Nagrota. So why has the NDA government not moved them to a refugee camp outside the state?

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army.


Updated Date: Feb 10, 2018 15:06 PM

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