New Delhi: On 6 January last year, Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists detonated a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Sopore in which four policemen were killed. A day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a closed-door meeting enquired from then DGP of Jammu and Kashmir SP Vaid about the incident and the top cop responded that such an IED blast had taken place in the state after a long time. But, the prime minister's second query was more specific: "How did the terrorists know in advance about the police movement in the area?"
Vaid's response was generic, conveying to the prime minister that since the police was on routine duty following a shutdown call given by the separatists, the terrorists may have expected a large mobilisation of security forces — they were specifically targeted with an IED planted in advance. However, what Vaid told Modi subsequently during that top-level meeting is of utmost importance and shows the changing modus operandi and growing support to the jihadi ecosystem in the Valley.
He told Modi that young local recruits were traveling to Pakistan through the Wagah border on valid visas to be trained in making IEDs. Vaid's response in the wake of that Pulwama attack could provide two clear points: Pakistan's ISI and its proxy terror outfit JeM has been planning massive IED attack for a very long time and the existing jihadi ecosystem in the Valley is helping the perpetrators.
JeM terrorist Adil Ahmad Dar, who rammed his IED-packed SUV into the CRPF bus knew in advance about the movement of security forces and it is quite legitimate to ask questions of a flourishing terror information network and support from the local ecosystem. India needs to avenge the killing of its brave soldiers and Modi categorically said that a 'free hand' would be given to security forces to hit back. But, a repeat surgical strike will not be able to dismantle the terror infrastructure in Pakistan.
India needs to strengthen its covert operation capability to inflict maximum damage on terrorists living as cherished guests next door. JeM has claimed the responsibility for the Pulwama attack and it is no secret that its chief and most wanted terrorist Masood Azhar operates from Bahawalpur and Rawalpindi. However, the biggest irony is that India's domestic and foreign intelligence organisations are overwhelmingly understaffed, which is hampering covert action capabilities.
A surgical strike or a drone attack inside Pakistan to target terror camps in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir may restore confidence in such stressful times for the government and security forces, but a planned covert operation with the help of skilled operatives will ensure Pakistan will pay a heavy price for breeding and sending terrorists into India. Fill the gaps in technical and human intelligence and pick the jewels among operatives for perfect intelligence coordination to not just destroy terror camps inside Pakistan, but also neutralise all terror masterminds sitting pretty in safe houses. This dastardly terror attack in Pulwama is a chance for the government to break away from typecast and knee jerk reaction and focus on demolishing terror infrastructure and headhunting of most wanted in Pakistan. The top decision makers must not fritter this moment.
There is also an ongoing debate on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of security forces. An NIA and NSG team is in Pulwama to figure out where lapses took place and fix accountability if there were any SOP botches, in order to ensure security forces movements are breach-proof. But, we must pause and think before criticising the violation of SOPs and the like. No security force wants to fail or lose lives of brave soldiers. The entire Jammu-Srinagar highway cannot be turned into a Berlin Wall. There has never been such perfect coordination between the Jammu and Kashmir Police, army and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir as at present, and that is precisely the reason there is considerable success in neutralising terrorists.
All but four or five of the top-level commanders of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen have been killed. And those remaining are being targeted through sustained operations. The main worry is the continuous infiltration of JeM terrorists into the Valley. Modi was told during the closed-door meeting last year that the ISI was sending JeM terrorists for suicide attacks to bolster its sagging morale and since 2017, more than 100 Pakistani terrorists had been sent across the LoC by the ISI, and later supported by the existing terror ecosystem.
There is a need to strengthen our counter-infiltration grid and for a long-term advantage, India needs to urgently eliminate Pakistani elements deeply entrenched in the local ecosystem.
The task before the Indian intelligence and security establishment is much more challenging than that facing its western counterparts tackling terrorism. Not only do intelligence and security forces have to act against terrorists in Pakistan, but also to effectively neutralise the supporters of the jihadi ecosystem back home. Pakistan is not going to hand Azhar or Hafiz Saeed over to India. Diplomatic pressure didn't kill Osama Bin Laden, a sustained covert operation did.
Updated Date: Feb 15, 2019 15:42:14 IST