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Pulwama Terror Attack - Deadliest Ever in J&K

February 21, 2019 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Prime Minister, Narendra Modi paying homage to the martyred CRPF Jawans, at Palam airport, in New Delhi on February 15, 2019.

It is said if you surrender to terror, the future would be horrendous. Nothing can confirm it more than India's capitulation in 2008 during hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-184 from Kathmandu to Delhi. The quick thinking pilot convinced hijackers to refuel at Amritsar but our internal security establishment remained paralyzed while the aircraft was at Amritsar. Prime Minister Vajpayee was informed 45 minutes later. India succumbed to hijackers demand and released terrorists including Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar. Doval, then Joint Director IB and chief negotiator for Masood Azhar apparently believed Azhar just wanted freedom and Taliban were our friends (like R&AW kept referring to LTTE as "our boys" when IPKF went to Sri Lanka). But at Kandahar, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Doval accompanying Azhar discovered Taliban was taking orders from Pakistan army. Rest is history, even as soldiers lives matter little to those ensconced in cushy offices. Why wasn't Azhar injected with something so he would die a horrible death shortly after release?

To those crying human rights, morality is passé in sub-conventional war; any cries of human rights for the car-bombing victims? Besides, with all the experience behind Doval, including involvement in termination of no less than 15 hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft during 1971-1999 (see link in Wikipedia), how come we are unable to 'take out' Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed despite their public appearances in Pakistan? Granted our expertise in assassinations is limited to political assassinations within the country but aren't mercenaries available dime a dozen abroad?

Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh saluting the martyred CRPF soldiers, at the Regional Training Centre, in Srinagar on February 15, 2019. The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, the Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Gauba, the Director General, CRPF, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, and GoC-in-C, Army's Northern Command, Lt. General Ranbir Singh are also seen.

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for car bombing of the CRPF convoy in Pulwama that claimed lives of 44 CRPF and injured another 45. An intelligence input on February 8, did warn of IEDs but made no mention of car-bomb despite indications past several months. Initial reports stated 350 kg explosives used but NIA now says 25 kg of military grade RDX was used. Whatever quantity, it's undetected move is intelligence failure.

The PDP-BJP coalition in J&K was a disaster, while the Centre also did little to check radicalization in the Valley through the Hurriyat, Wahabi clerics, politicians and educational institutions. Stone-pelting became thriving industry and despite casualties to security forces, was even referred to as "Bacchon Se Galti Ho Jati Hai" (children make mistakes) by the Union Home Minister. JeM used Afghan war veteran Abdul Rasheed Ghani to configure the car bomb; who has since been killed by the Army. But while move of explosives is being questioned, terrorists globally are also developing new types of explosives, using commercial products like fertilizer and chemicals, and coupling them with radioactive like material to increase destructive power? There has been global condemnation of the terror attack, which is routine. President Trump has asked Pakistan to stop supporting terrorism – something US has been doing past decade plus. India has withdrawn MFN status granted to Pakistan but did we have to wait for the car-bombing, why not at least after the Uri terror attack in 2016? Security cover of Hurriyat separatists is withdrawn; hiccup in the mollycoddling letting them freely visit the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi, travel to Pakistan for parleys with Pakistani military, ISI and India.? But does Pakistan permit Baloch separatist leaders on its soil? Isn't Paresh Barua of ULFA living in China? Haven't Naga separatist leaders been living in Myanmar, UK etc? The fact is that government J&K policy is in complete mess as indicated by the 93% increase in security personnel killed in last five years. The NSA, Home Minister and other advisors must take blame for this, in addition to Prime Minister Modi himself. Despite that drive to isolate Pakistan, it will continue to be supported by China, Saudi Arabia and America for strategic reasons. Pakistan will not be allowed to collapse economically either. Add to this the Wahabi Saudi Arabia-Pakistan nexus. None seems to have grasped the significance of the near simultaneous car-bombings in Iran and India coinciding with visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Pakistan; not reading the signal is naive.

Union Minister for Defence, Nirmala Sitharaman laying wreath on the mortal remains of the martyred CRPF Jawans, at Palam airport, in New Delhi on February 15, 2019.

Modi has announced that Army has been given a free hand to decide on the time and place of response to the car-bombing attack. This is good for public consumption and may result in raid (s) like done in POK during September 2016. But do we realize that these types of responses are no deterrence to Pakistan's proxy war? Do we realize the significance of sub-conventional warfare which has become a currency of geopolitical power-play? Do we realize that sub-conventional war must be viewed within the construct of hybrid warfare, which all global players are employing to further individual national interests – US using ISIS-Al Qaeda, Russia's Ambiguous Warfare, China's Unrestricted Warfare and the like? Do we realize conventional response and diplomacy are no match to sub-conventional war? The Cabinet, the CCS and the NSA need to study these rather than watching screening of Bollywood movies like 'Uri'. We have a choice to either ignore Pakistan's proxy war and continue posing for photo-shoots of honouring our dead, or carry the sub-conventional war on continuous proactive basis inside territory of our enemies who want to see India crippled and balkanized. We should control their fault-lines instead of them controlling ours. Concurrently, we must be prepared for more car-bomb attacks pan-India, as also CBRN attacks. Notwithstanding Lashkar-e-Taiba threat of nuclear strike during Prime Minister V.P. Singh regime, we should expect gas attacks, as also radiological bombs.

US exit from Afghanistan will make matters worse for us. India should go after radicalization and terrorist linked individuals in J&K – political parties, Wahabi clerics, radicalized teachers, preachers, NGOs, stone-pelting masterminds in full measure. Why is a rat like Yasin Malik who boasted to Tim Sebastian on BBC he had killed four IAF personnel not hanged? Which politician or intelligence agency is shielding him? Are intelligence agents compromised and what message is this giving to security forces? If we are too scared to deal with all this because of vote-bank politics, request Sri Lanka for a peacekeeping force to deal with these five radicalized districts or get Russian experts to learn how they dealt with the Chechen insurgency. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visiting India shortly could loan some political will to us. Those on ISI payroll pan-India must be dealt with speedily and firmly. The national plan to deal with Pakistan is responsibility of the political hierarchy and the NSA in particular. Modi saying Army to decide the time and place of response is washing his hands off from that responsibility. As for China, her continued insistence to block Masood Azhar being designated 'terrorist' by UN and blocking India's entry to NSG and UNSC is proof enough that she is and will remain India's primary enemy, not the concubine - Pakistan. Despite her behaviour why are we permitting China to extract extraordinarily huge financial advantages from us?