WEB DESK: The terrorist attack on India’s Pathankot air force base, coming close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goodwill visit to Pakistan, seems to be aimed at sabotaging the resumption of Pak-India peace process. Initially, a Kashmiri militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, was suspected of having carried out the assault but later on a grouping of over a dozen jihadi groups operating in the Indian-occupied Kashmir by the name of ‘United Jihad Council’ claimed responsibility. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to condemn the attack, saying Islamabad remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism. More importantly, instead of the usual knee-jerk reaction with which both countries blame one another for such incidents, this time the Indian government has acted in a careful manner. The temptation was there to accuse Pakistan as is obvious from Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s initial comments that although India was keen on good ties with Pakistan, it would give a “fitting reply to terror attacks.” Good sense soon prevailed. Prime Minister Modi gave a considered response, placing the responsibility on “enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress.”
The anger and dismay in India over the incident is understandable, indeed. Unfortunately, however, the Indian electronic media acted in a rash manner presenting unsubstantiated stories of a linkage with Pakistan’s security establishment. That shows how fragile the relations remain. It is worthwhile to note that the Indian intelligence agencies are reported to have information about the impending assault 24 hours in advance, ordering all the shops in the airbase’s vicinity to close down. In that case they should also know the identity of backers of the attack and their motive. Why could the same information not be shared with Pakistan for the purpose of pre-emption? Questions as to what did the intelligence agencies know and what did they do with it are also being raised. In any event, the incident is a matter of serious concern for this country as well due to its ramifications for the peace process. Given that there are elements on both sides who do not like to see normalisation of relations between the two countries; it is a big challenge for the leadership in the two countries to ensure the dialogue process remains uninterruptible. So far it is encouraging to note that the ruling BJP has said the dialogue with Pakistan could not be revoked due to “one attack.” Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, nonetheless, held a meeting with former envoys to Islamabad and ex-foreign secretaries “for diplomatic consultations on Pakistan.” Hopefully, the advice she got was to continue moving forward on the talks track.
The incident underscores the need for greater intelligence sharing between the two countries. The information the Indian intelligence agencies are said to have had before the attack took place should be shared with the relevant authorities in this country. For that, the two countries’ national security advisers should meet as early as possible to discuss whatever the Indian side knows, and if any link is found with elements in Pakistan necessary action must be taken against them. It is about time both countries consigned mutual hostilities of the past to the past and did all that is necessary to fight the common threat of terrorism.
Source: Business Recorder