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Jan 2016 Attack on Pathankot Air Base

India - Pakistan: Expedite Peace Talks and Jointly Take on Terror: Select Editorials & Commentary

5 January 2016

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Contents:
 
1. CPI urges India, Pakistan not to fall into trap of terror outfits (New Report)
2. Editorial: Stay the course after Pathankot (The Hindu)
3. Editorial — Attack on Pathankot air force base (Dawn)
4. Editorial: The attack in India (The Express Tribune)
5. Editorial: Pathankot attack (The Daily Times)
6. Editorial: Overtures by India, Pakistan must not be derailed by attack (Gulf News)
7. A reason to join the fight fairly (Jawed Naqvi)
8. End The Blackmail: Pathankot terror attack is exactly why India should talk to Pakistan (Shivam Vij)
9. PathankotAttacks: India should expedite dialogue, not call it off (Tilak Devasher)
10. India was tipped off on 25 Dec about Pathankot Attack. Even as Modi met Sharif (Bharat Bhushan)

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1.

The Economic Times

CPI urges India, Pakistan not to fall into trap of terror outfits
PTI | 2 Jan, 2016

NEW DELHI: CPI today condemned the attack on Pathankot air base and urged both India and Pakistan not to fall into the "trap of provocation" by terror outfits by derailing peace talks between them in the wake of the attack.

"We strongly condemn the attack. It happened after the Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan. This appears to be an attempt by terror outfits to derail any dialogue process and initiative taken by both the countries.

"Both the countries should not fall into the trap of provocation of the terror outfits who must be given a strong message that they cannot derail the dialogue process," CPI national secretary D Raja said.

The Rajya Sabha member also demanded that New Delhi take up the issue with Islamabad and push for action against the ones responsible for the attack.

"The Government of India must take up the issue with Pakistan Government demanding action against the terrorists," Raja added.

In a pre-dawn attack, a group of heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists, suspected to belong to Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, struck at an Air Force base here in Punjab, leading to a fierce gun battle in which three security personnel were killed along with four attackers.

The terrorists, who struck just a week after Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore, could not, however, penetrate defence cordon at the Air base which is located close to the border with Pakistan as they met with effective response from the security forces, police and security officials said.

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2.

The Hindu, January 4, 2016

Editorial: Stay the course after Pathankot

Within the short space of a month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have gone through the entire cycle of India-Pakistan ties, as they have played for the past two decades ever since the two countries agreed to a composite, structured dialogue between them. There has been talks about talks, talks about terror, a brief moment of euphoria with gestures of renewing ties from the leaders, followed by an attack. While Mr. Modi’s Lahore landing was certainly bold, it has not yet proven to be the game-changer that perhaps he too hoped it would be. Instead, the same kind of terrorist attack that has always accompanied India-Pakistan engagement hit Pathankot in the early hours of Saturday. As with similar attacks in the past, it should not surprise anyone if the terrorists came from Pakistan, and belonged to an anti-India group the Pakistani army has neatly sidestepped in its otherwise fairly successful crackdown on terrorists in the past year. Frustrated by their inability to hurt India, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and others have tried to retain their relevance by instead targeting the India-Pakistan dialogue process time and again. By not calling off talks immediately after the attack, the Modi government seems to have indicated it will not allow these groups the satisfaction of achieving those aims. A sustained dialogue is the only fitting answer to terrorist groups and to their handlers inside the Pakistan establishment who wish to destabilise the peace process. In fact, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Parliament last month that India would not “be provoked by saboteurs who want to stop the dialogue process in one way or another”.

Going forward, the talks process must be further insulated from the ‘veto’ of these forces. First, the foreign secretaries must move quickly to set up a timetable of meetings of all the secretaries in the two countries involved in the comprehensive dialogue. The process will receive momentum if India and Pakistan agree to a resolution on what are often called the “low-hanging fruit” of issues such as visas, confidence building measures on the Line of Control, water issues and the Sir Creek dispute. The more issues they are able to agree on, the greater their chances of addressing the single largest issue that holds back ties today, that of terrorism. On this, it is for Pakistan to show its good intentions, by acting against the JeM and LeT, both in court and on the ground in Punjab where they run extensive militias. India must stay the course it has set in the past month, including during the National Security Adviser talks, where it has delivered its message firmly, but quietly, with no hint of the one-upmanship that can hamper engagement. These actions will pave the road that was opened by the two Prime Ministers on Christmas day, allowing them to slice through the proverbial Gordian knot on India-Pakistan ties, rather than having to disentangle the ends that constantly threaten to strangle peace in the subcontinent.

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3.

Dawn, Jan 04, 2016

Editorial — Attack on Pathankot air force base

WHILE Pakistan-India ties are necessarily about a great deal more than terrorism, the latter is perhaps the one threat that can derail the relationship yet again.

It is too early to know the facts about what transpired at an Indian air force base in Pathankot but already some challenges — and opportunities for broadening and deepening anti-terrorism efforts — can be identified.

Firstly, the Pakistani government has done the right thing in quickly and unequivocally condemning the terror attack and offering its cooperation to India.

Having suffered grievously from militant violence and having resolved to fight militancy in all its forms, Pakistan should rightly offer its support to any state confronting terror threats. It is a welcome change that Pakistan now officially and directly condemns terrorist attacks regionally and internationally and offers its assistance where necessary.

The years of ambivalence appear to have been left behind.

Yet, the challenges are formidable. The hostile reaction by much of the Indian media to the alleged involvement of Pakistanis in the attack even before the barest facts could be established underlines just how difficult peacemaking will be.

Courageously, however, the Indian government has appeared to resist media and hawkish pressure and declined to go into attack mode against Pakistan. It is all too easy to reap political capital in the midst of a major terrorist attack by targeting perceived external enemies.

The preferable approach — one that hopefully the Indian government will continue to adopt in the days ahead — would be to quickly establish the facts. If no involvement of Pakistani nationals is found, the information should be shared with the Indian public.

If Pakistani nationals are found to be involved in the attack, the information should be shared with Pakistani authorities as quickly as possible — and reciprocal steps should be taken here. To thwart the political motives of terrorists, a sensible, cooperative approach by both governments should be key.

Inside Pakistan, there needs to be some reflection. Has Pakistan’s inability to deal adequately with India’s concerns about the 2008 Mumbai attacks caused cynicism about Pakistani intentions and led to Indians being automatically suspicious of Pakistan whenever a terrorist attack occurs in their country?

If so, does that not harm Pakistan’s own interests? There is still too much defensiveness about the terrorism threat on the Pakistani side — perhaps less so in the political government, but certainly in the military-led security establishment.

There is no conceivable gain that Pakistan can make through terrorism when it comes to key disputes and issues with India. Not only is that abundantly clear outside the state apparatus, a generation of senior officials, both military and civilian, have publicly and privately acknowledged and accepted that.

If that is indeed the case, then Pakistan ought to lead confidently on the regional terrorist threat. No one — at least no one credible — can accuse the Pakistani state of not wanting to or failing to fight the banned TTP today. The day must come when the same can be said for all terror threats, internally, regionally and internationally.

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4.

The Express Tribune, January 4, 2016

Editorial: The attack in India

Indian army soldiers take up position on the perimeter of an airforce base in Pathankot on January 3, 2016. PHOTO: AF

That there would be an attempt to undermine the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan was never in doubt, and with meetings at foreign secretary level just a fortnight away, an Indian air base came under attack on January 2. After initial reports that the base had been cleared of the attackers, it came to light that the assault continued the following day as well. Men dressed in Indian Army uniform are reported to have entered the Pathankot air base close to the Pakistan border. They opened indiscriminate fire, killing at least seven Indian soldiers as they battled with the security forces. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but Indian sources are suggesting that the attack may have been carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad.

With both countries gearing up for their most meaningful dialogue in decades, the attack could not have come at a worse time. It is now for the two governments to hold their nerve and thus far this appears to be the case. The Indian response is more muted than in the past and Pakistan has been quick to condemn the attack. Incidents such as this have previously poisoned the waters making dialogue next to impossible; but that does not have to happen and although the atmospherics of the forthcoming talks will inevitably be affected, their cancellation is not yet being mooted. That there are groups for whom all talk of peace is anathema is undeniable, and they will do all they can to halt the process. This cannot have been an unexpected attack and there will have been contingency planning for such an eventuality. For purely domestic political reasons, there will be a ramping-up of anti-Pakistan rhetoric by some in India, and it is for the Indian government to rein in those on that side of the border who are not inclined towards peace either. Both governments are to a degree in uncharted territory, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not had the easiest of rides since his ‘surprise’ visit to see his Pakistani counterpart. At the same time, if the attack can be conclusively linked to a Pakistan-based group, the authorities here must also act decisively against such nefarious elements. Cool heads must prevail, and the talks must proceed.

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5.

The Daily Times, January 05, 2016

Editorial: Pathankot attack

A gun battle ensued at the Pathankot airbase after a group of militants, whose number and connections have not been ascertained so far, sneaked into Indian territory on December 31, 2015. The base is on the highway that connects Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) with the rest of the country. It is also very close to the shared border with Pakistan. As per initial information, the attackers hijacked a private vehicle carrying the Gurdaspur SP and two others and barged into the airbase only hours after their infiltration. The attack is the outcome of the lackadaisical attitude of the Indian Punjab police who handled the credible information given by the Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh casually and failed to act in timely fashion. This is the reason questions are being raised about the long duration of the attack and high casualties in spite of having pinpoint intelligence. At the time of writing these lines, the operation was still going on as two more terrorists were spotted after the killing of six militants, while casualties on the Indian side rose to seven during a mop-up operation. Sprawling area and the complex layout of the airbase is said to be the reason for the long duration of the operation. The pattern of the attack is similar to the Gurdaspur assault in July last year that left 10 people dead. No group has claimed responsibility for the raid so far. However, fingers are being pointed at Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is also being alleged that the Kashmir-based United Jihad Council’s ‘Highway Squad’ has masterminded the Pathankot attack. At the same time, while the Indian security forces were busy in fighting the militants in Pathankot, the Indian consulate came under attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

These terror strikes are believed to have been an attempt to undo the recent improvement in India-Pakistan ties but both countries so far have given no indication they would affect proposed talks later this month. The attack in Pathankot came barely a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic Christmas Day stopover in Lahore to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It may be aimed at sabotaging the peace initiative by Modi and Sharif. Obviously, saboteurs do not want the establishment of peace between India and Pakistan. On its part, Pakistan has condemned the attack and expressed its commitment to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism. At this time, the Indian side seems to be in a wait and watch mode, and there is so far no decision on calling off the foreign secretary level talks scheduled to be held on January 15. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman has said that dialogue could not be revoked due to “one attack”. Still, the Pathankot fallout could put the future of any peace initiative between both countries at stake.

The Pathankot incident is a conscious evil effort to derail and hijack the fragile gains and goodwill between the leaderships of both states. Unfortunately, every time something good is about to happen, it is erased by such attacks. History is witness that whenever the leaders of both countries tried to bring peace and started discussions to normalise relations, vested interests have foiled such initiatives. India and Pakistan need to beat these terrorist elements by a better strategy and planning. They have to defeat those elements that carry out terrorist activities to roll back any peace process. The governments of India and Pakistan need to engage in talks consistently to foil the nefarious agenda of the terrorists. The solution lies in persistent dialogue, even in the face of terrorist attacks. It is hoped that both the countries will keep the momentum going to achieve peace in the region. The anti-peace terrorists should not be allowed to sabotage peace efforts in any case. *

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6.

Gulf News, January 5, 2016

Editorial: Overtures by India, Pakistan must not be derailed by attack

India and Pakistan must not allow the attack on an Indian Air Force base, that has left seven troops dead, to derail the recent efforts to build strong neighbourly relations. If the two countries turn cold towards each other again, it will only play into the hands of these terrorists. The agenda of militants is to sow trouble between India and Pakistan and thrive by the violence.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Lahore on December 25, to greet his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday. There was a wave of optimism that the hostile nuclear neighbours would build a foundation for a solid friendship. A week later, terrorists attacked the air base in Pathankot. No one has claimed responsibility, but Indian intelligence says the terrorists came from across the border. The terror agenda is crystal clear — there must not be peace in the subcontinent. The leadership of both countries must therefore ensure they stand united against these terrorists because terror has ravaged both India and Pakistan. Both have paid a high price. It is time the scourge is wiped out.

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7.

Dawn - Jan 05, 2016

A reason to join the fight fairly

by Jawed Naqvi

The unsettling if confounding assault on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot came a day after Pakistan’s powerful military chief Gen Raheel Sharif set 2016 as the year to wipe out terrorism from his country. Such an objective can become music to the ears of Pakistan’s neighbours — Iran, Afghanistan and India. China, of course, will benefit in quantum ways, and the world should heave a sigh of relief.

It is axiomatic that Pakistan cannot hope to eliminate terrorism from its soil and leave Jundullah, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Haqqani group among regional allergens untouched. With this in view, Saturday’s attack in Pathankot by suspected JeM militants could turn adversity into an opportunity for India and Pakistan to jointly confront trans-border terror. For this, they need to discourage their hawks from derailing a promising diplomatic initiative to come together in peace.

In fact, it could already be the long-term plan of the two national security advisers after they met in Bangkok, paving the way for reassuring diplomacy. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement to parliament that war was not an option with Pakistan was a byproduct of several behind-the-scenes meetings at various levels endorsed at the very top. The Pakistan foreign ministry responded to the Pathankot outrage with an unequivocal condemnation. It simultaneously offered to work together with India to find a durable remedy against similar threats in the regional context. It would be a bad surprise if Gen Sharif’s promise of a terror-free Pakistan is in conflict with the interests of his cross-border neighbours.

A legitimate question that Indian analysts have raised in this regard stems from their belief that the Jaish-e-Mohammad though not being controlled by any Pakistan agency any more remains robust. In fact, the analysts see the group as working in cahoots with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which Gen Sharif’s military is targeting with rare precision. It is a puzzle, therefore, that known antibodies like Maulana Masood Azhar are able to operate across diverse stretches of Pakistan. That’s a question for Pakistan to answer publicly.

India must figure out what expertise it can bring to the table in combating security problems dogging the region.

India has a greater responsibility in guarding its own interests not just at home but in a regional context too. For this, it needs to curb right-wing hawks that have no interest in peace, for peace will impact on their daily rations of state support. The foiled attack on the Indian consulate in northern Mazar-i-Sharif on Sunday could be instructive on how both might cooperate in and with Afghanistan where the Taliban look set to return sooner than later. The menace of the expanding influence of the militant Islamic State group too should spur closer coordination between the traditional rivals. There’s no time to lose.

In this context, India must figure out what expertise it can bring to the table in combating security problems dogging the region as well as its own troubled states. For a start, the handling of good intelligence has not been its forte. This was revealed in the Kargil war as well as in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Hampered intra-agency cooperation showed up discouraging signs of real-time transmission of actionable information.

As intelligence failures go, the latest show put up by the multilayered and multipronged agencies in Pathankot revealed unacceptable tardiness that allowed the terrorists a free run of the region for a good 24 hours before they launched a brazen daybreak strike at the air force base on Saturday. That the air force’s rearguard was able to limit the damage within the besieged complex with the potential of nuclear assets being around is no small relief in an otherwise dismal story.

Finally, no war on terror should become a ruse for short-changing the people of their already depleted rights. The tendency in India for a surly display of misplaced nationalism on occasions such as the Pathankot outrage undermines the objectives of a democratic secular state. That objective was grossly violated by the Congress nationalists in the 1980s, and the alienation of Sikhs it triggered has not abated.

There has been some chatter about local help provided to the Pathankot militants even if the attackers otherwise came in from across the border. Are we going to watch another horror story erupt in Punjab? Pakistan needs to be engaged to cut down the inherent violence the prospect carries. A healing touch and not knee-jerk military action is the remedy. Is a right-wing state ready to discard its traditionally narrow approaches to deal with alienated men and women?

In which case, how does it consider the alienation of Kashmiris, a cause unfairly usurped by terror groups like JeM? There was a Hindustan Times report quoting one of the victims of the Pathankot gunmen as saying the men were out to seek revenge for the death of Afzal Guru. The Supreme Court had thrown out as spurious the state’s claim that Afzal Guru was a member of any terrorist group, and the JeM militants have sought to harm that image. This is the perception in Kashmir about the fruit vendor whose life was snuffed out in a bizarre secret ceremony by the Congress administration.

In a similar vein, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had bungled by describing alienated tribals of Chhattisgarh as the biggest internal security challenge to India. The BJP establishment has responded by incarcerating a wheelchair-bound professor of English literature who is 90pc crippled. Terrorism grows with repression. The answer may lie in something like the Irish model of engagement with solemn pledges of securing justice to all sides. Will that be India’s contribution to building the required atmosphere, the only durable way for a regional initiative to arrest the slide of alienation and violence dogging the region — from Afghanistan to Manipur; from Kashmir to Balochistan or beyond?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

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8.

Quartz india - January 04, 2016

End The Blackmail: Pathankot terror attack is exactly why India should talk to Pakistan

by Shivam Vij

The big terror attack in Pathankot threatens to derail a renewed India-Pakistan peace process. For now, the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are saying that the talks will go on. But it is possible that they may not be able to work against public opinion for long.

Here are five reasons why India must continue the process of talks announced after Bangkok, and reaffirmed by prime minister Narendra Modi in his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart in Raiwind.
Now is the time to talk

If there were no terror strikes emanating from Pakistan, why would India need to talk to Pakistan anyway? India must confront Pakistan with evidence of the use of its soil, perhaps even the support of its state institutions, in terror attacks on India. Sit on the table, and ask them, what about this? How can we normalise relations when you do this? To call off talks would be to walk away just when you need to confront, talk, engage, and seek answers.

Pakistan won’t talk terrorism until India talks Kashmir, and that is why we had a “composite dialogue” process, whose name the Modi government has changed to “comprehensive dialogue.” Since Kashmir has a Line of Control that’s often on fire, and a source of terrorist infiltration, India has a need to talk about Kashmir, too.

India has no interest even in gaining Pakistan-administered Jammu & Kashmir, although India talks about it when Pakistan ratchets up its protestations on Kashmir. Truth is, India is happy to convert the Line of Control into an international border. It is Pakistan that has made gaining Indian-administered Kashmir an article of faith. Pakistan’s support to terrorism comes from this desire for the Kashmir Valley, which it has not been able to gain militarily. Talking Kashmir and terrorism, along with trade and visas and everything else, can bring India long-term gains.
Be seen as the one that wants peace

We may never get to hear the details, but there has been much commentary in the press about the international pressure brought on India to talk to Pakistan. Washington and other world capitals want India to talk to Pakistan because not talking often only escalates tensions, on the border and between the foreign offices in New Delhi and Islamabad. They fear this not only because it has serious implications for Washington’s efforts to contain Pakistan in Afghanistan, but also because both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed.

When India is not talking to Pakistan, it comes across as the country that does not want to talk peace. Pakistan keeps saying it wants to talk to India without pre-conditions, India keeps saying what about terrorism, and Pakistan says let’s talk terrorism too.

Instead of allowing itself to be seen as the one that doesn’t want to sit down and talk to resolve issues, India should sit down and talk and let Pakistan be seen as the one that is up to terror strikes to derail talks. Talking to Pakistan is an opportunity to put the spotlight on its India-centric terrorism infrastructure, not a way of forgetting terrorism.
Lack of military options

War is not an option for nuclear-armed neighbours, but even a short confrontation is out of question. Limited military action could easily escalate, and even if it doesn’t, what will it achieve other than making India look like the aggressor? An air strike or two may not finish the terror infrastructure in Pakistan, but will definitely create more anti-India jihadis. As Pakistan will continue to pretend it harbours no such elements, India will be the one the world will look at for restraint. This is assuming that India has the capability to mount a “cold start” attack on Pakistan. It would be far easier to secure our borders from terrorist infiltration instead.

India’s lack of military options and absence of sub-conventional warfare abilities (read terrorists willing to die) mean that India has only one option left: diplomacy. Not talking is not diplomacy. Pakistan loses nothing by India not talking to it. It is only by talking and engaging that India can perhaps build some pressure on Pakistan. This is why “strategic restraint” has been key to India’s Pakistan policy.
End the blackmail

If terror strikes are aimed at halting India-Pakistan talks, then why give the terrorists what they want? Why give in to the blackmail? The bully is emboldened every time you show him you were affected by the bullying. India appears stronger—not weaker—if it continues to talk despite terrorism. If India continues talking despite imploding jihadis, their bosses will know the trick isn’t working anymore. By linking talks to incidents of terrorism, India only incentivises terror attacks from across the border.
Work on public opinion in both India and Pakistan

Now that a hardline prime minister has been forced to talk to Pakistan and face the ignominy of terror strikes in response, it is time to build broad political consensus that talking to Pakistan is in India’s national self-interest, and not some munificence towards Pakistan.

Talks with Pakistan should be used as an opportunity by both sides to build public opinion for peace in both countries. Doing so would be vital to isolating those who do not want normalisation of relations, such as terrorists and their supporters.

Increased trade ties, for instance, can build a new constituency of peace backers with economic interest. Greater people to people contacts can help change perceptions, once people see the other country as a living reality and not the security monster of the news headlines. Similarly, a long-drawn out process of talks could be used to seek and shape public opinion on out-of-the-box win-win solutions to issues such as Siachen and Kashmir.

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9.

Catch News - 5 January 2016

PathankotAttacks: India should expedite dialogue, not call it off
by Tilak Devasher

ven before the firing has stopped at the Pathankot Air Force base, there has been a rising crescendo of voices that the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan scheduled for 14-15 January in Islamabad should be called off. The grounds being the familiar refrain that ’terror and talks cannot go together’.

Unfortunately, most of the emotion-charged debates on TV that invariably degenerate into slanging matches, see Indo-Pak relations in binary black and white terms. In reality, diplomatic relations must be seen as shades of grey and the country that does so will have a greater range of options that it can use judiciously to protect its national interests.

The Pathankot attack was undoubtedly aimed at derailing the ’comprehensive bilateral dialogue’ format crafted during the visit of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad in December 2015. This process was kick-started when Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met in Paris where, according to media reports, Sharif assured the PM that the Pakistan Army was on board with the normalisation process with India.

The appointment of a senior Army officer as Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, replacing the aging Sartaj Aziz, was seen as proof of this and the secret meeting of the two NSAs’ in Bangkok in early December seemed a further confirmation.

What does the Pakistan Army want?

The Pathankot attack, however, calls into question whether the Pakistan Army is on the same page as the civilian government as far as improvement of relations with India is concerned or if Nawaz Sharif was fooled into believing that it was. A more ominous view is that the Pakistan Army is playing ’good-cop, bad-cop’ with the Army seemingly on board but the ISI using its assets to continue the old game.

In the past, the Pakistan Army has always managed to spike any efforts at normalisation with India believing that it was not in its interests. And the Army has enough assets to do its bidding to ensure this. The Army was clearly unhappy with the Ufa declaration since there was no mention of Kashmir and it was quick to have the joint statement sabotaged. Consequently, the scheduled NSA-level talks in August 2015 were called off.

The aim was to derail the ’comprehensive bilateral dialogue’ crafted during Sushma Swaraj’s Pak visit

The Pathankot attack coincided with an attempted attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. The attempt was foiled by the combined action of the ITBP and Afghan security forces. Till the time of writing, the identities of the assailants are not known. The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently visited Kabul to inaugurate the Indian-built Afghan Parliament building and made a veiled reference to Pakistan, by highlighting terrorism flowing across the border is significant in this regard. Also, Pakistan has been apprehensive of Indian presence and popularity in Afghanistan.

Whichever way one sees it, the Pathankot attack and quite possibly the Mazar attack too, have become an immediate challenge to PM Modi’s new overture to Pakistan. There is also the sobering reality that this is unlikely to be the last such attack so long as the terror factories in Pakistan continue to churn out anti-India jihadis under the benevolent eye of the Pakistani Establishment.

How should India react?

The public mood is clearly that a tough message backed by action be sent out to Pakistan about the consequences of their adventurism in India. Merely a tough message will be just that since our past track-record is not one of action even when faced with ’acts of war’.

Calling off the Foreign Secretary level talks is thus the immediately actionable message that can be sent.

This, however, would be unfortunate.

For one thing, since the Ufa joint statement Indian efforts have been geared to splitting the dialogue with Pakistan into two main components- terrorism and the rest, including Jammu and Kashmir. The former is to be carried out by the respective NSAs and the latter, the Foreign Secretaries. To call off the Foreign Secretary level talks on account of the Pathankot attack would be to re-combine the dialogue into one basket.

Thus, the way forward has to be that India should continue to engage with Pakistan despite the Pathankot attack by holding the Foreign Secretary talks as scheduled. As External Affairs Minister Swaraj said in Parliament following her visit to Islamabad, the ’Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ will begin with the objective of "removing hurdles in the path of a constructive engagement by addressing issues of concern."

Fast-track talks

Thus, if the dialogue is still-born, the possibility of addressing issues of concern itself will be stalled. It can be no one’s case that issues of concern should not be addressed. In fact, the talks need to be fast-tracked and the time-table for talks of the various groups should be set up expeditiously.

At the same time, Pakistan cannot be allowed to conduct a terrorist operation of the nature of Pathankot and get away without consequences. Hence, a meeting of the NSAs should be held immediately to present proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the Pathankot attack and ask for appropriate action.

By this, the two processes would proceed simultaneously.

Was Pak Army on same page as Sharif on resuming talks or did it fool him into believing that it was?

At the same time, India has a range of diplomatic and other options that should be considered.

While the resolve of the Indian government to stay the course will be tested, the attack has seriously damaged Nawaz Sharif’s credibility and reinforced questions about his ability to deliver. If anything, he has been far more seriously weakened.

Neither has the Pakistan Army covered itself with glory by trying to stall the talks. If anything, the attack has reinforced graphically its Janus-like face when it comes to dealing with terrorists that target India and Afghanistan. This will hurt it immensely in its discussions with the US about across-the-board action against terrorists.

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RELATED:

10.

India was tipped off on 25 Dec about Pathankot Attack. Even as Modi met Sharif (by Bharat Bhushan)

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see also:

Can Pakistan and India ever live in harmony?
by Owen Bennett-Jones (BBC News - 5 October 2015)
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34356980