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A disquiet border and a vulnerable state

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The empty chest thumping indulged by the Modi Government has resulted in a disquiet border and made our national security more vulnerable.

 

While condemning the frequent terror attacks on our officers and soldiers, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, in his recent speech to the Congress Parliamentary meeting, highlighted the fact that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) by aligning with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has created a political vacuum that gives the terrorists space to operate. Mincing no words of criticism, he stated that “Narendra Modi will be judged by history as the man who gifted massive political space to anti India forces by creating an opportunistic political alliance between the BJP and the PDP”. Looking at the present situation, this may well be true.

The security situation at our borders is vulnerable and normalcy has not returned in Jammu and Kashmir. There have been at least seven terror attacks on our security establishment in the past seventeen months. These attacks have a pattern- Small group of Pakistan backed terrorists are able to cause huge damage to our military targets.

  • July 2015 – Gurdaspur attack in Dinanagar police station that killed 10 civilians and 7 security personnel including a Superintendent of Punjab Police.
  • August 2015 – Udhampur attack on a BSF convoy, where 2 jawans were martyred and 10 injured.
  • January 2016 – Pathankot attack on the Air Force Base Station which killed 7 Indian Military Personnel and 1 Civilian.
  • February 2016 – Pampore attack on an Indian Army parliamentary convoy on the main road linking Srinagar to Jammu, killing 2 soldiers and a civilian.
  • June 2016 – Pampore attack on a CRPF convoy where 8 CRPF personnel were killed
  • September 2016 – The cowardly attack on the Army base in Uri, in which 20 Indian Army man sacrificed their lives.
  • November 2016 – Recent attack in Nagrota and Samba where 7 Army personnel

Not only our Army bases or Air Forces bases were attacked, but convoys of our security personnel were attacked. There have been hundreds of ceasefire violations across the Line of Control and the International Border with Pakistan.  It is not the case, that India has not retaliated to such provocations. We have. The September 30, Surgical Strike was a befitting reply to the Uri attack which claimed 20 Indian Army soldiers.

The Narendra Modi Government in its usual boastful arrogant manner packaged the Surgical Strike as the necessary response – both politically and militarily to these provocations. Leave aside the loud announcements by the pompous Defence Minister post the Pathankot attack and the self aggrandizing and vainglorious electoral claims of BJP President Amit Shah, that “if Modi becomes Prime Minister, PM intruders wouldn’t dare to cross the border”. Unlike the air-punching of the BJP leadership, facts speak for themselves.

  • In 2016 itself (Till Nov 30th) – India has lost 101 Jawans and 33 Civilians to terror and firing in Jammu and Kashmir. This is one of the worst year’s in recent times which has recorded such a rise in military causalities.
  • Since May 26, 2014, during Modi Government- In the last 30 months, 179 personnel of our brave security forces have been martyred and 77 civilians have died in such attacks.
  • In the last 30 months of Congress-UPA Government, the number of security forces who sacrificed their lives in such incidents stands at 94, while 46 civilians died.
  • In the past 30 months (June 2014 to Nov 2016) – There have been 1343 Ceasefire Violations at both at the LoC and the International Border with Pakistan, while this number during UPA was far less at 461 in its last 30 months (Dec 2011 to May 2014)
  • In Jammu and Kashmir, 155 Major Terror attacks took place in the past 30 months of the Modi Government, while we faced 78 such attacks during Congress-UPA

 

Terrorist incidents in Jammu & Kashmir

 

The Pathankot Inquiry Report

Despite all this, Narendra Modi ignoring all pleas invited Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team to Pathankot to investigate the terror attack that originated from the Pakistani soil. Modi and Amit Shah assured the Nation that warm welcome be accorded to Pak’s JIT including the infamous ISI. The Government took a U-turn of making a distinction between State and non-State actors in Pakistan engaged in anti-India terror activities. Naturally, Pak’s JIT went back and preposterously blamed India for orchestrating the Pathankot terror attack itself.

On February 8, 2016, the Ministry of Defence notified the terms on a 5 member tri-Service panel headed by former Army vice-chief Lt General Philip Campose (retd), to probe the January 2 attacks on the Pathankot airbase. A day after the Uri attack, according to media reports, the Defence Ministry acknowledged that the report had punched holes in the existing security infrastructure.

The Campose panel, which submitted its report to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in mid-May, undertook a comprehensive audit and formulated upgraded standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all Defence installations to prevent fidayeen attacks. “It holds that the security set-up is quite poor in most places, with command and control problems and ambiguous SOPs without specific responsibilities and responses being assigned to personnel,”

“The guards at the bases are poorly equipped. Sentries continue to use outdated INSAS rifles which are no match for the AK-47s of terrorists. Most sentries and quick-reaction teams do not have bullet-proof jackets or ‘patkas’ and night-vision devices,” media reports corroborated.

The recommendations range from the urgent need to install modern “access-control, perimeter security-cum-intrusion detection systems” to providing new weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night-vision devices to personnel guarding the bases.

The Campose panel, for instance, highlights the tardy response systems in place to first act on intelligence alerts and then counter terror attacks. In both Pathankot and Uri, there were advance alerts about possible attacks

The committee has recommended revamped and standardised response systems for the Army, Navy and IAF, with upgraded SOPs to assign responsibilities to ensure there is no ambiguity and confusion

Apart from the need to deploy ‘quick-reaction’ commando platoons in military establishments, the panel has called for creation of a number of ‘commando-trained’ companies of the Territorial Army to cover gaps in extra-vulnerable installations.

It is now time the Modi Government implements the serious and detailed recommendations made by the Campose panel at the earliest.

Situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Failure of BJP-PDP

Since past 5 months, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is extremely tense following the protests that followed the killing of a terrorist Burhan Wani. More than 100 people including 2 policemen have died during the unrest. The Kashmir Valley has remained in curfew for 132 days.

Over 11,000 people including more than 7,000 civilians as well as 4,000 security personnel have been injured in the unrest. In the past 3 months, 32 schools have been burned in Jammu and Kashmir by extremists. Although there have been some respite by the attendance of the state’s students taking part in the Class 10th and 12th exams, the BJP-PDP Government only woke up when the Jammu and Kashmir High Court took cognizance of this fact as recently as November 1.

The BJP-PDP Government in Jammu and Kashmir has turned out to be a complete failure- both in terms of political statecraft and administration. BJP-PDP alliance continues to dither and speak in contradictory voices, the lasting peace and solution to Kashmir will not happen. By any stretch of imagination, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has a very serious situation, the repercussions of which would be felt in the next couple of years, unless there is a determined attempt at course-correction by the government. The much hyped Yashwant Sinha report which was prepared by meeting separatist leader Syed Shah Geelani has been again put in cold storage, with the Centre distancing itself from the same.

There is no doubt that peace in the state has been disturbed by Pakistan and separatist elements but it is for us- India to realize that somewhere, in the recent years, we have lost the plot in creating a sense of confidence amongst the Kashmiri people.

 

Modi Government’s Pakistan policy is baffling

Overall, the security situation is grim. The Government has got itself into a complete mess with regards to Pakistan. Their policy on Pakistan is a complete failure. Why must the people of India suffer long speeches and irresponsible statements while militants supported by Pakistan walk into our army bases and kill our jawans at will?

Calibrated steps which the Congress party had initiated to build India’s case in the International forum were wiped out by an intriguing, bewildered, disoriented and an embarrassing Saree-Shawl diplomacy of Shri Modi. Instead of taking the nation’s case forward, it has jeopardized our case with its ‘blow hot, blow cold’ policy and as a result played with India’s National interests. The recent events in Jammu and Kashmir, also a fallout of this puzzled policy.

The BJP made hawkish statements when out of power and cuddled with the neighbour with an impromptu hug when in power- without imagining the repercussions of either. Sometimes the Prime Minister spews fire against Pakistan (as he did recently in BRICS and ASEAN Summits) and sometimes he hops on a flight to Lahore to enjoy a sumptuous meal with the Pakistan Prime Minister.

The direction which Shri Modi’s Pakistan policy is taking is baffling. Either the Prime Minister or his “acclaimed” advisors do not have a Pakistan policy or they just don’t know what do about it. Modi Government’s ‘Pak Policy’ has confused its most ardent admirers and baffled security experts and diplomats alike. In his quest for an image makeover as that of a statesman, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has dismantled the entire matrix of our Strategic and Diplomatic advantages over Pakistan. What is all the more tragic is fact that efforts of previous Congress government in isolating Pakistan internationally as an ‘epicenter of terror’ has been undone because of unthought-of  and poorly deliberated moves by Shri Narendra Modi in engagement with Pakistan.

The Modi Government’s Pakistan policy swings like a wild pendulum. It has become international joke. Rahul Gandhi has hit the nail on its head when he compares the Congress’ Pakistan policy with that of the present Government. He says, “Our Pakistan policy resulted in the complete global isolation of Pakistan and brought peace in Kashmir. By the time Congress left government in 2014 – 50 plane loads of tourists were landing in Srinagar airport every day.”

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Rachit Seth is a qualified Architect and is a part of the Communications Department of the Indian National Congress. He tweets at @rachitseth

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