August 02, 2015

Implications of the Gurdaspur Attack

THE Gurdaspur attack by an extremist squad crossing over from Pakistan is a first of its kind in Punjab. The three-member group is reported to have crossed the international border a few kilometers from the site of attack in Dinanagar. Two similar attacks by Lashkar –e-taiba squads had taken place in Jammu earlier this year. The terrorist attack killed seven people altogether, three of whom were civilians. The extremists ended up in the Dinanagar Police Station where they were finally killed by the security forces after a 15 hour gun battle. The ease with which the “fidayeen” squad entered Punjab is a matter of serious concern. The Punjab border like the Line of Control has a three tier electrified fence that is regularly patrolled. There should be an investigation to see how the breach occurred, despite so much resources being deployed in terms of material and personnel on the border. The Gurdaspur attack has come at a time when India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold talks between the two national security advisers in August. These talks were decided upon at the Ufa meeting of the two prime ministers after the foreign secretary level talks which were to be held last August were called off by India. The terrorist strike may have been designed to disrupt the resumption of talks between the two countries. Therefore, it is important that the talks are held as scheduled. Within the Modi government and the BJP, there are sections who would like no talks to be held. The Dinanagar incident has provided the pretext for them to demand that the talks be called off. The Modi government should not heed such views and stick to the plan of talks decided at Ufa. The Pakistan government has unambiguously condemned the terrorist attack in Dinanagar. However, as is well known, there are other wings of the State who patronise the anti-India extremist elements. The talks between the NSAs have the agenda of terrorism and this opportunity should be utilised to engage in a frank dialogue with Pakistan about its failure to curb the terrorist groups from within its borders. The other matter of concern regarding this attack in Punjab is that it has taken place at a time when Khalistani activities are reemerging in the state. The Akali led government has been notably soft on the Khalistani extremists and pandering to their demands. With the Islamist extremists from across the border targeting Punjab, the militancy in the state can get a boost. The Akali Dal-BJP coalition partners’ brand of communal politics is also contributing to vitiating the atmosphere. Next door in Jammu & Kashmir, the communal divide between the valley and Jammu has grown; there are attempts to intensify militancy in the valley. All this is making the entire region vulnerable to communal tensions and terrorist activities. The BJP government at the centre has to ensure that communal politics in Jammu & Kashmir does not get intensified. Further, it has to rein in its Akali Dal ally from appeasing the extremist elements in Punjab. Above all, the central government should not act in a manner which will aggravate the situation further. (July 29, 2015)