The meaning of the Gurdaspur attacks

What the country saw in Gurdaspur was a police force in neglect as it made up its deficiencies of equipment and training with its courage. A smarter force, better equipped and trained, would have tried to capture the terrorists alive. An even better security and intelligence apparatus would have not let them come in so deep into India in an area bristling with the security apparatus. In all this, we were lucky to have averted a major disaster that could have taken place had the bombs planted on the tracks not been discovered by two alert Indians, Darshan Kumar and Satpal. This attempt was presumably the main purpose of the terrorists. The group had ample time to plant the bombs and was escorted by a lookout team. All of them – we do not know how many – have now disappeared.

Punjab Police fire at armed attackers who swarmed a police station at Dinanagar, in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab on July 27. Pic/AFPPunjab Police fire at armed attackers who swarmed a police station at Dinanagar, in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab on July 27. Pic/AFP

There will be endless dissections of who did it and why was it done. Was it Islamic, Sikh, both, or a criminal terror nexus? Did they have local support? We thought we had sent a high-decibel message with our raid into Myanmar. Udhampur, Gurdaspur, Jammu and Anantnag were probing missions to test our responses. Demanding release of suspects or complaining to the world will just not work. The only response has to be equal and immediate, if possible, or at least at a moment and place of our choosing. In the real world, others respect a country that defends its interests relentlessly.

Unfortunately, our politicians continue to snarl at each other instead of getting together to meet the common menace and have politicised counter-terror. Sections of the media glorified yesterday’s terrorist as today’s martyr, gave his burial the prime slot and relegated that of a most loved President to a secondary slot. Worse, Baljit Singh of Punjab Police and three other home guards, who gave up their today for our tomorrow, were quickly forgotten.

Intelligence is not about post-event analysis, especially when the administrators and politicians have no interest in learning anything from these incidents. Intelligence is about foreknowledge to try and prevent terror or security violations. Ideally, therefore, a strong state ensures, as far as possible, that terror attempts are aborted before they happen, or reacts appropriately and immediately, both at the time of the incident and against the point of origin.

Moreover, attacks also occur because our systems allow them. Security and intelligence reforms in our country have remained episodic and half hearted. Implementation of reforms has remained at the mercy of competitive agencies protecting turf or apparatchiks sitting in the comfortable surroundings in Lutyens’ Delhi, who understand little and empathise less with the needs of intelligence and security agencies.

We must accept that terror will never end. We mistake a decline in terrorist incidents to mean terror has subsided or the reverse is assumed to be true. Peace is a tactic for Pakistan and today, ironically, it wants to sit at the table accusing India of terrorism against them. Pakistan for decades sheltered and encouraged Sikh terrorists and nurtured Islamic terrorists against India. It has thrown drugs, counterfeit currency and jihadis at us. There is little point in blaming Pakistan for this. It is in their DNA. Their surrogates spoke of Caliphates in India long before the Islamic State talked of a Caliphate in Syria-Iraq.

Today, one reads reports that the Islamic State seems to have declared India as its next target, if some recent American publications are to be believed. If true, the IS will use Pakistan and its jihadi hordes (whose primary aim is to launch what some of them call Ghazwa e Hind), as their base. Besides, Pakistan will get an alibi. In the process, however, Pakistan will have moved from being a Deep State to becoming an ultra-radical Salafist Islamic State. This is Pakistan’s vulnerability and it is longer a choice it can make. The only possibility that this can still be stopped is if Pakistan’s Deep State realises that it is not that it needs to hate India less, it is just that it needs to love Pakistan more. This is unlikely to happen and India must consider alternative ways of deterring Pakistan that is not restricted to periodic chatter. Beyond a point, a state’s fortitude is seen as appeasement.

Are we ready for an eventual onslaught via Pakistan? Perhaps the coming of the IS is only a scare, but it is something no intelligence organisation can afford to ignore.

The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)

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