Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Uri and now Jammu show clearly the intent of Pakistan-based terror groups to keep hitting high value Indian army targets. The grota strike has taken the overall toll to 40 Indian security personnel in the last three months. It is no surprise that the ‘Deep State’ within Pakistan is hell bent in keeping its irregular army active on the Kashmir front. But what is galling is that amid the din in this country over surgical strikes, a pattern of repeated intelligence failure is emerging. Apart from the huge cache of arms, gredes, GPS, chained IEDs and hard-to-detect liquid explosives that the terrorists were carrying to grota, it now turns out that another group had sneaked in through an 80-metre-long cross-border tunnel under farmlands at Samba. The BSF suspects this was done because farm soil is regularly worked over and is soft; what is worrying is that the BSF is said to have no technology to detect such tunnels. After the encounter, all that the BSF could do firsthand was to use a JCB machine to carry out further digging in the area to rule out the possibility of other similar tunnels in the vicinity. So groups of terrorists armed to the teeth, using GPS and night vision devices, infiltrating by using covering fire from obliging Pak rangers or digging tunnels — are indicative of ever-rising escalation from the Pakistani side, while taking care to stay below the nuclear threshold. Meanwhile, there are reports that in the wake of surgical strikes across PoK last month, the Indian intelligence establishment has been receiving strong inputs of ‘grave threat’ to security establishments, especially in Jammu. Despite this, suspected Lashkar terrorists are believed to have carried out a reconissance mission for a week to stake out the artillery camp before they struck. And when they did, they had a smooth run as the toll gate ahead of the camp was unmanned, while the point at which they breached the camp perimeter was also lightly guarded.
Clad in J&K police uniforms, the attackers maged to confuse sentries outside the officers’ mess; a very sty hostage situation could have developed had it not been for the presence of mind shown by some army personnel’s wives, and an army quick reaction team that took counter measures. Three terrorists were liquidated, but the country lost seven army bravehearts. There are suspicions of close local support to the terrorists, but that is only to be expected in a state where a political leader like Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister, pins the blame on Union ministers for ‘provoking’ Pakistan with bellicose statements! But what is more alarming is how brazenly terrorists are repeatedly wrong-footing our security apparatus. The Pathankot attackers maged to hijack the Gurdaspur SP in his official car, using its blue beacon to pass unmolested through checkpoints. NIA sleuths later discovered that this high police official was already compromised in the drug racket, so he was easy prey for terrorists operating in tandem with drug dealers. And when the attackers entered Pathankot base, they found sentry bunkers overgrown with weeds and flimsy chicken coop fencing along the golf course — which they easily breached. All these lapses show that that the political establishment of this country needs to get over rrow one-upmanship over surgical strikes and really forge a modicum of principled response. New Delhi may not like to talk with Islamabad under the shadow of the gun, but there has to be some kind of backchannel communication to go with force projection. Prime Minister rendra Modi is going whole hog for a tough and mean Indian economy that watches its deficits and casts its tax net wide and deep. But he also needs to fashion a policy that removes once and for all, the ‘Soft State’ tag on India when it comes to guarding its borders and keeping the pressure on insurgent and terror groups; this applies as much to the borders in East India as to the west.