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Akhnoor attack: To send a message across, India must go on the offensive

As if the distinct upsurge in major terror attacks in 2016 in J&K was not enough, just nine days into the new year, Pakistani terrorists struck in the wee hours of the morning killing three casual labourers in a General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) camp at Battal in Jourian in the Akhnoor sector of Jammu & Kashmir. The GREF personnel are the cadre of the Border Roads Organisation who build and maintain roads in the remote border districts, be it the freezing snow capped mountains of the Himalayas or the scorching sandy wastes of Rajasthan.

That Battal lies virtually on the conjunction of the Line of Control (LoC) and commencement of the International Border (IB) in J&K, merely two kilometres inside Indian territory, should have made the security forces alert to any possible Pakistani mischief. With the Pakistani deep state bent on persistent waywardness to keep the pot boiling in restive J&K, our security forces cannot let their guard down ever.

There are dozens of soft targets available, both close to the LoC and IB for Pakistan’s terror “tanzeems” to target with relative impunity, including border schools and other civilian establishments. This attack, is, perhaps, just the forerunner for major terror strikes being planned by the ISI along with its terror protégés on both sides of the line. That Pakistan will never forego its evil machinations in J&K should be fully factored in our security calculus.

To button-up the surveillance grid and our security mechanisms, both in the border areas and in the hinterland is only the first and basic step we need to streamline with far more resources and ingenuity — sadly we have again been found wanting. We had lost 19 soldiers in the attack in Uri last September and nine in Nagrota on November 29 — somewhere we have not learnt our lessons. Perimeter security, local intelligence inputs and response mechanisms need further tightening. Also, accountability when such mishaps occur must be ensured.

As regards the larger picture, countering terrorism is not a localised affair, and India’s security establishment will have to analyse the Akhnoor strike as part of Pakistan’s overall strategy. Pakistan, with nearly three decades of terror export experience behind it, will conveniently ascribe the Akhnoor attack to local elements — and that’s the essence of the successful “proxy war” it has engaged in against India.

Such terror strikes force India to spend huge resources on its static defences which do not worry the Pakistani State. Additionally, such strikes, even if marginally successful, encourage and energise some local Kashmiri terrorists.

India thus needs to look afresh at the strategy which it wishes to conceive, and, rigorously follow to keep an errant Pakistan in check. India does not need to adopt a defensive fortress strategy but follow the age-old, many-times-proven dictum of being offensive, in intent and practice, against the enemy and give it back many times over.

I am sanguine that our army chief, after an analysis of the overall situation and this attack, will unreservedly convey to our mischievous neighbour that the price of consistent mischief can be an extremely expensive and a self-destructive proposition.

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General Kamal Davar was the first chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency
The views expressed are personal
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