Gurdaspur Attack: Is India well equipped to deal with terror?

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

Terrorists attacked Punjab’s Dinanagar Police Station in Gurudaspur district in the early hours of July 27, killing six and injuring as many as eighteen people. Among the deceased were SP detective Baljeet Singh, two home guards, a policeman, and three civilians. The attack that started at 5.30 am continued for twelve hours, until the police and the security neutralized the threat by killing all the three terrorists.

The terrorists were holed up in a sanitation site in a vacant building adjacent to Dinanagar police station. The MHA report reveals that the militants were heavily armed with 2 GPS, 3 AK-47, 10 magazines, and 2 China made grenades. The MHA further suspects that the assailants belonged to the extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed. The terrorists struck a civilian bus and showered it with bullets. They attempted to attack the health center and then targeted the residential complex of the Police station and hurled grenades before open firing on the police station. The local police said that the terrorists attacked a roadside shop, killing a vendor before fleeing in a Maruti 800 which had a Punjab registration.

Additionally in a nearby train track, a set of five bombs were located, suggesting a series of pre-planned attacks to mark the anniversary of a near-war between India and Pakistan in 1999. Fortunately, even though a train passed at 5.15 am, the bombs did not explode due to wiring problems, said Deputy SP of Police (Pathankot) Prabhjot Singh Virk. However, the IEDs were not diffused until the Bomb Disposal Unit arrived from Jalandhar. Army commandos and a Quick Response Team (QRT) were also summoned.

Is India properly equipped to deter terrorist attacks? Are we safe?

Though the three terrorists were killed in the combat, and one left injured, the question remains: Is India equipped to deter terror attacks? After all, this unforeseen event claimed six lives and left many injured.

The Prime Minister met Union Minister Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley, and Venkaiah Naidu to discuss the security situation of the country. Thereafter, security along the border with Pakistan has been tightened. Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, said to the media that he did not rule out Pakistan’s involvement.

“There have been earlier reports of Pakistan infiltration and cross-border mischief in this area,” said Singh, whose constituency is in the Jammu region bordering Gurdaspur. The attack in Punjab was eerily similar to attacks in the border belt of Jammu, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said on twitter. “Will be very interested to see what emerges about the identity of the terrorists involved in the Gurdaspur attack this morning,” he tweeted. Rajnath Singh spoke to the head of the Security Force and gave instructions to increase the vigil of India.

Terrorism is a global threat, the combat of which is imperative for the security of all nations. However, in the case of a country like India, which has been the victim to many unfortunate attacks in the past, the level of security and vigilance has to be increased.

Of the total allocation for defense for 2015, the army will get Rs 1,04,158.95 crores, the navy Rs 15,525.64 crores, the air force Rs 23,000.09 crores, the ordnance factories Rs 2,884.23 crores, and the Defense Research and Development Organizations Rs 6,570.09 crores. The remaining amount of Rs 94,588 crores has been allotted on the capital account for the acquisition of modern weapon systems, including initial payments for 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft, 197 light helicopters, and 145 Ultra-light Howitzers, among others. Even after ample funds, the security of the country can be questioned. Neither the Bomb Disposal Unit, nor the Commandos of the QRT could reach on time. Moreover, the local police were not adequately armed to combat the terrorists and thus the gunfight continued for over ten hours.

The attack on Punjab just after the celebration of Kargil Diwas raises doubts about the credibility of security in the country, just as it did during the Mumbai attacks. With the death of civilians, one may ask – does our territory guarantee our safety? Or is India going to be the relentless victim of global terror attacks in the years to come?

The attack on Punjab also altered foreign relations which India holds with other nations. The attack took place in the aftermath of the Modi-Sharif talks at Ufa, Russia. The two leaders spoke about reviving their stalled dialogue that would help accelerate the trial in the Mumbai 26/11 attack case. However, Pakistan is being suspected to be involved in the Punjab attacks, and this has strained the relations between the two countries.