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Gurdaspur terror attack casts a shadow on India-Pak peace talks

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

Analysis of data from two GPS sets recovered from the Punjab attackers show two routes that the terrorists might have taken. Both originate from Pakistan but have different points of entry to India. However, before reaching, both the routes merge to form a single path into Dinanagar.

The technical dilemma that the Border Security Force (BSF) and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) are facing is that which one of the two paths did the assailants really take.

“We are putting together pieces of various intelligence inputs – the terror attack comes from Pakistan,” said an intelligence official. In the aftermath of the Gurdaspur attacks, relations between India and Pakistan are set to suffer strains.

The Prime Ministers of the two countries had met at Ufa, where Modi had warned Sharif about unprovoked actions like cross border terrorism, saying that India would be prepared for a ‘befitting reply’.

However, the two nations continued to pursue their endeavour to maintain cordial ties in the spirit of the Ufa meeting. The attack on Punjab took place at a time when the National Security Advisors of the two countries were to meet, a decision taken at the meeting.

Delhi treaded with caution during the meet, for any evidence of state support to the terrorists may jeopardize its commitment to peace. The NDA government displayed high level of diplomacy not to scuffle the Ufa talks, but both the countries blamed each other for violation of the ceasefire. PM Modi however did not take to any state posture and was keen on improving the perennially difficult relations with Pakistan.

This was the deadliest attack on Punjab since the Khalistani movement. Naturally this incident has increased tensions between the two countries. Home minister Rajnath Singh articulated New Delhi’s dilemma. “I cannot understand why time and again cross-border terror incidents are taking place when we want good relations with our neighbour (Pakistan). I want to tell our neighbour that we want peace but not at the cost of our national pride.”

BCCI Secretary and BJP Leader Anurag Thakur refused to resume bilateral cricketing ties. “When you see attacks on India time and again, the Jammu region and now Punjab where Indians are losing lives… as an Indian I don’t see the possibility to that,” Thakur said to the media.

Modi’s foreign policy has always had the primary aim of removing obstacles from economic growth. His Pakistan policy has remained inconsistent and confusing. However, foreign investors cannot be attracted to a terror-stricken country and perhaps it is time for the Prime Minister to take a stand.

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Pakistan will never accept ring-fencing and as a result it is extremely difficult to combat increased cross-border firing. It also enjoys the important back-up of China, Saudi-Arabia and the Gulf countries. Even the USA also could not do much to contain terrorism despite Pakistan harboring Bin Laden. So what are the choices India is left with? Was the Gurdaspur attack a tactical mistake that Pakistan will be made to pay for? If so, then is violence the only way? How can India make Pakistan pay without going to war?

There has been evidence of state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan beyond Jammu and Kashmir even in the past. Pakistan was deeply involved in funding Khalistani attackers through the 1980’s before shifting attention to Jammu in the 90’s.

The ideological farce of ‘freedom fighters’ they use in the Kashmir valley no longer stands in Punjab, well within the Indian Territory. It only exposes that Pakistani claims are based on pathological enmity and not on ideology.

“Uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue” is the only way to deal with Pakistan according to Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyyar. The Hawks, on the contrary, opine that the government should send cross border raids to inflict damages in terror camps. A third way could be to take strong constitutional measures against Pakistan. This is Modi’s opportunity to assert his leadership and make a strong populist statement instead of dogging soft policies which has let India be the victim of many such attacks in the past.

The Modi Government has an option of downgrading the Pakistani government to a consular level, allowing its embassy only limited diplomatic functionality, at least till Islamabad delivers on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and other attacks on India.

On the economic field, the Government has an option of using sanctions. Pakistan’s economic position is inferior to that of India. The GDP of the country is barely 11 per cent of India and growing at a rate of 2 per cent compared to India’s 7 per cent. India is involved in international trade worth approximately $700 billion annually. Trade restrictions conditioned on terrorism could be a strong statement for the country. Moreover, India is sensitive about internationalizing its conflict with Pakistan.

In the light of the Kashmir issue, Pakistan calls the ‘bluff’ of plebiscite. However, the 1948 UNSC resolutions make the demand for Pakistan to vacate POK before even the consideration of plebiscite.

In the light of past events, we can gather that the relations between India and Pakistan have never remained stable. Pakistan always competed with India to gain economic, military, and diplomatic parity. There has always remained a permanent phase of low-intensity conflict between the two nations. The Gurdaspur incident seen in a way can be considered as a part of this strategy – plausible deniability while inflicting harm on Indian citizens and soldiers.

The Indian strategy of maintaining peace is somehow mistakenly conceived to be its weakness. The government’s critics say, “India forgets problems and within a week ‘business is back to usual.’”

Is it true that the Indian government lacks the appetite for a sustained battle against terrorism? The Gurdaspur attack calls for the government to take a stand for the protection of its citizens.

PM Modi should spell out the foreign policy of India and the broad strategies he has in mind regarding Pakistan, though he need not talk about covert operations. The whole country awaits to see what stand is taken for the loss of six innocent lives and the protection of more.

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)