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Pathankot attack: Modi meets NSA, foreign secretary

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An Indian armored vehicle moves near an Indian air force base in Pathankot, 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of New Delhi, India, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. Gunmen attacked the air force base near the border with Pakistan on Saturday morning and exchanged fire with security forces, officials said. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday chaired a high-level meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar in the wake of the terror attack at the Indian Air Force base near Pathankot in Punjab.

Modi held the meeting soon after his return after his two-day visit to Karnataka.

“Immediately on landing in Delhi, PM @narendramodi is chairing a high level meeting with the NSA, Foreign Secretary & other officials,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.

Sources said the NSA briefed the prime minister about the operation carried out by security forces, including the National Security Guard, Indian Army, and IAF commandos.

Security forces on Sunday nailed two more terrorists who had attacked the Indian Air Force base. Four terrorists were killed on Saturday in a 15-hour gunfight. The terrorists are believed to be from Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Seven security personnel, including an NSG officer, were also killed in the counteroffensive against the terrorists.

The terror attack came almost a week after Modi flew into Lahore, on his way back from Afghanistan, for a surprise meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Both leaders had vowed to pursue the derailed bilateral peace process.

Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are expected to meet on January 15 to draw up a roadmap for bilateral engagement.

The Modi government has faced sharp criticism from Congress and some other parties over its policy on Pakistan. The opposition parties have said the Modi government’s policy on Pakistan “lacks clarity and consistency”. (IANS)

(Photo: Indian Express)

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Jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’: Haqqani

Pakistani scholar and author Husain Haqqani talks about his recent book 'India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just be Friends?'

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Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, scholar and author Husain Haqqani who is an integral part of the powerful elite in Islamabad, talks about his recent book ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just be Friends?’, discussing jihad, relations with India, terrorism and the connection between Pakistan’s military intelligence service – the ISI and Islamic jihadi forces.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Can you explain ex-ISI chief Shuja Pasha’s statement on 26/11 terror attack, “Log hamare the, operation hamara nahi tha” (our people but it was not our operation)?
A. Pasha said, “our people” were involved, he didn’t say it was Pakistan army officers or ISI men. Pasha could have meant Pakistanis or he could be referring to LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) as “our people.” However, Pasha had told ex-CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, that “retired Pakistani army officers and retired intelligence officers” were involved in the planning. General Hayden says so in his book. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State, has also written the same.
Since 26/11, Pakistan never went into the depth of the case even though proof was presented. We did arrest some, but we have not successfully prosecuted those responsible and until that is done, questions will remain.

Q. Rice had warned Pakistan to shut down terror operations. However, nothing has changed.
A. Prosecution is difficult in a system where jihadis targeting India are seen as ‘the good guys’. Yes, Secretary Rice had told Islamabad to shut down all terrorist operations. But that wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last. Pakistan has persisted with the same policy since the 1990s. When pushed by US on terror: first deny, then list Pakistani grievances, bring up Kashmir and blame India, provide commitments and assurances and end again with denial. This is not working.

Q. Though US had named Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of LeT as the 26/11 mastermind, he is roaming around freely in Pakistan. What is stopping Islamabad from taking action?
A. Pakistan sees jihad as a low cost option to bleed India. The security apparatus views terrorism as irregular warfare. Islamabad feels this is the only way to ensure some form of military parity.

Q. Is there a concerted attempt by the Pakistan army to thwart peace talks?
A. As an analyst, I have seen that over the last 69 years, Indian and Pakistani leaders have met 53 times and yet been unable to change the course of their ties. Whenever the two try to move forward, the military has reacted. Civilian and army leaders have lost power after attempting to make peace.

Q. What should be Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir?
A. Having a normal relationship, people-to-people ties and trade doesn’t mean giving up on legal or political claim. The question I ask is: Is Kashmir really Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ if it has survived for 69 years without it? Should the two risk nuclear mass destruction over a quarrel they have not been able to resolve for so long?
However, Pakistan’s military has insisted on resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio before opening trade or travel.

Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons
Disputed Areas of Kashmir, Wikimedia Commons

Q. Pakistan’s Kashmir policy remains by and large in the hands of the military even when a civilian prime minister holds office. How can we expect a solution?
A. Under civilian prime ministers, Pakistan has moved forward with India. But Pakistan’s security establishment insists on controlling foreign and security policy, including the Kashmir policy. They have not been able to reach any long-lasting solution. Pakistanis realise that it is only civilian leaders who can actually reach a solution.

Related article: The Fight for Kashmir

Q. In your opinion, Indira Gandhi had been magnanimous with the Shimla Pact, but Pakistanis saw the absence of pressure for a full settlement of Kashmir as an opportunity to keep the conflict alive. Should she have been more assertive on Kashmir?
A. Mrs Gandhi did not trust (prime minister) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but she saw him as preferable to a military regime. For India, domestic unrest or balkanisation of Pakistan, is not a favorable development.
The compromise was to declare in Shimla that “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” This was meant to preclude any future war.

Q. The book mentions how Pakistan intelligence had passed on the information of 10 terrorists who sneaked into Gujarat in March. Do you feel that its a sincere move to preempt a crisis after Pathankot?
A. It’s very positive that Pakistan has shared intelligence with India. But it was more because pressure from India and US. India cancelled scheduled talks and (Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif was eager to resume dialogue. It was less likely that this move reflected concern for possible Indian casualties and was more to do with the need to deflect international pressure.

Q. Are you hopeful of a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relationship after Pathankot?
A. The two foreign secretaries met in New Delhi for the Heart of Asia conference and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is scheduled to travel to Islamabad for the SAARC summit in November this year. So, talks will continue as before but for a breakthrough, the two sides need to move beyond simply cancelling or rescheduling talks and create an environment for change.

Q. You also talk about the shrinking space for friendship and increasing ‘saffronisation’ of India. How harmful is this for ties?
A. Indo-Pak ties have become a victim of two parallel and contending nationalisms. In recent years, we are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment and public displays of religion.

Q. How do you see US policy towards Pakistan in the wake of US elections?
A. Neither of the current Presidential candidates have expressed a positive view of Pakistan. What should worry my countrymen is that entire US think tank and the average American share the same view.
Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2011 said, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” US policy towards Pakistan has been built on what I call ‘Magnificent Delusions’. Pakistan saw the US as its superpower ally who would build its resources to stand up to India, but Washington never saw India as a threat. US and Pakistan have very different goals but still assume they can get the other to work to their advantage.

Source: IANS
(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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NIA raids six places for investigation related to Pathankot attack

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New Delhi: Six places were raided in the town of Amritsar and Gurdaspur in Punjab on Thursday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detectives following the 2nd January Pathankot terror attack.

The places where the raids were carried out belong to suspected Punjab Police officer Salwinder Singh and his two companions who were allegedly kidnapped by the terrorists hours before they mounted the attack at the air base.

“Two days after the lie detector test of Salwinder Singh, we carried out raids at six locations, four in Gurdaspur and two in Amritsar,” an NIA official said.

“The locations include the residential places of Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and his cook Madangopal.”

Singh’s lie detector test was conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday.

Singh, at present, is posted as assistant commandant of 75th Punjab Armed Police after being shunted out as the superintendent of police headquarters at Gurdaspur.

Six Pakistani terrorists believed to be from the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit sneaked into Punjab from across the border and took the Punjab Police officer hostage before taking away his vehicle.

They attacked Singh’s friend and cook, but left the police officer himself unharmed and untouched, raising suspicions about his role in the whole episode.

The six terrorists later attacked the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, killing seven security personnel.(IANS)

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‘Pathankot type attack will happen again and very shortly’

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New Delhi: In order to discuss India-Pakistan relationship in the aftermath of Pathankot attacks, a lively discussion on ‘Lahore to Pathankot: Turbulent Trajectory’ was organized by the Society For Policy Studies (SPS) on Tuesday afternoon.

The discussion was aimed at finding answers to questions like- Is there any point in talking to Pakistan? Can Pakistan change its policy of using terror as an instrument of coercion? Will Pakistani generals allow the civilian government to take any strategic foreign policy decision regarding India? Can India ever exercise counter-coercion options, options that hurt the Pakistani state structure?, which have bothered India after Pathankot attacks.

The discussion was held at the India International Center between a former policy formulator, a retired general and a strategic analyst. It saw a large gathering of diplomats and members of the strategic community, there was a large consensus that segregating terror from the primary dialogue will not serve any purpose and there were “grave reservations” whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hopes of “turning the course of history” in ties with Pakistan by ending terror would have any chance of success.

Asserting that “Pakistani generals called the shots” as far as strategic foreign and security issues were concerned, Vivek Katju, former pointperson (joint secretary) in the Indian foreign ministry in charge of policy formulation towards the Af-Pak region and a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said the Pakistani Army had no real interest in cooperation with India and wondered if the “generals were on board” on the parlays between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Modi when the latter decided to make the surprise stopover at Lahore on his way back to New Delhi from Kabul on Christmas Day.

He said the use of “calibrated terror” would continue to be part of Pakistan’s security doctrine that was in the hands of its army and said little purpose would be served by segregating the terror talks, which were to be conducted by the two national security advisers, from the now renamed Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue that is to be conducted between the two foreign secretaries.

Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd), former GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and a visiting fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, said: “Pathankot (type attack) will happen again and very shortly” if India refused to learn the proper lessons from it in radically altering and improving its civilian-military interface. He said the “Pakistani deep state (military) had no desire to pull back its assets (radical elements)”, adding the problem this time was “no one was sure who was controlling the operations”.

He said India had no tradition of contingency planning, various units continued to work in silos and the “response mechanism needs to get its act together” if Pathankot or even Mumbai-style attacks are not to be repeated.

Gen. Hasnain warned that if India did not have a proper command and control structure and did not operationalize its existing mechanisms when such events happened, “hell will break out” if Pakistan, which was currently too preoccupied with its own internal security management, were to put Kashmir as a strategic priority once again.

Zorawer Daulet Singh, an analyst with the King’s India Institute, an affiliate London’s King’s College, said India should “stop try and change Pakistan” or try and “change patterns of the past” but concentrate on using “means to serve our ends”, including use of “counter-proxies” and “counter-coercion instruments” to pay back Pakistan in the same coin and hurting them where it matters.

He said, despite changes in government, India was still sticking to idealistic Nehruvian approaches to foreign policy, hoping the other side will change its behavior when it should be internalizing the political dynamics of Pakistan and create pressure points that will compel Pakistan to relook its ways.

Katju also agreed with Singh that old approaches will not work and “any amount of lighting peace candles at Wagah” will not change an iota in thinking of those elements in Pakistan who control the whiphands of the terror groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed or the Lashker-e-Taiba, whose trained cadres have repeatedly attacked Indian.

Katju said Pakistan was perhaps the only nuclear state that had turned nuclear restraint into license by using the nuclear threat to launch attacks “on the mainland” through its terror instruments while India restrained itself for fear that retaliation might lead an all-out nuclear war with catastrophic consequences.

Commodore C Uday Bhaskar, Director, SPS, who chaired the session, noted that the Modi government needs to invest in acquiring tangible national security capacity so as to compel Pakistan to desist from supporting terror. He also cautioned that the Islamic religious fervor which has taken firm roots in Pakistan’s civil society is now spreading in the military and this supra-national ideology which is similar to that of the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State bodes ill for regional stability.

All the speakers agreed that India should not be too constrained by international opinion, particularly the West, and fashion its policy from its own security perspective as the West “would never abandon Pakistan” as it served its own security interests in the volatile Af-Pak region. (IANS)