The terrorist attack on the Air Force base in Jammu can be described as the most audacious in recent years. In terms of sophistication and technology, it marks a new high, for the explosive devices were dropped from two low-flying drones. What’s worse, they escaped the radars and other security installations around the high-security defence airport. It is just fortuitous that the payload from the drones fell on a building and not on the aircraft in the taxiing area. If at all anyone or anything needs to be thanked for the little mercy, it is providence. The fact that two drones were sighted in an adjoining area a few hours later and they flew away when they were fired at does not instil confidence. If anything, it suggests that the terrorists have the means to strike at will.
Drones were used in the past, too, but they were to drop arms and ammunition. It is the first time they were used to mount an attack and that, too, on a defence set-up. From the inability to react in a swift manner and, thereby, foil the attack, it is apparent that the anti-terrorism measures need a thorough overhaul. One good thing about the government’s reaction is that it has not publicly blamed any particular organisation for the attack. In fact, the right approach is to investigate and identify the sources from where the drones emanated, the characters who took part in the attack, including their masterminds, and bring them to book. That is what the US did when 9/11 happened. It had no clue how four aircraft were hijacked and used as weapons but eventually the whole nefarious plan was unravelled.
The drones used were not the camera drones photographers use for aerial photography. Since the spot where the bombs were dropped is 14kms away from the India-Pakistan border and the drones safely flew back, it means they are huge and sophisticated and could carry heavy payloads. It is difficult to believe that a group of terrorists could create the drones, put together the explosive devices and use them against the Indian Air Force installations. There is, therefore, reason to believe that even if the drones took off from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the terrorists would have certainly obtained support for their procurement from, say, Pakistan or China. Without such support, an attack of this kind could not have been mounted. This makes it all the more worrisome.
It is a matter of speculation whether the blast had anything to do with the all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened in New Delhi on June 24. It was widely seen as an attempt to restore democracy in the UT, immediately after the delimitation process, which is now underway there. The Centre and the political parties in the erstwhile J&K state are not on the same wavelength on this. While the Centre is not averse to restoring statehood to the UT, with or without Ladakh, as the logical culmination of the normalisation process, the Kashmiri leaders want statehood first before anything else. For the terrorists, anything that restores peace to the Valley is abhorrent, for it negates their own creed of violence. They would not have liked the recent reaffirmation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.
It is well-known that in Pakistan, the intelligence agency ISI often follows an independent policy, not necessarily in conjunction with the Pakistani state, particularly when the political leadership is considered weak. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that Imran Khan is a strong and effective leader. To expect the ISI to be in awe of such a leader and desist from pursuing its own dubious strategies is to not understand it. All this is, of course, a matter of investigation. Who knows what all tricks the terrorists have up their sleeve.
While securing the skies against such drone attacks, the investigation should be so thorough that whoever had planned the attack would soon be exposed and forced to face trial. Those who supplied the drones to the terrorists, too, need to be exposed and punished if we do not want drones to become an instrument of international terrorism. Let the government also realise that it is not democracy but the lack of it that encourages terrorism. If the normalisation process set in motion in J&K is slackened, it will be considered a victory for the terrorists. In short, the government should be wary of playing into their hands.