The dastardly Pulwama terrorist attack Thursday last on the security forces should shake up the Narendra Modi government at the Centre in evolving a direly needed national security strategy. Defence experts emphasise it has become imperative to deal with and prevent such blood curdling incidents.
This will facilitate overcoming ad-hoc responses while dealing with crisis situations and long term challenges. As the Head of Government Modi has pledged befitting retaliatory action against Pakistan for avenging the loss of more than 40 CRPF personnel.
Even though the government wasted no time in withdrawing the MFN status to Pakistan it will hardly bother the neighbour as bilateral trade is limited. There is dire need for a more comprehensive and long term strategy. The endeavour should be to raise the cost for Islamabad in providing safe haven and assistance to various terror groups.
New Delhi has failed to deter the Pakistan army from using terrorists of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba to wage war against this country. For nearly three decades several governments in the national capital have tried various tactics to enhance deterrence against terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.
Several measures taken by India failed to yield the desired results. These revolved around pressurising Pakistan diplomatically, massing of troops on the border for nearly a year when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and the surgical military strikes across the LOC in September last year.
Keen Pakistan watchers desisted from speculating about the type of Indian military response this time around. It is no secret that the neighbour faces a financial crisis and has sought international support. Amid all this China has emerged Islamabad’s crucial economic partner.
In the prevailing circumstances New Delhi cannot remain silent about the problems in enlarging its bilateral political and commercial ties with Beijing. Considering that the fidayeen or suicide bomber was from the Valley points to the dangerous dimension of home grown terrorism in J&K. Kashmiri politicians warn they are up against home grown suicide bombers amid growing fears that it has the portends of consuming the Valley.
Clearly, alienation is increasing which cannot be wished away. Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the reason for the PDP and the BJP coming together in the only Muslim majority state in the country was to start the peace and reconciliation process initiated by BJP stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee.
That did not happen and the bridges have collapsed, she regretted. There are unmistakable pointers that religiosity is defining politics in J&K which is a matter of concern. Simply put the matter of youngsters embracing extremism has put paid to good governance.
Mehbooba affirmed in a recent newspaper interview that Kashmir is a political problem and requires a political solution on the India-Pakistan and Kashmir axis. A national security strategy will facilitate looking at the entire scenario of deterrence rather than attempting appeasement or war. There would be several options before the political establishment before deciding its response.
It is also imperative for the Centre to look inwards and at its failures of governance coupled with the porous borders exploited by hostile external elements. National security must form part of the overall strategy for development. The February 14 terrorist attack has brought to the fore the deficiencies in intelligence gathering and analysis.
While Pakistan will try every dirty trick in its book, India should be prepared to block, expose and hit at the neighbour’s resources. At the same time New Delhi must create an atmosphere of political engagement to address the anger of the Valley’s youth. There is urgent need to fix the increasing alienation in Kashmir.
It is also widely believed that the BJP has harmed grassroots institutions in J&K. It claims to have made inroads in Kashmir even though they won those seats where there was no contest. What cannot be lost sight of is that the BJP failed to find candidates for nearly 100 seats in the Valley.
Now, it has upped the ante of Hindu supremacy along with attacking the National Conference and the PDP that have sought the involvement of Pakistan in resolving the protracted Kashmir tangle. With general elections barely 70 days away, national security transcends all else. There is need for political consensus and management of internal social cohesion. The political leadership must ensure that national security is not compromised.
T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.