On 26th September, at about 0645 hrs, heavily-armed four-member fedayeen group dressed in battle fatigues belonging to the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) carried out an attack on Hiranagar Police Station on Kathua, Jammu killing six persons, including four policemen and two civilians and thereafter escaped in a vehicle and struck an Indian Army base (home to 16th Cavalry) around 0715 hrs at Samba where at least three army personnel including the second-in-command Lt. Col. Bikramjeet Singh is reported to have been martyred. A Colonel-level Commanding Officer (CO) of the unit was among the three injured in the attack. At the time of this writing, fierce firefight was going on between the security personnel and the terrorists. [Update: According to Army sources the three terrorists were neutralised in or around 1630 hrs. A lesser-known militant outfit 'Shohada Brigade' today claimed responsibility for the twin attacks].
This attack is not the first time that an army installation has been attacked by Pak-based terrorists. In May 2002 about three terrorists reportedly crossed the Line of Control from Pakistan and boarded a bus at Vijaypur. When the bus neared Kaluchak, they shot the driver and the conductor and opened fire on the passengers. On hearing the shots in the bus the Indian army soldiers fired in their direction. The terrorists who were dressed in Indian army fatigues, while returning fire, attempted to escape in the direction of the Army's family quarters, located on the main road. They also threw grenades on some vehicles parked in the vicinity. Upon entering the family quarters they again fired on Army family members present in the premises. The terrorists were eventually cordoned off and killed by the Army.
There were a total of 31 killed, including 3 Army personnel, 18 Army family members and 10 civilians. There were 47 wounded including 12 Army personnel, 20 Army family members and 15 civilians. The dead included ten children. All the three terrorists killed in this incident were Pakistani nationals.
The lessons of Kaluchak probably were not learnt leading to the present attack at Samba. There have been reports that the fedayeen entered Jammu in the early hours of the morning from across the LoC and carried out the attack. This theory seems far-fetched, for the group appears to have a thorough knowledge of the topography and the exact location of its intended target: the Officers’ Mess of the 16th Cavalry. This could have been possible only with fair amount of intelligence and detailed recce of the target. There also seems to have been absolutely no communication between the police station which was attacked and the army base where the terrorists later struck. Had there been some communication, the terrorists could have been waylaid and neutralized before they got access to the base. The army and the police have a lot to answer for this lack of coordination.
The attack comes in the backdrop of a proposed meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart set to take place in New York on the side lines of the United Nations General Assembly session. Reacting to the news of the militants' attack, the main opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party dismissed the idea of a dialogue with Pakistan as a potential solution to tackle border issues.
"How can we have talks with a PM (referring to the Pakistani PM) who has no control over his Army and the ISI," BJP’s Yeshwant Sinha questioned. "If Pakistan Army doesn't want talks to be held with India, what is the point of taking to a PM who has no control over his Army?" Sinha hit out.
There is some substance in this argument. How can peace process go ahead when one of the constituents to the peace parleys is going to carry on a low-intensity conflict? Secondly, why should India take upon the responsibility of strengthening the civilian democratic institutions in Pakistan? Especially, considering the fact that a major chunk of Pakistani society considers India to be an arch enemy. It is also to be borne in mind that there have been innumerous cease fire violations after Nawaz Sharif came to power. Further what is the guarantee that Sharif truly aspires for peace with India considering the fact there is a K-Plan pursuant to which the Kashmir-cell (located in his office) would work on propaganda, raging separatist sentiments in the Valley and stage infiltration and cross-border fire across the LoC?
Pakistani establishment and its proxies have gone unpunished for all the acts of terror perpetrated against India. New Delhi has yet to answer as to the manner in which they responded to all provocations since Mumbai 26/11 to the beheadings of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops on the LoC. New Delhi, simply put, has never mustered the courage or political will to give a fitting reply to this undeclared war waged by Pakistan.
The ruling alliance in New Delhi seems to have a penchant for talks with Pakistan, oblivious of the situation on the ground. There certainly is a disconnect between the political masters sitting in air-conditioned offices and security forces tackling the terrorists in the border areas of Kashmir. This is apparent from the statements made by the ministers and politicians. It is difficult to see the rationale of having talks between heads of states when an undeclared war is being fought between the two neighbours.
As the situation stands, the only way in which India can respond to Pakistan is to deter Pakistan from engaging in acts of terror aimed at India. For this, there is an urgent need to draw up a policy of carrying out targeted killings of personnel belonging to Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)/Pakistani Army who are engaged in training these proxy elements. Secondly, India must have an undeclared policy to target all terror camps located in Pak-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and elsewhere in Pakistan. Any action of this nature would also be covered under Article 51 of the UN Charter.