Lessons from Sunjuwan

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/13/2018 4:01:30 PM

No amount of condemnations and chest thumping can ensure insulation from such attacks; a blend of military and political thinking and actions needed

The militant attack in Sunjuwan Military Station, in the outskirts Jammu city, which has left 5 soldiers and one civilian dead, and injured 10 people, is horrifying and shocking not only for the scale of killing but the ease with which militants have operated by entering a highly fortified zone that borders densely populated colonies of the expanding winter capital. It is condemnable and its shock value is enhanced by the manner in which the militants did not spare even the families of soldiers including pregnant women and young children. It needs to be condemned in the strongest possible words and such attacks on civilians amount to acts of terror. Though militant attacks within the city were not uncommon in the nineties, the last one and a half decades have by and large left the city unaffected by insurgency. The attack evoked anxieties that are both a response to the tragic loss of lives and also the likely security lapses that cannot be glossed over. As yet, the officials have been unable to explain how the militants stormed inside the high security area and started targeting soldiers and the family quarters inside the military camp. The loss of precious lives of soldiers and casualties of their family members is not only an occasion for national mourning. It is also time to introspect and learn about better strategic decisions in dealing with possibility of such attacks in the future without invoking a jingoistic frenzy. It has to be a level headed response. The Sunjuwan attack is a reflection of major security lapses as well as the failed and inefficient handling of both Kashmir conflict and the hostile border situation. Both these create conditions are conducive for militants to carry out such attacks at will. It is important that the incident be probed fairly and the details of the sequence of events shared, once the operation is declared fully over, so that a mature response to the attack follows. A mature response requires not just pin-pointing the perpetrators of the crime and their master-minds but also plugging security lapses and a serious handling of the situation not only militarily but also diplomatically. Though Pakistan cannot be let off the hook as there is serious probability that the perpetrators of the attack may have been sent from across the borders, it equally important to question that if that happened how they managed to cross the borders, travel all the way unchecked to Jammu city and enter the highly fortified area. The incident is similar to the attack on Pathankot air base and this necessitates a serious introspection of the major security lapses and the health of the security of vital security installations.
There is also need to understand that this is not just a military failure but also a political failure. Prolonged and unaddressed turbulence in Kashmir and hostility on the borders creates conducive conditions for such attacks. In the last over a year, there have been no efforts to de-escalate tensions through diplomatic engagement. The military is constantly pushed into a position of preparedness and though the valour of the soldiers may be exalted to lofty heights as part of the ultra-jingoistic discourse, it is both poor strategy and inhuman to constantly keep the military pushed into a war-like situation. There are limits to which army and security forces can be pushed into playing roles beyond their purpose, even with the best of techniques and even by fattening the already huge size of the military with additional troops. It is easy to engage in the luxury of typical Pakistan bashing but it serves no purpose other than enhancing the vulnerability of India's military and civilian areas to militancy and terror attacks. The way ahead, therefore, requires not senseless flexing of muscles but sound military, diplomatic and political strategies. India should first mend its own house, dealing with its military strategy and political handling of Kashmir conflict. Of utmost priority is the case of plugging all loopholes in security, followed by a mix of military and political response. Diplomatic engagement to corner Pakistan would require diligent homework not rhetoric of revenge, which ends up weakening India's case. Ultimately, violence will not resolve either India-Pakistan hostility, nor the Kashmir conflict. Eventually all sides would need to sit at the negotiating table and engage with each other amicably and through dialogue at different levels. The sooner that happens, the better it is and will be in the interest of everybody. This is what New Delhi and Islamabad need to realise and pursue for. This hostility cannot be allowed to carry on till perpetuity, creating excessive insecurities, panic and ruthless spilling of blood.



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