When the British decided to decolonise the Indian subcontinent, they chose Mohandas K. Gandhi as their interlocutor. This allowed them first to use the religious taboo against violence to gain time, and secondly, to oppose the Hindu and Muslim populations. Since then, the country has been divided into two States, India and Pakistan, who fear each other. The new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, responded to the visit of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration in May 2014, and went to Lahore on December 25th, 2015, for Sharif’s birthday. Normalisation of the relations between the two states was considered. But without waiting, those who fear a return to unity organized the attack at Pathankot Air Force Base.

January 1st, 2016, Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh was kidnapped and his car hijacked at gunpoint at Jammu-Pathankot national highway on his way back to home around 4 pm by heavily armed persons wearing army uniforms. A Red Alert was issued and a massive search operation was launched into the incident to apprehend the culprits [1].

Later using the same hijacked vehicle the terrorists entered the air base, located 50 kilometers from the border with Pakistan and 200 kilometers from states of Punjab and Haryana capital, Chandigarh, wearing military uniform. Pathankot is important as it is the first line of air defense against any attack from Pakistan. It is MiG 21 airbase and also has an Army division.

Already media have started raising questions relating the attack to the Indo-Pak relations seen to be improving recently. The Hindu reported,

“The attack is the first reality check for PM Modi’s efforts to reach out to Pakistan, and the global community would be watching closely how the masculine NDA government in New Delhi will react to the attack. Evidence of the terrorists coming in from Pakistan would not be difficult to find. But will it be enough to blame the Pakistan establishment, and call off peace efforts?

Pattern of terrorists sneaking in from Pakistan and launching attack on high profile targets within hours of infiltration has been the new pattern in the last couple of years. In July this year a similar attack was launched in Gurudaspur by terrorists who came in from across the border” [2].

However, contrary to what Josy Joseph of The Hindu has to say who echoed the claims by the Punjab Police that the terrorists had come from Pakistan side of the border the Border Security Force (BSF) had refuted any such assertions.

The BSF had said that they had physically checked the entire Punjab border area, but there was not a single evidence to establish that the terrorists had used the Punjab border to enter Indian territory from the Pakistan side. The claim of the BSF is contrary to that of the Punjab Police [3].

BSF Inspector General of Police (Punjab Frontier) Anil Paliwal said, “The BSF has physically checked the entire Punjab border area, but there was not a single evidence to establish that the terrorists had used the Punjab border to enter Indian territory from the Pakistan side.” [4] Punjab Police had claimed after its initial investigation that the river area along the Indo Pak border of Punjab was used to enter India by the terrorists. As per fresh reports the case is all set to be transferred to the National Investigation Agency (Indian counter-terrorism agency), despite the state police’s reservations.

When the report of the magisterial inquiry conducted by Gurdaspur sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Manmohan Singh Kang into the incident of terrorists’ attack on the Dinanagar police station, on July 27, had been submitted to Gurdaspur district magistrate Abhinav Trikha, even district magistrate Trikha himself had rejected it on the ground that it concluded nothing and it was merely a bundle of statements. He had returned the report to the SDM to conduct it afresh into the incident, revealing all the facts about it. It was submitted again in November [5].

Then there was the controversy over the ‘Made in Pakistan’ tag and the GPS that was found. After the recovery of two Global Positioning System devices (GPS) from the terrorists, the focus of the investigation had shifted to where the terrorists came from and how they entered the country. A post-operation investigation was launched to establish the route that they possibly took from Pakistan [6].

Three days later, the police claimed that doctors found a glove on one hand of the terrorists. The glove carried a marking “Made in Pakistan”. This claim raised enough heat. It was questioned as to why the police did not find the glove on the first day when they conducted a body search.

The marking “Made in Pakistan” and the GPS coordinates were evidence enough with the Indian Government to take up the matter with Pakistan on why and how the three terrorists came to India from its soil. However, the security agencies have failed to piece together a final report on the route taken by the terrorists based on the coordinates fed into the two GPS devices seized from the terrorists.

Similar to Gurdaspur attack [7] even with the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks of 2008 [8] there are still unanswered questions related to the GPS (forgotten by the terrorists in the boat) and the route taken by the terrorists. Investigations have thrown up several questions about the last trip of Kuber, the Indian fishing trawler that the Pakistan-based terrorists used to reach Mumbai.

The trial judge in the 26/11 case had held that the prosecution was not able to prove that the Indian trawler MV Kuber was not tampered with and had raised questions about the GPS and satellite phones recovered from Kuber. “They are linked to the main conspiracy (with handlers in Pakistan) he had said”.

That there is the curious case of the only witness who saw the terrorists disembark from the rubber dinghy at Badhwar Park and actually spoke to them, Anita Uddaiya. Despite her proving her reliability as a witness by identifying all six in the morgue, she was not only dropped as a witness, but charged with ‘misleading the investigators’ as a punishment for refusing to change her story under pressure after she was ‘whisked away’ to the US in doubtful circumstances without the knowledge of any Indian officials.

Now, she is a fisherwoman who couldn’t speak English and didn’t even had a passport. She was ‘whisked away’ to the US in doubtful circumstances and remained missing for four days and after she comes back her testimony was rejected on the grounds of her mental instability.

How did she reach US? Who took her there? Was it official sanctioned? Who sanctioned it? If not why wasn’t this aspect probed further? More importantly, what happened to her in US?

Why is it that everytime relations between India and Pakistan starts to improve and initiatives are taken to normalize the tensions between the two countries, a terror attack is witnessed by either of the two countries resulting in the deteriorating of the already delicate relationship?

What forces are working behind this? Who doesn’t want to see relations between India and Pakistan improve? Why have we not able to identify these forces since decades? Doesn’t it indicate that out security and intelligence forces are not equipped to face the challenge of this new kind of terror and needs a new and more adaptive orientation in the globalized world of liberalization and privatization? [9]

Certainly good strategic partnership between the two neighbors would mean a strong and stable subcontinent. More importantly, who gains from a weaker and always infighting Asian sub-continent?

Great Game India (India)

[1Punjab on alert after Gurdaspur cop’s ’abduction’”, Rohan Dua, Times of India, January 1st, 2016.

[2Terrorists storm air force base, first challenge to Modi’s Pak outreach”, Josy Joseph, The Hindu, January 2, 2016.

[4’Gurdaspur Ultras Not from Pakistan’”, Harpreet Bajwa, The New Indian Express, December 1st, 2015.

[5Magisterial inquiry report submitted to Gurdaspur DM”, Kamaljit Singh Kamal, Hindustan Times, November 14, 2015.

[6Post-op probe continues to be tardy”, Jupinderjit Singh, Ravi Dhaliwal, Ruchika M Khanna, Deepkamal Kaur, Shaurya Karanbir Gurung and PK Jaiswar, The Tribune, August 6, 2015.

[7Gurdaspur & 26/11 Attacks: Recurring Patterns”, Great Game India, December 2015.

[926/11 – Globalized Terror In A Liberalized World”, Great Game India, July 2015.