Originally Published 2005-04-08 10:35:28 Published on Apr 08, 2005
The Kargil military conflict of 1999 between India and Pakistan came in the wake of the "bhai-bhai" ("we are brothers") euphoria generated by the bus ride of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, to Lahore and his high-profile meeting with Mr.Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's then Prime Minister. In the euphoria, we let ourselves be caught napping by the Pakistan Army in the heights of Kargil.
Kargil of India's 'War' on terrorism
The Kargil military conflict of 1999 between India and Pakistan came in the wake of the "bhai-bhai" ("we are brothers") euphoria generated by the bus ride of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, to Lahore and his high-profile meeting with Mr.Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan#146;s then Prime Minister. In the euphoria, we let ourselves be caught napping by the Pakistan Army in the heights of Kargil.

The daring attack by a group of suicidal terrorists, believed to be from the Pakistan-based and sponsored Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), on a Srinagar building complex locating many governmental and non-governmental offices, including that of the Kashmir Tourist Recption Centre, on April 6,2005, has come in the wake of the euphoria generated by the recent spate of so-called confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan and on the eve of the high-profile inauguration of the Srinagar-Muzzafarrabad bus service, which has been projected as the mother of all CBMs.

In 1999, the security forces at least had the excuse, though questionable, that they did not have adequate intelligence of the intentions and preparations of the Pakistan Army to occupy the heights. Before April 6, 2005, the terrorists of the LET themselves, sporting different names such as Al Nasireen, Al Arifeen, the Save Kashmir Movement and the Farzandan-e-Millat, have been reiterating repeatedly for the last seven days their intention to turn the bus into a coffin for the passengers.

There were three ominous aspects of the repeated terrorist warnings:

The terrorists had managed to get hold of the names and addresses of the drivers of the bus as well as of the passengers permitted by the Pakistani authorities to travel by the bus. It is said that whereas the lists sent by the Indian authorities to their Pakistani counterparts were in English, the lists at the disposal of the terrorists were in Urdu. This gave rise to a suspicion that the leakage had taken place from the Government offices in Muzzafarrabad. 

The terrorists did not address similar warnings to the passengers planning to travel from Muzzafarrabad to Srinagar. While all the passengers, who had booked to travel by the Indian bus starting from Srinagar, were genuine civilians, according to the "News", the Pakistani daily of April 6,2005, the passengers who were to travel from Muzzafarrabad had been hand-picked by the Pakistani agencies, which disregarded all the applications from the residents of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) to travel by the inaugural bus. This gave rise to a strong and reasonable suspicion that Pakistan was confining its list to officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) travelling under the garb of Kashmiri civilians and some journalists enjoying the confidence of the ISI. Thus, the terrorists would not have dared to attack their own handling officers from the ISI travelling by the bus. 

In the hope of providing effective security to the passengers, the authorities of Jammu & Kashmir had collected all of them a couple of days before the inauguration and kept them together in a guest house in the building complex attacked. The terrorists knew of this and attacked the building. 

Since the terrorists had made no secret of their plans to attack the bus and its passengers, one would have expected the physical security in the building complex to have been tight. It apparently was not, considering the ease with which the terrorists managed to penetrate the building complex housing the passengers. The only saving grace is that the security forces were able to evacuate the passengers without their suffering any harm. The successful penetration of the terrorists is a major security failure for which there does not appear to be any excuse.

This is what happens when there is an artificially-created euphoria unwarranted by ground realities. Personnel of the security and intelligence agencies are also human beings. They let themselves and their vigilance be mentally softened and demobilised by the euphoria. This leads to feelings of complacency and a nasty surprise.

After letting itself be caught napping, the Government is now indulging in spins to mitigate its sins of commission and omission: 

Spin No.1: The attack is actually an act of desperation by the terrorists, who are losing their battle against the Government. In my view, this does not speak of desperation, but continuing motivation and their determination to keep their movement alive and active. 

Spin No.2: The public, which was looking forward to the bus service, would get further fed up with the jihadi terrorists and public opinion would decisively turn against terrorism. This spin misses the point that the pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorists, who indulge in punishment terrorism, are not bothered about the impact of their acts of terrorism on public opinion. 

The jihadi terrorists have demonstrated to the local public and to the international community their ability to stage a spectacular terrorist strike in the heart of Srinagar in spite of all the precautions taken by the Government. They have shown they are still in a position to strike at will at a place and time of their choice.

The Pakistani authorities have openly condemned the terrorist attack. This does not mean they are not inwardly happy over it because, in their perception, this would prove their point that the ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir remains disturbed despite the Government of India#146;s claims to the contrary and since the attack took place after they had stopped incidents of infiltration (that is their claim), this would prove another point of theirs that the terrorism in Kashmir is due to domestic causes and is not fueled by Pakistan. They would also use this as a further proof of their argument that CBMs alone cannot lead to normalcy in the absence of what they look upon as a genuine forward movement in the talks on the Kasmir issue.

Whatever be the implications of the terrorist strike, it would be very unwise for New Delhi to postpone the bus service. This would amount to succumbing to the intimidation by the terrorists. At the same time, while going ahead with the bus service, it should tighten up physical security and intelligence collection in J&K and stop generating an artificial atmosphere of euphoria unwarranted by the continuing ground realities, which show that jihadi terrorism still has considerable stamina left. 

The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter . E-mail: [email protected]

Courtesy: south Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1327, April 7, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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