Author : Deepak Sinha

Originally Published 2015-08-04 10:17:33 Published on Aug 04, 2015
Why Gurdaspur attack was no 26/11
We are now better informed about the manner in which the Gurdaspur terrorist incident played out. We know that three heavily armed terrorists wearing Army fatigues, infiltrated the International Border from Pakistan in the vicinity of Tash village through riverine territory. They laid five improvised explosive devices on the railway track near Talwandi village, hijacked a car and drove through Dinanagar, attacking a bus near the bus station. And then, they either attacked or were engaged by the security forces and police at the Dinanagar police station, which is on the outskirts and about 16 kms from Gurdaspur which was, in all likelihood, their final target. While one feels immense sorrow and empathy for the families of the seven tragically killed, one is bound to appreciate the efforts of Nanak Chand, the Punjab roadways bus driver who drove away when fired on and the two Indian Railways gatemen, Darshan Kumar and Satpal, who located the five improvised explosive devices. By their quick thinking and rapid reaction, they certainly averted an even greater loss of life. The security forces too need to be complimented given that the encounter happened in a built-up area. Comparisons to the Mumbai attacks are inevitable and advocates of the doom and gloom brigade are busy suggesting either the beginnings of a new phase of Sikh militancy in Punjab or attempts by the Islamic State to knock on our gates. There have also been suggestions that the Pakistani leadership is testing our responses before proceeding with further large scale attacks. Before looking at what this attack presages for the future, it can be surmised that the motivation for this attack, was to ensure that initiatives that may foster peace and tranquility remain stillborn. While superficial similarities to the Mumbai attack may be apparent, there are major differences in the manner both planned and executed. The scale of the attack itself suggests that while elements within the Pakistani establishment must have been involved, it certainly doesn't seem to have had the support of the highest echelons of power as the Mumbai attackers must certainly have had. Similarly, the logistics of the attack as also the targeting and methodology used to infiltrate the attackers clearly indicates lower level of involvement by thejihadi leadership. Whatever be the reason, this opportunity must be utilised to the fullest to attempt reconciliation and peace building to enable this region, which is presently the fastest growing among emerging markets, continue on the road to economic prosperity. Still, the training of the militants was certainly of a very high standard, despite basic errors like leaving behind night vision devices at the IED site or the manner in which the bus was attacked. That they covered over 25 to 30 kms on foot with heavy loads in one night reflects their high standard of physical fitness. Also the fact that infiltration directly towards Gurdaspur, if that was the target, was avoided and instead done through an area that is not only difficult terrain but also probably the boundary between the Punjab and Jammu frontiers of the Border Security Force, with attendant problems of coordination - this reflects a high level of knowledge of terrain. Our deployment on the part of the planners and must be given due credence. It is however possible that the planning parameters were over ambitious and the terrorists could not reach Gurdaspur before daylight, which ultimately resulted in failure. Whatever be the case, we will certainly need to initiate corrective action to ensure that such attacks are not repeated in the future. Suggestions that this ingress represents a failure on the part of our security and intelligence establishment is utter poppycock because as long as the situation between both our countries remains volatile, elements inimical to us, especially non-state actors, will always have the initiative and are likely to achieve some degree of success. Our attempts must be to deter them from launching large-scale operations apart from responding effectively at the earliest to ensure minimal casualties. Similarly suggestions that we need to take prisoners also has little merit. Prisoners have little information to share and may become targets for rescue missions, as was the case with the Indian Airlines hijack to Kandahar, or it may lead to divisiveness within as we have witnessed in the Yakub Memon case. That we take no prisoners certainly has deterrence value and is not to be discounted. Courtesy: The Pioneer, August 4, 2015
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Deepak Sinha

Deepak Sinha

Brig. Deepak Sinha (Retd.) was Visiting Fellow at ORF. Brig. Sinha is a second-generation paratrooper. During his service, he held varied command, staff and instructional appointments, ...

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