How India is turning the tide against terrorism

Both Gurdaspur and Udhampur are exactly what anti-terror experts have said for decades: the first responders, the local police units, must react.

 |  2-minute read |   07-08-2015
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Nothing would delight the Pakistan Army and the ISI more than to see the Indian Army fighting terrorism. After all, one of the reasons General Head Quarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi has deployed its strategic weapon — terrorists — across its eastern borders is to tie a numerically superior Indian army down in a long drawn and costly counter-insurgency campaign within its borders. No one knew this better than the Pakistan Army and the ISI then when they played a part in bleeding the Soviet bear in the Afghan insurgency between 1980 and 1988. No one knows this better than the Pakistan Army now — 24 of its 67 brigades, over 30,000 soldiers, have been deployed fighting militants in North Waziristan for the past 14 months.

Yet, two outrageous incidents in the past week tell us the tide against state-sponsored terrorism could be turning. On July 27, it was the Punjab police that tackled the three Fidayeen terrorists who struck at the police station in Gurdaspur. The sight of pot-bellied Punjab policemen wielding elderly self-loading rifles may not have made great TV visuals, but no one can question the fighting spirit of a force that last saw terrorists over two decades ago. The police made short work of the Gurdaspur siege killing the three terrorists. On the National Highway-4 near Udhampur on August 5, it was the Border Security Force (BSF) that fought back. A lone constable shot back and killed one of the two terrorists that fired at the passenger bus. The constable, known only by his first name, Rocky, averted what could have been a massacre of a busload of over 40 unarmed BSF personnel. A second terrorist, Mohammad Naveed believed to be a resident of Faislabad, Pakistan, fled the ambush. Captured by Jammu and Kashmir police and village defence committee members, just as Ajmal Kasab was in Mumbai, in 2008, Naveed is the newest face of an unending policy of cross-border terrorism.

Both Gurdaspur and Udhampur are exactly what anti-terrorism manuals and experts have said for decades: the first responders, the local police units, must react. Special units must come in only in the case of unusual situations like massive Mumbai 26/11-type sieges involving multiple civilians. India's strategic competitors will be quick to point out the dichotomy of a country that aspires for a seat at the UN Security Council deploying its army to tackle internal police duties.

If the police and paramilitary have now begun to tackle terrorism, without army assistance, it is commendable. These are successes state and central governments must build upon by implementing long-delayed police reforms to allow the force to become more professional. The army is a weapon of last resort. It should be remain as one.


Sandeep Unnithan Sandeep Unnithan @sandeepunnithan

The writer is Executive Editor, India Today.

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