Don't let attack derail peace talks

The terrorist attack at the Pathankot air base, in which seven security personnel were killed over two days, is a serious test of the peace process between India and Pakistan, recently revived with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore. The attack follows the usual script that accompanies positive developments in bilateral relations, like talks at high official or political levels. The foreign secretaries of the two countries are to meet this month and a comprehensive dialogue is about to start. A terrorist attack is a matter of serious concern, but it will be unwise to abandon this process because of the attack. It is clear that the very aim of the attackers was to scuttle the peace initiative. There are many elements which do not want friendly relations between the two countries. There are more such elements in Pakistan and they may even be in influential positions there. It would amount to playing into their hands if India decides to give up the initiative at this stage.

Therefore, the country has done well to respond with restraint and moderation to the incident. Both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh have expressed this welcome attitude in their statements. The attack on a high-value defence establishment is a challenge to national security. While protection of national assets and securing national security should receive the highest priority, it should also be realised that the safety and security of the nation can be ensured most effectively and over the long term only if there is peace and good neighbourly relations between the two countries. Talks and resolution of outstanding issues of dispute are the only way for this. That is why it is necessary to ignore provocations and stick fast to the path of dialogue to the best extent.

Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist grouping based in Pakistan, is considered to be behind the attack. It is even said to receive sponsorship from the Pakistan army and other official agencies of the country, including the ISI. There is also the impression that the Pak military leadership is not enthused by the keenness shown by the civilian government for the peace process. But these also are no reasons to discount the value of the process. India should, however, be ready to meet the secu-rity challenges, which may get worse. The security establishment deserves praise for beating back the attack in Pathankot. But it deserves only one cheer, because the terrorists managed to breach the security ring of the air base and gain entry there, in spite of early warnings about their presence in the area. Seven precious lives were also lost.
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