J&K: flailing at Pak won't help, fix lapses

J&K: flailing at Pak won't help, fix lapses

J&K: flailing at Pak won't help, fix lapses

Gaping holes in the security of supposedly tightly guarded facilities have been laid bare by a string of major incidents in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) over the past 10 days. On February 6, a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Naveed Jutt escaped from police custody at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar. Militants attacked the police party accompanying the jailed Jutt for a medical check-up at the hospital. Then, on February 10, Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists stormed an army camp at Sunjuwan in Jammu. Ten people, including six army personnel and a civilian, were killed in the gun battle that followed. And less than a day later, the LeT attacked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Srinagar's Karan Nagar area. Officials probing the incidents have said that mobile phones used by the terrorists involved in the attacks reveal that they were in touch with handlers in Pakistan.

The attacks have evoked an angry response from the Narendra Modi government. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has warned Pakistan that it "will have to pay for this misadventure." How the government proposes to make Pakistan pay is unclear at the moment. But if it is considering another round of surgical strikes, this is likely to be an exercise in futility. After all, the 2016 surgical strikes did not push Pakistan to mend its ways. Official figures indicate that infiltration of terrorists into India increased in 2017. Instead of going down an unproductive path, India should address domestic lapses that enable terrorists to strike with impunity. Following the attacks on the Indian Air Force station at Pathankot in January 2016, a review of security around defence facilities drew attention to lapses. But two years later, recommendations remain unimplemented. Although construction activities up to 100 metres of an army establishment are prohibited, the Sunjuwan camp has illegal buildings nearby. It is believed that the terrorists were holed up in these buildings in the weeks preceding the attack. Worse, the CRPF had roofing tin serving as perimeter defence near the camp's family quarters. This would not have been difficult for the terrorists to breach.

Local support is said to have played an important role in the attacks. The Jaish terrorists were clued in to the geography of the area, which would not have been possible without local help. If Pakistani terrorists are able to find locals willing to help them, it is because Kashmiri anger with the Indian state is soaring. India's failure to deal with the rising unrest in the Valley, especially among the youth, has provided Pakistan with a powerful handle to unleash terror on India. Fixing domestic lapses is likely to be more productive than flailing at Pakistan.

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