New Delhi,Arghya Roy Chowdhury: After nearly 72 hours, Pathankot terror attack was finally foiled with security forces neutralising six terrorists. The final body-count on the Indian side is seven, with several others injured. The attack at Pathankot terror base happened despite prior inputs about a possible terror strike. The timing of the attack though is more significant as it happened barely a week after PM Modi’s ‘impromptu’ Lahore stop-over to meet Nawaz Sharif.
The brief conversation at summit level and Sushma Swaraj’s Pakistan visit prior to that raised hopes that the long stalled India-Pakistan will finally be fast-tracked to provide for a less hostile relationship between the two countries. Many though believed that this terror attack was enough of a trigger for India to pull the plug on the peace talk. However, all indications so far suggest that the talk process hasn’t been totally derailed by the most impactful terror attack on Indian soil post 26/11. And, both the Indian and Pakistani political establishments deserves praise for that.
PM Modi refrained from naming Pakistan directly while condemning the terror attack choosing to call the perpetrators ‘enemies of humanity’. This rather cryptic description of what is a clear Pak handiwork, as confirmed by NIA among others, is to keep the rhetoric level down while emotions are running high. Pakistan on its end has responded by saying they are following up on leads provided by the Indian agencies. Sharif calling up PM Modi and promising to take strong action against the guilty also gives clear indication that the political establishment is looking to continue peace talks with India.
This gives Narendra Modi enough optics as leverage to continue the peace process without losing out on too much of political currency. However, this is more like a temporary brokered peace and any major transgression from the Pakistani side further will force the hand of even a powerful leader like Narendra Modi to severe ties and go for a ’56-inch’ show of India’s might. Hence Pakistan’s current prompt assurance is only a temporary facesaver Modi can sell to the electorate, or more essentially, to his own core vote base.
The Pakistan establishment’s words needs to be backed by solid corroborative action that can act as a true Confidence Building Measure and show that the neighbouring country, which is itself scarred by terrorism, is serious enough to tackle it. In the case of the Mumbai probe, Pakistan has displayed stalling tactics with series of dossiers, with substantive proof being given by India and no response from them. Hence their reaction to the Pathankot terror attacks will be closely monitored and analysed. If Pakistan can put Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar behind bars, it will be reckoned as a giant forward step. It is a test of how far Nawaz Sharif is in control of the Army too. Any constructive talks in the future will be dependent primarily on how efficiently Pakistan can curb the state and non-state actors who are involved in terrorist activities.
After the Lahore bus visit, Kargil happened. Pathakot too happened just after Modi’s visit. History has repeated itself again, in a twisted way. Hopefully the lessons learnt this time will be far better and will not push back the Indo-Pak talks for a decade or so.