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India scrambles to solve Pathankot riddle

Updated Jan 04, 2016 10:37am

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NEW DELHI: An undetermined number of suspected Jaish-i-Mohammad militants were holding out late into Sunday night inside India’s sensitive Pathankot air force base, as the government scrambled to answer uncomfortable questions about how it all came this far.

The main questions being asked were what did the intelligence agencies know 24 hours before the attack; what did the government do with the specific inputs; and if the intelligence agencies didn’t get a firm grip on the facts, why not?

Indian defence analysts were also looking at the possibility that the heavy arms the militants had got might have been provided locally.

The main train route between Delhi and Lucknow came up for high alert after a bomb scare. The morning Shatabadi Express from Delhi was evacuated at the next station soon after starting the journey.


Battle at airbase rages into second night


No bomb was found. Delhi went into a high alert amid reports of two militants sneaking into the city.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that though India was keen on good ties with Pakistan, it would give a “fitting reply to terror attacks”.

His party, the BJP, said dialogues could not be revoked due to “one attack” and accused Congress of “politicising” the Pathankot strike.

There was no hint from either the ruling party or the main opposition Congress about a need to change the new policy of dialogue with Pakistan.

“You cannot change your neighbour, you can change friends and therefore we must continue with the talks but talks have to be mainly on the issue of terrorism and that’s what exactly India is doing,” Cabinet Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj met a group of former envoys to Islamabad and ex-foreign secretaries for what the ministry described as “diplomatic consultations on Pakistan strategy”.

The meeting was attended, among others, by S.K. Lambah, G. Parthasarathy, Shyam Saran, Shivshankar Menon, Satyabrata Paul, Sharad Sabharwal and T.C.A. Raghavan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was closeted with his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishanker to consider a response to a crisis that looked far from over in the night.

The Indian toll from the assault that began at daybreak on Saturday went up to six security men and a lieutenant colonel of the National Security Guard who was reportedly killed by a booby-trapped body of a dead militant.

While all reports and official comments claimed that the air force planes and other operational assets were secure there seemed to be no discussion about whether these included nuclear assets.

Opposition parties claimed intelligence failure, and cited the resignation of the Congress home minister after the Mumbai attack of 2008 as a principle that should be followed. Home Minister Singh was criticised for apparently congratulating the forces on Saturday for successfully vanquishing the terrorists whose number now remains uncertain. It seems four or five may have been killed.

Some government sources have been quoted as saying the future of the Pakistan dialogue will be decided in the next few days after a clear assessment of the Pathankot fallout and the extent to which the Pakistani establishment is involved, if at all.

With the attack coming days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore, a debate is raging over the initiative to renew dialogue with Pakistan.

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah called the attack “the first major challenge to PM Modi’s bold Pakistan gambit”.

Pakistan has condemned the attack. A statement from its foreign office said, “Building on the goodwill created during the recent high level contacts between the two countries, Pakistan remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism afflicting our region.”

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2016

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Comments (59) Closed



AXH Jan 04, 2016 08:02am

It will be really unfortunate if there is an attempt to either implicate or to tie the government of Pakistan to this incident.

Irfan Jan 04, 2016 08:07am

Whatever happening nowadays.. is very unfortunate and I pray these dark clouds may go away soon.. we have made good progress towards peace in recent weeks and it should not be rolled back at any cost!..

Syed Husain Jan 04, 2016 08:18am

If the neighbors want to live in peace, then this insanity must not be allowed to happen and must be stopped at any cost.

Catalyst Jan 04, 2016 08:48am

"The main questions being asked were what did the intelligence agencies know 24 hours before the attack; what did the government do with the specific inputs; and if the intelligence agencies didn’t get a firm grip on the facts, why not?" I smell rats and call it a false flag operation. Government of Pakistan should not budge down from demanding proof and investigation into the allegations leveled by ministers and Indian media. Enough of this "blame Pakistan" game. Pakistan has welcomed dialogue, and even international media recognized the constructive role played by Pak military in Modi visit to Pakistan. India has to accept the fact that their establishment is no angels and enjoy the same benefits that the Indian general public accuse Pakistan's establishment of.

Dasaradhi Jan 04, 2016 08:49am

Identify potential trouble makers in each country and nutralise them this will prove the positive intentions

Munir Zia Jan 04, 2016 09:02am

Indian Government knew about the attack 24 hours in advance and the militants are still holed up!!!!!!!!!!

Sri Jan 04, 2016 09:07am

@Sardar Mushfiq how narrow minded can one get..

chandragupta Jan 04, 2016 09:09am

@Sardar Mushfiq for some people everything is conspiracy. Same goes with you.

RealtyCheck Jan 04, 2016 09:09am

The key at this time, is how will the pakistani establishment react beyond the usual, ineffective condemnation. If there are proofs of any links to any group or individual, Pak must be sincere in the responsibility and action. This is ONLY way to save the future of our nations and specially pakistan itself.

shekar Jan 04, 2016 09:10am

@AXH You have already concluded that Pakistan is NOT involved!!! At the least keep an open mind. Pal.

nickymb Jan 04, 2016 09:15am

I think this terrorist attack is to sabotage the peace initiatives taken by Modi and Sherrif. Obviously, somebody does not want a India and Pakistan at peace each other.. Sad new indeed.

vin Jan 04, 2016 09:25am

I am thinking this is probably done by the same people from the past. It will be very hard to carry on peace process for India. Pakistanis will not understand this part because they face terror everyday. Both country keep suffering. There is no end.

Arun-KS Jan 04, 2016 09:26am

Whole India is observing it closely. I do not know whether there will be any change in people's perception or not. But it seems that a lot of ground works are required to be done before any concrete and result oriented negotiations.

Sunil Jan 04, 2016 09:43am

Still two terrorists are holed up in a building, and India security agencies want to nab them alive to get details of their handlers.

Sunil Jan 04, 2016 09:44am

@Sardar Mushfiq Indian security agencies want to catch them alive to get details of their sponsors.

Ahmed USA Jan 04, 2016 09:45am

Government of Pakistan can send our elite SSG commandos upon Indian request... they will finish the job in less than 5 minutes...

Nomi Jan 04, 2016 09:49am

Enemies of Peace wins again .......

Thakur Jan 04, 2016 09:51am

I am very sorry for the loss of brave young Indian soldiers. I would also like to accept that our intelligence has been failed.

vin Jan 04, 2016 09:54am

@nickymb Do you know who?

Tushar Singh Jan 04, 2016 09:54am

Either you work against these elements or we will. Can't really sum it up in simpler words than these.

Maxx Jan 04, 2016 09:56am

There are radicalized forces in both India and Pakistan, though less in numbers who doesn't want an improved relationship between two nations. Also military industrial complex uses proxies and pawns for the very reason, sell their arms to both countries. If India and Pakistan instead of waiting months to start a dialogue, keeps engaging, keeps talking more frequently, more often, than these forces will subside as they need ample time to plan their attacks.

N K Ali Jan 04, 2016 09:57am

These terror groups and their one-track-minds have spread terror, suspicion, and corruption, profoundly. What won't these people do for money and their inflexible ideology? Yes, money comes first. Pakistan and India must conjoin their co-operation to fight this infernal threat. Salams

Subodh Jan 04, 2016 09:59am

I am an Indian. It is satisfactorily amazing that there exist sane voices against this madness. Hope peace prevails on both sides of the border.

bryan Jan 04, 2016 10:04am

This should not have happened. Absolutely counter productive

N.Sid Jan 04, 2016 10:16am

India and Pakistan need to beat these terrorist elements by a better strategy, better planning than those involved in the attacks, more talks, more often and after a few attacks they will ran out of ideas and funds. So the solution is more dialogue, much more than the number of attacks, I concur with Maxx here, in the comments.

CK Jan 04, 2016 10:17am

I don't think the Govt of Pakistan is involved in all of this. But it is really clear that the attackers are from across the border. Can't understand why Pakistan is not taking strong action against J-e M , Lashkar etc.

red Jan 04, 2016 10:37am

@AXH There needs to be no attempt made as there would be enough ties that would come out without any attempts

NHA Jan 04, 2016 11:03am

Let Statesmanship Come Into Play. Develop Inner Peace. You Will Be Able To Handle Peace Outside. Do Not Get Worked Up. Peace is within reach.

Qasim Habib Jan 04, 2016 11:12am

How someone can name the organization involved with the first bullet being fired? I am not defending anyone but we also must act responsibly. India has all the rights to investigate and bring the names in front of everyone with solid proofs.

pk Jan 04, 2016 11:22am

@Munir Zia So what is your point.

pk Jan 04, 2016 11:34am

For humanity sake stop cross border terrorism and have peace in sub continent.

Hasan Jan 04, 2016 11:35am

Terrorism can't be stopped easily, now India knows this as well. So now India should back down and fight terrorism jointly instead of blaming Pakistan as India have witnessed that you can't stop them easily!

KJ Jan 04, 2016 11:42am

@Munir Zia :: "Indian Government knew about the attack 24 hours in advance and the militants are still holed up!!!!!!!!!!"

... and what is the point that that you are trying to make... ?

Sandeep Jan 04, 2016 11:47am

The employment of a lot of people are at stake if peace prevails between India and Pakistan. Its a fight for relevance and some people will fight out hard to disrupt any slightest of peace hopes between the two countries.

Hates terror Jan 04, 2016 11:52am

Why nobody at highest official level from both countries don't talked about a continuous pattern that prevails; a conscious evil effort to derails and hijack the fragile gains and goodwill between national leadership. Its unfortunate every time something good happened is erased by such attacks.

M.Saeed Jan 04, 2016 11:52am

It is now a universal tactic of terror to do an attack planned such that, all indicators would point to the known adversary as the perpetrator. How easily the authorities get carried away to the trick is amazing. It leaves the real attackers completely free from any dangers and continue to repeat with impunity.

N.Sid Jan 04, 2016 12:07pm

If Indian government blames Pakistan and the relations took a nosedive than the idea and the purpose behind these attacks are realized and met. To defeat the ideologue and the purpose India and Pakistan need to engage and start a dialogue immediately and more often.

Qamar Malik Jan 04, 2016 12:14pm

Simply if ur ending dialogue .. This would b a win for terrorist ..that is what n why they attacked ...if street Mumbai event India would have continued dialogue this might have not happened

Salam Jan 04, 2016 12:15pm

I am from Pakistan, I feel sorry for the loss of the life of Indian's security forces who sacrificed their lives to protect their base. Hope both country will keep the momentum to achieve the everlasting peace in the region. Please don't let the terror to sabotage the peace efforts.

Kpk Jan 04, 2016 12:17pm

You think such act of cowrdice will stop both nations from talks. Nah not this time. Abi tu party shor0! May the departed soul rest and peace and we will carry on with what they left which is hope. Lets not blame each other and recognise the common enemey.

Son of India Jan 04, 2016 12:26pm

Modi is being criticised heavily in India for opening talks and going this far with Pakistan. This is very bad. A strong leader like him could have given solution to all issues.

atheist Jan 04, 2016 12:30pm

Now many people who were supporting these terrorist have realised that these terrorist are not good for anything. Whenever two countries comes nearer for talk, these terrorist start killing people madly. It's time to realise for both people and government that these are strategic assets but henious killer who want to change the whole region to Syria, Iraq.

Naxalite Jan 04, 2016 12:37pm

They don't know the count but surely know who their belongings. WOW!

amir khan Jan 04, 2016 01:00pm

if India wants to talk terrorism then Pakistan should talk about Kashmir with hundred times the vigor .I just hope the Pakistani side doesn't succumb to Indian pressure and talk about terrorism alone! .

Eric Cartman Jan 04, 2016 01:09pm

our gov should help India in every possible way to overcome this impact of this incident and in investigation.We should also appreciate the wish of their leaders to keep the peace process alive. For heaven's sake no unnecessary tension again.

Nation Jan 04, 2016 01:13pm

It is surprising how Indian Govt did not foresee such an incident forget about intelligence failure. History is witness, whenever leaders of both the country tried to bring peace and started discussions to normalise the relation, vested interest havde foiled such initiatives. As jokes circulating, the current incident is too small to sabotage the talks and something big may be on the way.

I sincerely hope that the leaders of both the country should not allow these incidents to stall the talks and take the initiative further. If the leaders stalls the talk, it will be like allowing surrendering to the intension of those forces.

India is capable and expert enough to handle such incidents and Pakistan Govt should extend all possible help to neutralise such incidents.

Eyes are on Gen Sharif and his action. If he fails to control radicals within, in no time they will spread the poison inside and create problems for the citizens.

khanm Jan 04, 2016 01:25pm

@Irfan...“It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it”

Arif Jan 04, 2016 01:35pm

Very unfortunate indeed..every time when there is a feel good factor about the relations of two countries,something tend to happen and all the good work done goes in vain..also it is very unfortunate what indian media has said about pakistan in the last couple of days.it seems the goals of the terrorists have been met.

M.Saeed Jan 04, 2016 02:08pm

@Son of India : A strong leader like Modi must find the root cause of crises and uproot them all with firm resolve. If he can come to Lahore without pre-arranged, he can do anything good for India and Pakistan rapprochement and peace.

Pakistani Jan 04, 2016 03:25pm

Dear Indians - Pakistanis, Beware, there are enemies of both of you who dont want peace between India and Pakistan

Sandeep Jan 04, 2016 03:27pm

@Catalyst Sir, what you want to say about the brave soldiers who gave their lives to stop the attack.Is that also fake flag operation. The truth can not be changed if you close your eyes. A big slap on the peace initiative taken by India. Any govt. can't be foolish to kill its own people to expose some other nation. Common sense..

Akram Jan 04, 2016 03:49pm

If an attack by a few gunmen is all it takes to derail bringing peace to 1.2 billion people, then I have little hope for South Asia. India and especially it's media needs to hold it's nerve.

Yet another Indian Sri1 Jan 04, 2016 04:24pm

@AXH "either implicate or to tie the government of Pakistan to this incident"

The civilians are almost never implicated in those cowardly attacks, it is always the strategic depth policy that has been the culprit, in either of our nations.

raja Jan 04, 2016 04:26pm

@Ahmed USA killing is easy, getting them alive is challenging and more rewarding. You guys should try that for once.

zaid Jan 04, 2016 04:31pm

India and Pakistan must crush these terrorists together and whoever is with them(may be for political gains). Never let these cowardly act to come between peace talks. Solve all the problems peacefully and honestly and be very good friends so that these external or internal elements who do not want us to live in peace and harmony fall in everlasting sorrow. Indo-Pak friendship ZINDABAD

AXH Jan 04, 2016 04:44pm

@Yet another Indian Sri1 - And you know it all, right?

Shakil Ahmed Khan Jan 04, 2016 05:02pm

there is certainly someone doest want peace, and this drama is being staged for so long and still not getting attention :) looks like these so powerful terrorists have continuous supply and taken hostage an airbase!

Nadeem Jan 04, 2016 06:47pm

Another drama. Why did they ask locals to close their shops and removed barriers on the evening before the so called attack? Now they want to prove something that's why trying to extend it..

Tony Jan 06, 2016 01:50am

It seems obvious that this attack was not masterminded from Pakistan and Pakistan cannot be blamed. Its more likely to have been set-up in Kashmir so as to stop the peace process in its tracks. Even if some phone calls were made to Pakistan during the attack it does not mean Pakistan is responsible. Anyone can make a call between India and Pakistan. I don't see what Pakistan can do about that.

There is no point in Modi asking Nawaz to take action. Indian police and security agencies are very lax. Its time they improved instead of being a laughing stock.