Surankot area of Poonch District in J&K has witnessed many terrorist attacks and encounters over the last two decades plus. In December last year, five army personnel were killed in an encounter with terrorists in this area. But this is about the terrorist attack on two Indian Air Force (IAF) vehicles on May 4, 2024 in the Bakrabal (Sanal) area of Surankot area, in which Corporal Nikky Pahedam was killed and four other Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel were injured. The terrorists were reportedly shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the attack. Link..

A post on X by the IAF on May 5 reads: “An Indian Air Force vehicle convoy was attacked by militants in the Poonch district of J&K, near Shahsitar. Cordon and search operations are underway presently in the area by local military units. The convoy has been secured, and further investigation is under progress.” Sketches of two suspected terrorists, believed to be responsible for the attack, were released by the Army on May 6. The Army has also announced reward money of Rs20 lakhs for those who would provide any inputs. “Anyone who will give any fruitful and reliable information about the whereabouts of these terrorists, leading to their arrest will be rewarded and their identity will be kept a secret,” an Army official said in a statement.

Two to three terrorists are suspected of being involved in the attack on the IAF convoy. A massive combing operation has been ongoing in areas adjoining Shahstar, which include Sheindra, Danna Top and Sanai Top areas. Around two dozen locals have been questioned by the security forces after the attack “to establish the whereabouts and identify the attackers”.  

This terror attack having taken place three weeks ahead of polling in the Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha constituency of J&K, Charanjit Singh Channi, Congress leader and 16th Chief Minister of Punjab, on May 5 called the Poonch terror attack a stunt “to make the BJP win” the Lok Sabha election. Similar comments had followed the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, 2019, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed, when a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their convoy. The Pulwama bombing attracted much speculation because the particular CRPF convoy had over 3,000 CRPF personnel with not a single officer accompanying them and sans an armed escort. Satyapal Malik, former Lieutenant Governor of J&K has also commented that five aircraft would have accommodated these CRPF personnel but that the request was denied.   

But politics apart, the fact remains that soldiers are being killed in J&K by Pakistani/Pak-sponsored terrorists. The argument that the number of attacks have gone down is no consolation for the next of kin of those killed. Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) has a mix of regular army soldiers and terrorists. There have been instances where our soldiers have been beheaded and their bodies mutilated, We have the capability of extracting cross-border revenge but lack the political will to do so. Also, wards of politicians and bureaucrats don’t join the Army and soldiers’ lives are considered a cheap commodity – don’t mind the crocodile tears.

The extent to which the Army’s hands are tied can be witnessed by those in authority looking back over their shoulder all the time, rather than acting – seeking decisions from the political authority. Imagine when Chinese tanks are lined up for assault and advancing, a Chief has to ask a clueless Defence Minister what to do and the latter says: “Jo Uchit Samjho Karo” – do as you deem fit.

Little wonder then that the US-led West is bearing down on us, behind the cover of ‘Five Eyes’, accusing India for conspiring to kill Khalistani separatists abroad, even though these are due to internecine gang warfare with the Khalistan movement having  transformed more into capturing power, controlling the narcotics trade, terrorism and taking control of the Gurudwaras. A significant issue is the involvement of states like Pakistan, Canada, the UK and the US in promoting the Khalistan movement.

Some of our politicians act mighty smug about news alleging our intelligence killing terrorists abroad, including in Pakistan, even though our external intelligence agency is still wet behind the years, as posted by Derek Grossman on X

. The policy of ‘Emperor’s Clothes’ remains effective  Interestingly, such news items  invariably have a photograph of the NSA who has yet to define a national security strategy for India although officially charged to do so in 2019. 

A veteran Colonel and Supreme Court lawyer says, “I am worried about men and officers who are fighting in a confused state of mind. A recent inquiry on our own men has already shaken all of us. Politicians…. give priority to elections and vote banks! None bother about our soldiers. Rajouri beheading of soldiers and investigations on our own men is an example of such conduct…. Public must support soldiers and they can’t be expected to behave like police in hostile environment. Nation requires change in policies and mindset to handle anti nationals”

He also writes, “Soldiers participating in any operations, they are like a bullet with an operating trigger with Govt. Once that trigger is pulled, bullet can’t be made responsible. Don’t de-motivate our saviours. I had fought and heard them closely and know what pinches. A person who is ready to give life and take daily threats for his Nation can be written off or disregarded. To My few Generals:- Have guts .. you may not be promoted or given retirement benefits but if you take a stand you will have enormous blessings not only for the families of Soldiers but for the Nation too”

Then we have our great justice system. The rapist-murderer Gurmit-Ram-Rahim is always on bail whenever elections are due at any level. Our majority Members of Parliament anyway have similar serious charges against them. Latest is that Abdul Subhan Qureshi, Co-Founder of Indian Mujahideen and known as ‘Osama bin-Laden of India’, would soon be out of jail as Delhi High Court has granted him bail

What a beautiful way to deal with terrorism. And yes, Yasin Malik who boasted to Tim Sebastian on BBC how he killed IAF officer Ravi Khan plus three others and injured 22 in a shootout on January 25, 18990, is still to be hanged.

Finally, what has been our response to Pakistan’s proxy war under the current dispensation, amid the slogan of “Ghar Mein Ghus Kar Marenge” (will kill them in their own house). But the reverse has actually been happening. Our politicians don’t stop boasting about the ‘Surgical Strike’ and the ‘Balakot standoff Bombing’ where the number of terrorists killed remains ambiguous. More so these two actions in the last 10 years were in response to heavy casualties suffered at the hands of Pakistani terrorists at Uri and Pulwama respectively. So, Pakistan remains in a happy situation; terrorism-wise vis-à-vis India.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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