Site Of Pulwama Terror Attack

Pak Seeks More Evidence On Pulwama

Pakistan on Wednesday sought more “information and evidence” to take forward the investigation that may establish a link to the Pulwama suicide attack in their country, nearly a month after India gave it a dossier on the terror attack.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry said here that it shared “preliminary findings” with India after examining the dossiers which were submitted in the wake of the ghastly February 14 terror attack, the responsibility for which has been claimed by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Foreign Secretary and the findings on the Pulwama incident were shared with him,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

India gave the dossier to Pakistan after the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to act if “actionable evidence” was provided.

“Pakistan has acted with a high sense of responsibility and extended full cooperation. We do so in the interest of regional peace and security. We have sought further information/evidence from India to take the process forward,” the official statement claimed.

Tensions between the two neighbours soared after over 40 CRPF personnel were killed when a JeM terrorist rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy in Kashmir’s Pulwama.

The international community strongly condemned the attack and supported India in its fight against terror in the wake of the gruesome attack.

The United States bluntly told Pakistan to stop providing support and safe haven to terrorists and terror outfits after the attack. (ANI)

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Will Lok Sabha Polls 2019 Be A Referendum On Modi?

The world’s largest democracy, a major economy but by no means prosperous, India is also the most expensive when holding its elections.

Its 2014 democratic exercise cost as much as the United States’ 2012 presidential elections, when Barack Obama was re-elected. The one beginning next month, estimated by New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies, may cost $ seven billion, or INR 50,000 crores.

Another calculation by political scientist Milan Vaishnav is of a whopping $10 billion, based on growth in expenditure incurred for two polls conducted in 2009 and 2014.  The US spent much less, $6.5 billion while electing Donald Trump in 2016.

These huge sums do not come only from the state that funds conducting of the polls. Contestants receive contributions, overt and covert, from businesses, corporate sector and the untaxed and largely invisible farm income. Experience shows that they are made with the understanding that the next government will tweak laws to help recover that money. This breeds corruption.

Should such an expensive exercise be a cacophony that it now seems?

With three weeks to go, the air is thick with hyper-nationalistic fervor triggered by last month’s terror attack in Kashmir followed by India-Pakistan aerial stand-off.

Tensions have subsided but not really ended. Speculation persists over its resumption, should there be another incident on the border or in India-controlled Kashmir. Such eventuality, assuming the world community (mainly the United States) is surprised again, is certain to sweep all other issues out of the polls.

Leaving aside madcaps (there are some on both sides of the Indo-Pak border) who think that India engineered the Pulwama attack, it seems god-sent for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and the ruling alliance.

To his credit, Modi did act tough, defying the nuclear threshold that has prevented a larger conflict, but not stopped Pakistan from using its so-called “non-state actors” for staging terror attacks. This was something his predecessors Manmohan Singh (in 2008 Mumbai terror attacks) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Kargil-1999, and attack on Indian Parliament-2001)  had not. Modi then swept the nation mounting an “I will not let the country down” campaign, converting the polls campaign into one referendum on national security.

His party, its ideological affiliates and a huge army of cyber warriors troll anyone critical of security lapses and/or seeking details of what precisely happened on the border.

The elections are now divided pre and post-Pulwama. The opposition is on the back-foot. As loyalty to the nation of those who ask questions, howsoever legitimate, is questioned, undoubtedly, this means political/electoral gains and losses.

People across the spectrum — media, academics and security experts among retired soldiers and diplomats – even individual families – are divided. Some ruling alliance stalwarts have gleefully given themselves more seats than they hoped to win earlier in parliament and state legislatures thanks to the border incidents. With Modi being projected as the superhero pandering to popular yearning of a strong leader, the pitch is queered against the opposition.  

However, past electoral outcomes have been mixed and indicate that there are limits to all this. For one, Kashmir and war with Pakistan do not resonate in India’s south as they do in the north and the west. Polls were won after conflicts, but not swept, be it in 1971 when Congress’ Indira Gandhi helped breaking-up of Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh. BJP’s Vajpayee got the same numbers after the Kargil conflict in 1999. 

Electoral verdicts do not always match popular sentiments. The BJP lost in Uttar Pradesh 11 months after its cadres demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid in 1992.  And although it dubbed Manmohan Singh India’s “weakest prime minister” and BJP veteran L K Advani used the pejorative ‘nikamma’ (hopeless) after the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the Congress improved its parliamentary majority and Singh got a second term.

But popular sentiments yielded results post-“surgical strikes” in Kashmir in 2016 by Modi Government. The BJP swept the polls in Uttar Pradesh despite the miseries caused by demonetization of the currency. Political engineering helped consolidation of the majority community’s vote at the expense the minority Muslims.

Most populous UP is the principal battleground now where the BJP is being seriously challenged by Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Credible reports indicate that the Modi campaign is working. That 11 of the 44 soldiers who died in Pulwama were from the state matters. But, this is as-of-now, since the difficult-to-fathom public mood can change. And none can fathom how the rural mind, in UP and elsewhere, perceives these polls.

Arguably, the public at large is more worried about dal-roti. If it is looking for options other than Modi, it doesn’t find credible faces among the opposition. What began as Modi-versus-the-rest effort has stuttered. Some contenders have emerged following state-level alliances, but a credible national alternative is absent.   

The communists who forged alternative fronts in the past, providing political edge by helping formulate socio-economic common minimum programme have become irrelevant.

Next, the Congress has failed to accept allies and also being acceptable as a key opposition driver. Its alliance-making is non-starter. Its past gives it a misplaced sense of entitlement. Rahul Gandhi, despite his belated surge at the national level in the last one year and winning in three key states, cannot match up against the prime ministerial ambitions of numerous state satraps. 

The impact of its ‘brahmastra’, the most potent weapon Priyanka Gandhi, will be known only when results are out. Rahul’s Ailing mother and former party chief Sonia is contesting to save her turf. Those who yearn for Congress’ return, if only as a lesser evil, may be in for a disappointment.

The Pulwama plank seems to have stonewalled the Rafael deal debate. It also excludes any discourse on day-to-day issues, especially on the troubled economy. The government version dominates through its massive propaganda machinery. Bulk of the media, both mainstream and social, the key urban drivers, are divided on pro and anti- government lines.

Politicians are generally not economists. And even if they are, they remain politicians first. Modi too is a politician, and a good one at that. All his major moves are politically motivated. His deft political engineering, now topped with “Pulwama patriotism”, has muted discussion on unemployment with job growth at its lowest in 40 years after statistics officially put out but discredited by the government itself.

His government continues to project demonetization of 86 percent of the currency notes three years ago in terms of curbing black money and denial of funds to militant bodies, when subsequent indicators have shown otherwise.   

Falling exports have yet to catch up the 2013-14 level. Industrial growth in January slowed down to 1.7 percent compared to the 2.6 percent in factory output in December last year. The GDP remains under-7 percent.

Equally serious is the farm distress. Thousands unable to repay debts have committed suicide. Minimum support price for farm produce and waiving of farm loans have come too late in the day.  Low inflation has been driven by falling food prices, cutting farmers’ incomes and pushing up debt levels. About 800 million depend on farming for their livelihood.

With Saudi Arabia, the largest source, committed to production cuts to keep crude oil prices low, it seems unlikely that India’s fuel and energy costs, a key factor for the economy, will stay soft for long. And with political parties opening the spending spigot in a bid to woo voters, inflationary impulses will quicken.

Modi remains way ahead of his rivals. But there is a risk to democrcy. Political analyst Vijay Sanghvi says Modi has isolated himself thanks to his governance style. “He has reduced the status and stature of every minister and party leader. No one informs him of rampant growth of corruption at lower levels.  Unemployment is more hurting as low grade jobs are lost.”

The newest campaign slogan “Modi Hai toh Mumqin Hai” (It’s possible with Modi) reinforces this and places him as the centerpiece of a nationwide campaign. 

This election is for the soul of India and its pluralism. But it would also be a referendum on Modi.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘Let's Not Forget Vikas’

Ajitrita Singh, a 35-year-old housewife from Varanasi, feels intelligence agencies need to pull up their socks so that another Pulwama does not happen. She whole-heartedly backs India’s response by attacking terror camps inside Pakistan territory.

On February 14, after a hard day’s work, as I turned on the television, I saw news about the Pulwama attack. The news channels were full of hatred. As I watched pieces of the jawans strewn across the site of the attack, the only thing that came to mind was:  “What if someday I die like this in a terrorist attack? Won’t even my body be found?”

Deep down somewhere I knew that the attack will not go unavenged. The surgical strike on the terror camps in Balakot, Pakistan was a step in the right direction. However, I don’t want the innocents to be caught in war, innocent Pakistanis should be kept out of all this. But the hate mongering lot in Pakistan definitely need to be taught a lesson.

At the same time, our intelligence agencies need to pull up their socks. The Pulwama attack was an intelligence failure of the highest order. Even in Varanasi, where there is a constant influx and outflux of tourists and pilgrims, the security is pretty tight. So I wonder how an attack of such magnitude could have happened in Kashmir, where probably each person entering the state is accounted for. Also, why were 2,500 paramilitary men travelling together in a sensitive zone?

When Wing Commander Abhinandan was caught, my heart sank for a moment but I had faith that he would come back. My brother-in-law is in the army and has the same gunslinger moustache, so Abhinandan felt more like a close family member and I was deeply invested in his return story.

I don’t feel important issues have been sidelined in the wake of the Pulwama attack. Unemployment is a serious issue that needs to be tackled. Narendra Modi must address it if he wants to come back to power. Personally I am happy with BJPs work. Earlier the water and electricity supply was really bad and the roads too were in a poor state but now we don’t have to worry about these basic facilities. Plus, the waste management has also got better.

Last time I had voted for BJP but this time I am giving a deeper thought. However, I will be a bit more cautious before casting my vote this year. Before voting for Narendra Modi, I want to make sure he has delivered on his promise of sabka saath, sabka vikaas or has he just created some islands of prosperity.

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India Won't Forget Pulwama: Doval

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Tuesday said that India will never forget the killing of 40 CRPF jawans in the Pulwama attack last month and it is the leadership which decides “when, where and how” to respond to it.

Speaking on the occasion of 80th CRPF anniversary parade in Gurugram, Doval said, “We have not forgotten 40 jawans who lost their lives in Pulwama; the country will never forget this.”

He added, “What we have to do, which path we have to follow, what action is to be taken and at what time, our nation’s leadership is capable and strong enough to take this decision and face every kind of challenge.”

He said that the country is capable of doing whatever is needed to be done, whether it is against terrorists or those who are helping them. “We will fight against them. We have the courage and intention to fight against any crisis,” said Doval.

The NSA paid tributes to 40 CRPF jawans who were killed in a ghastly attack by Pakistan based Jasih-e-Mohammed (JeM). The CRPF convoy was targetted in Awantipora area of Pulwama district on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway on February 14.

Emphasising on CRPF’s contribution, he said, “Whenever we have meetings and discuss which force to send, how many battalions should be sent and where, we say send the CRPF, it is a credible force, we can completely trust them. It takes years to achieve such credibility.”

Appreciating the CRPF’s hard work, Doval added that the CRPF was initially started with just two battalions and it has 242 battalions today. “This is the only security force which has reached every part of the country for elections, law and order, etc. You are an incredible force of the nation,” he underlined.

On February 26, Indian Air Force attacked terror camps in Balakot area in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, targeting a huge advanced training camp of JeM. (ANI)

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘India Responded Well’

I got to know about the Pulwama terror attack through television and my first reaction was sorrow mixed with anger. I kept wondering as to for how long our Indian soldiers will just be numbers; for how long will we keep losing our military and paramilitary forces for issues that can be prevented? I am glad that many sections of the media kept asking the right questions.

Though, I am no supporter of war, yet I feel Pakistan (because it has given protection to the JeM Commander Masood Azhar) must be sent a very strong message: hamari sharafat ko hamari kamzori mat samjho (our civility should not be mistaken for our weakness).

The surgical strikes at Balakot sent a very strong message that meant, ‘we won’t take things lying down anymore’. The civilians of Pakistan must be respected, but the terrorists living on Pakistani soil must not be spared. The Balakot strike was called non-military, pre-emptive action. It was necessary, since we can’t be sitting ducks waiting for more terrorist attacks, emboldening elements of terror.

However, having said all this, I do feel the government should accept there was intelligence failure during the Pulwama attack. The state of Uttar Pradesh has lost many of its men in the attack. The government should take good care of the old parents of jawans, who have lost their lives.

Many people are saying that important issues were getting sidelined as the war cry was getting stronger. But I don’t believe it. I feel the government is trying to manage everything quite well. For instance, the authorities in Uttar Pradesh were successful in carrying out the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj, without any untoward incident during the turmoil. As for the issue of unemployment, yes the situation is not so good, but we cannot expect miracles in just five years.

This would be my first time as a voter and I am pretty excited about it. I will definitely vote for BJP, especially because I feel Narendra Modi has given a big boost to self-sufficiency/self-employment. Now youngsters are venturing beyond just thinking for themselves or operating merely for profit, they now also think about how to generate employment for others. Yes, the government needs to improve itself on many counts, but we need to give them a second chance.

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘Much To Answer’

WhatsApp was the medium through which I received the news of the Pulwama terror attack that martyred more than 40 of our CRPF jawans. Thank God for small mercies! I don’t think I would have been able to bear the visuals had I seen the news suddenly come up on TV. It was a ghastly sight and left a deep scar, much like the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The attack has brought up many baffling, unanswered questions.

The most important being why were 2,500 CRPF men travelling together? Weren’t they sitting ducks in a conflict zone like Kashmir? This has to be an inside job and the government must figure out how the intelligence failure occurred.

I must say I was happy about the surgical strike at the Jaish e Mohammed camps at Balakot, but not the war cry on TV news channels and social media platform thereafter. War is not the solution. The hot-headed ones in our country forget that our war is not against Pakistan, but that our war is against the scourge of terrorism. Similarly, the war cheerleaders in Pakistan also need to understand that terror has somehow become synonymous with Pakistan as far as it world image is concerned. Why make it worse by rattling sabers?

People who are busy warmongering seemed to have signed a death warrant of sorts. Wasn’t Wg Cdr Abhinandan’s bloodied face enough to show what a war really meant? Captain Nachiketa, Captain Saurabh Kalia and Fighter Pilot Ajay Ahuja’s stories too haven’t been forgotten.

Having said that, I quite like the BJP’s decisiveness and prompt and timely action in this matter. And no, I don’t think important issues are being sidelined in the name of fighting terrorism. Agar zinda hi nahi rahenge, to baki issues ka kya karenge? — We need to be alive in the first place to talk about other issues.

There might be lack of quality jobs, but that doesn’t mean that there are no jobs. At least the middle-class has quite a few options and people need to take their local leaders to task also for job creation. These local leaders then need to meet with their senior leaders to find solutions for real issues. The government does need to take care of the lower-income group though. The government is endowed with a Cabinet so that all sections/segments of society can function smoothly. And the Cabinet should be put to proper use. I voted for Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But this time around, I think I have matured and have developed a deeper understanding of issues. I am going to keep a sharp eye on the government and see whether it delivers on all fronts, only then will I decide whether to vote for BJP or not. The individual candidate representing the area I live in, his work/credentials, would also determine which way my vote goes.

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Balakot Attack: Time To End Bilateral Diplomacy

The decision to go up the spiral ladder by NDA 2 Government and use Indian Air Force (IAF) against terrorism is a new normal. The bold air attack in the wee hours of the morning of 26 February at Balakot, on mainland Pakistan was a non-military, preemptive strike against an established training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and was not likely to be a one off attack. India has made it clear that it may resort to such attacks if Pakistan does not rein in the terrorist organisations. It showed the resolve of the elected government in India to take action against terrorists to avert future Pulwama type attacks in Jammu and Kashmir or rest of India. The retaliatory attack by Pakistan was on expected lines and was successfully averted.

Pakistan was caught off guard and in the existing hostility matrix had not factored in an air attack on its mainland or in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Initially, in denial of any damage due to the Indian insertion, Pakistan Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) stated that Indian aircrafts had violated their air space and had been chased away by the alert Pakistan Air Force planes. Once India claimed they had destroyed a JeM camp and killed between 250-300 terrorists; Pakistani authorities took a u turn and announced that this aggression on part of India would be avenged. As a riposte, ten Pakistani aircrafts including F-16s tried to violate the Indian airspace in broad day light o. 27 February but were challenged by IAF air defence aircraft ex-Awantipur. In the ensuing dog fight one Paki F-16 was brought down by the Indians and the Pakis destroyed one MIG -21 and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan who had bailed out.

In the three days from 26 to 28 February the Indian and Pakistani media went berserk and created a war hysteria. They were ably helped by retired defence officers, bureaucrats and academic defence analysts. Both the countries were stressing on their standard narratives with India insisting that Pakistan should bring to book all terrorist organisations and United Nations should put Masood Azhar on international terrorist list like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed; while Pakistan remained in a constant denial of assisting the terrorist groups. Even the gesture of releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan by Pakistan was viewed by India with suspicion and the Indian media declared that Pakistan was brought to its knees due to pressure by the international community.

I think time has come for India to consider dumping this outdated diplomatic tool of bilateralism. Bilateralism had a relevance during the Cold War when India was not part of either US or USSR alliances but was part of the non-aligned nations group. We dealt with member nations on bilateral basis inspite of the fact to which group, NATO or Warsaw Pact; was that nation belonging to. The Panchsheel Doctrine based on five tenets of bilateralism which we tried with China in late fifties failed miserably when China attacked India in 1962. During Kargil crisis and after the Balakot incidence we have sought the intervention of USA, UN, France, UK and Germany.

It is felt in some quarters that Pakistan has been totally isolated by the international community and most Indians would like to believe it. The truth is far from it and all those nations who have exhorted Pakistan to take action against terrorists have engaged Pakistan as parts of alliances in solving the Afghanistan problem whether it is US- Afghan Government-Taliban-Pakistan or Russia-Taliban-Pakistan-China group. However, Pakistan is taking symbolic actions by arresting large number of known terrorists including brother and son of Masood Azhar and restricting the moves of other terrorist groups. How sincere are the efforts of Pakistan in roping in of all terrorist groups, only time will tell.

The situation has been diffused for the time being by timely return of our pilot by Pakistan and Indian politicians are back to work for electioneering and mud-slinging onto each other. Where do we go from here? While India will be pre occupied in elections for the next three months, Pakistan will do well in showing its genuine intent by ensuring that no major terrorist incidence takes place during this period. By carrying out aerial surgical strikes deep into hinterland of Pakistan and obtaining unconditional release of its captured pilot, India has exhibited its resolve to fight terrorism fiercely. It also reserves the right to repeat the attacks as and when felt deemed.

While India has won this round on moral grounds and pressure from international community, there are yawning gaps in the capability building of the three forces. The defence acquisitions in the pipeline have to be speeded up. Whereas, we certainly need big ticket aircraft and warships, the bureaucrats and the army brass need to lower their eyes and address the needs of the infantry man on the ground who is largely deployed in insurgency areas. The infantry does not have a state of the art rifle, Sten gun, hand grenade, water bottle and modified vehicles for specialist weapons. To effectively take out terrorist leaders and minimise own casualties, infantry needs latest version of sniper rifles. Pakistan has already acquired them and is inflicting casualties to own troops on the Line of Control (LC).

With the entire Balakot incident coming as a shot in the arm, the Modi Government is likely to return to power after the elections. Regardless of which so ever party comes to power, the new government should make an attempt to engage Pakistan in talks and also work wholeheartedly to get normalcy back in the Kashmir Valley. This has been the hottest winter in the last decade as far as insurgency and violence levels are concerned in the sub-zero temperatures. The levels of alienation have gone back to 1987 levels. We should not be in a hurry to impose an elected government on people until security forces have brought in levels of insurgency under manageable limits.

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Site Of Pulwama Terror Attack

Key Pulwama Conspirator Neutralised

One of the two Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists killed in an encounter in Tral on Sunday in Jammu and Kashmir has been identified as the ‘key conspirator’ behind the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel, J&K Police said on Monday.  

Mudasir Ahmad Khan was revealed as one of the key conspirators of the recent Pulwama attack, state police said.

From the incriminating material recovered from the site of encounter, police said, “it is understood that the other killed terrorist was a Pakistani national codenamed Khalid.”

“According to the police records, both the killed terrorists were affiliated with proscribed terror outfit JeM and were wanted by law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes including attack on security establishments and civilian atrocities. Many terror crime cases were registered against them,”  a police statement said.

Both the terrorists were involved in “planning and executing several terror attacks in the area.”

Mudasir Khan, in particular, was involved in attack on CRPF camp in Lethpora last year.

“Pertinently the investigation so far conducted revealed that Mudasir was one of the key conspirators of the recent Pulwama attack,” police said.

“Arms and ammunition including assault rifles were recovered from the site of encounter. All these materials have been taken in the case records for further investigation and to probe their complicity in other terror cases,” the statement added.

The police has requested citizens “not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials. People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosives materials if any.” (ANI)

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