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India alone will have to fight the Masood Azhars
THERE was nothing arbitrary or rash about this attack. When a four-member Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide squad targetted the Srinagar Assembly complex on Monday, they sought to convey a clear message. In choosing the legislature — symbol of Jammu and Kashmir’s forever threatened democracy — and in disregarding the casualties that could accrue among civilians simply going about their daily tasks, the militants have served notice. That their very Talibanised brand of jehad would carry on apace. Survey the number of myths they have shattered in one cruel afternoon. We have been repeatedly informed by spokespersons for militants as well as their patrons in Islamabad that the confrontation in Kashmir is specifically aimed at the Indian state, not civilians. Well. As leader of the hurriedly cobbled global coalition against terror, the US has attempted to address Indian concerns by banning the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. A direct offshoot of the HUM, the Jaish-e-Mohammad has now exposed the ineffectiveness of such piecemeal endeavours. And just the other day, Musharraf claimed that there were no terrorists in his land. Not only was the attack on the Assembly undertaken by residents of Pakistan, but the Jaish is one of the most active jehadi groups on Pakistani soil.

The Jaish strike poses an awkward challenge for the American-Pakistan collaboration against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. For it amply highlights the deep linkages among America’s top enemies today, the Pakistani establishment and the terrorists being smuggled into Kashmir. The Jaish was founded by Masood Azhar, who was handed over to the Taliban in Kandahar two years ago in exchange for hijacked Indian passengers. He next surfaced in Karachi, then broke away from the now banned Harkat to found the Jaish — which was christened by a cleric who formed part of the choice team that flew into Afghanistan last week to plead with Mullah Omar on Pakistan’s behalf that he hand over bin Laden. In turn, it is bin Laden’s Al Qaeda that has been training Harkat members for terrorism in Kashmir. And on and on it could go as the threads in this complicated web are traced. But the bottomline is this: if the so-called war against terror is to have any credibility, current apprehensions that terrorists are being divided into two camps — those who will not be tolerated (bin Laden and friends) and those who are chastised with just a strongly worded statement or two (the troublesome boys in J&K) — must be addressed. If Masood Azhar and his ilk are allowed to crisscross Pakistan chanting virulent rhetoric and spinning malevolent plots against India, the entire effort will remain duplicitous.

But if India has with reason demanded that Pakistan immediately crack down on the organisations involved in terrorist incidents in this country, it must also appraise its internal security. For, national security is but an extension of internal security. True, suicide attacks are virtually impossible to anticipate, and security forces need to focus upon real-time intelligence and stringent sanitising drills. However, the ease with which militants on Monday distracted security guards on the perimeter of the Assembly compound with their car bomb points to grave lacunae in policing procedures. This is distressing, for the war against terror is already in progress.
This article was published in Indian Express's KashmirLive Section.