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Dialogue first

The days since a suspected Pakistani terrorist was caught alive after militants attacked a Border Security Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway in Udhampur, have raised deep questions about the timing of such an assault on the Indian armed forces. Mohammed Naved, the terrorist nabbed in the attack, is from Faisalabad, Pakistan, according to the Jammu and Kashmir police. It has been further reported that Naved was trained in the same Lashkar-e-Taiba camp that produced the likes of Ajmal Kasab. Suffice to say, obvious comparisons are being drawn with Ajmal Kasab, the only Pakistani terrorist captured alive after the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.  On Thursday, the state police force claimed that terrorists involved in the Udhampur attack on a BSF convoy were trained ‘fidayeens’ and backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). 

The recent spates of attack in Udhampur have followed the terror attack in Punjab, where two terrorists, again reportedly from Pakistan, sneaked across the border and wreaked havoc on the small town of Gurdaspur. More importantly, however, both attacks come after prime ministers from both India and Pakistan signed an agreement in Russia, which clearly reflects the spirit of détente. Despite constant ceasefire violations across the International Border and the Line of Control, both governments have maintained their position in seeking diplomatic engagement to overcome tensions. 

One indicator of such an initiative is Pakistan’s desire to release 163 Indian fishermen, mostly from Gujarat, who were released from their jails on August 2. India, meanwhile, will release nine Pakistani fishermen on August 9. Both sides have agreed to release fishermen locked up in their respective jails following an agreement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russia. However, the attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur, strategic experts argue, follow a certain pattern. Past attempts at peace between both nations have been usually followed by spates of violence. Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic bus ride to Wagah was followed by the all-out Kargil War between both nations. When former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri announced that he was going to India to resume peace talks in 2007, we witnessed the Samjhauta Express blasts, in which militant Hindutva terror groups have been implicated. 

And finally, after the 26/11 attacks, when both sides decided to resume peace talks after much consternation, terrorists from the Indian Mujahideen orchestrated bomb blasts through crowded localities in Mumbai, killing 26 people. It is, therefore, abundantly clear that certain elements in both sides are invested in derailing the peace process. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s state establishment remains fragmented, with its army and intelligence agency often undermining the civilian government, India must use all the tools in its kitty, both military and intelligence, to judiciously protect its border. Moreover, the Indian establishment must continue to pursue political dialogue with Pakistan, since derailing them now will only further undermine the civilian government’s position in Islamabad and alienate it. Therefore, New Delhi’s reported decision to go ahead with the National Security Advisor-level talks later this month is most welcome. Political dialogue with Pakistan is the only way forward.   
    
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