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Udhampur attack: Why a live terrorist in hand is worth several dead ones

8 August, 2015 11:14 PM
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The capture of a Pakistani terrorist, identified as Mohammad Naved, during an attack in Jammu & Kashmir's Udhampur district is a significant catch that will aid India's cause of combating the cross-border menace which has harmed our security for decades.

Thanks to the alertness of Village Defence Committee (VDC) members who subdued Naved by braving mortal danger, we now have a card that holds numerous political and intelligence benefits.

Like Ajmal Kasab — the only Pakistani gunman arrested alive in the course of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai by virtue of the sacrifices of local cops — Naved is a rare smoking gun who helps strengthen India's case internationally and further ostracise Pakistan for its serial misbehaviour as an exporter of religious extremism and hatred.

After being nabbed red-handed, Naved's spontaneous remarks about his mission to massacre people of one religious community and the "enjoyment" he derives from it exemplify how the jihadist industry in Pakistan is misleading thousands of young men to turn into dehumanised and mechanical killing machines.

Although Pakistan's notorious "jihad culture" has long been exposed and widely condemned, living and breathing executors of this deadly threat like Naved and Kasab are advantageous for India to galvanise global public opinion and gain diplomatic endorsement for overt and covert counterterrorism responses.

Suppose there were actions on Pakistani soil against jihadists or strategic setbacks to their handlers in the military, the world will understand better after seeing the spectacle of Naved crowing.

The reservoir of international goodwill we have built up over the years by patiently stitching foolproof evidence of the Pakistani hand in terrorism against India is an enormous intangible asset as we aim to raise the costs of this jihad.

For those lamenting that we have a soft state quietly absorbing blow after blow via what Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul Haq described as "a thousand cuts to bleed India", it is necessary to recall how former prime minister Indira Gandhi crafted a conducive international ambience favouring our position before proceeding to dismember Pakistan in the liberation war for Bangladesh in 1971.

The ground needs to be laid for us to retaliate, and having a Naved or a Kasab on trial is valuable in this context. As a responsible actor in the international community that believes in due process, India has to pile up the docket against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism so that there is no false equivalence between the two countries and we have a freer hand when we choose the time and place to unleash deterrents. When a disreputable wrecker's home is wrecked, he will hardly find sympathisers or allies within society.

Predictably, Islamabad is denying that Naved is a Pakistani citizen and cynically demanding more and more "proof " from New Delhi. But disowning Kasab became progressively less tenable and the truth was confirmed in the minds of most Pakistani citizens that Kasab was a product of their military establishment's jihad factories.

The denial syndrome through which Pakistan's generals and spymasters have tried to shield their people's attention from state-organised criminality is already wearing thin after the shock discovery that Osama bin Laden was hiding in close proximity to the Pakistani military for over five years before he was detected and assassinated by the Americans.

The deliberate failure of Pakistan's amply-funded and stocked military to vanquish jihadists and sectarian terrorists strutting around with impunity inside Pakistan also reminds Pakistani people willing to accept reality that there is a massive crisis of collusion and unwillingness on the part of their security elites to forsake terrorism.

India will surely not wait for the day until Pakistan's citizens rise up in revolt against their venal army and democratise their country. But prized detainees like Naved and Kasab help to divide the field and soften the ground inside Pakistan for India to take countermeasures.

There are doubts about the value of the intelligence inputs India can obtain from lowly foot soldiers like Naved when he "sings" during interrogation. Arresting and holding terrorists in jail may or may not assist in detecting and foiling upcoming plots, especially in decentralised jihadist organisations where one cell does not have an inkling about what other cells are up to.

However, these detainees can throw light on the locations where they are trained, their immediate minders, the modus operandi of their recruitment and preparations, their battlefield tactics and their social circumstances. We cannot defeat the terrorism emanating from Pakistan in the absence of granular knowledge of the latest techniques and tricks of the trade that even spies cannot deliver.

A live terrorist in hand is worth several dead ones. This was the reasoning behind our unsuccessful attempt to wear out Pakistani jihadists and seize at least one of them alive when they struck in Gurdaspur. In Udhampur, we have been fortunate. Prosecuting Mohammad Naved, who sounds blase about mowing down civilians in the name of God, is integral to our goal of rolling back the holy war being waged against us.


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