Two Attacks — Multiple Consequences

Spearhead Analysis – 18.02.2019

On February 13 an attack on a bus carrying Iranian Revolutionary Guards IRG) personnel was attacked by a suicide bomber in Iran’s Khesh Zahedan area of Sistan-Baluchistan. 27 IRG personnel were killed and 17 wounded. According to Iranian media the attack was claimed by Jaish-e Adl (JeA) a militant group that Iran thinks operates from across its border with Pakistan. An IRG general blamed Pakistan for the attack and threatened retaliatory action.

On February 14 a native Kashmiri freedom fighter rammed his explosives laden vehicle into a convoy of Indian CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel killing 40 and injuring scores more. Almost immediately India blamed Pakistan for the attack and said that Jaish e Muhammad (JEM) had claimed responsibility for the attack. The JeM is a banned militant organization in Pakistan that India thinks is active across the LOC (Line of Control) in IOK (Indian Occupied Kashmir) where an indigenous freedom struggle is being waged against brutal repression by the Indian forces armed with draconian powers. Indian Prime Minister Modi personally blamed Pakistan for the attack, committed himself to retaliatory action and even announced that he had given free rein to his Army to hit back. Indian media went berserk and many wise heads surfaced to debate various ‘attack’ options.

These attacks came days before a scheduled well publicized visit to Pakistan by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The visit has since taken place and has been a resounding success with Saudi Arabia committing itself to the economic uplift of Pakistan including a multi-billion-dollar oil refinery and storage facility at Pakistan’s Gwadar port, the southern terminus of the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). The Crown Prince is also visiting China.

To say that all these events are coincidental would be naïve. To say that Pakistan as a state could be behind these attacks would be foolish because there is no way that Pakistan would want to mar a much awaited Royal visit by launching, sponsoring or inspiring attacks across the LOC or its border with Iran just before the visit. The instant unilateral determination by India that Pakistan was behind the attack and that it would retaliate is almost as if India was waiting for something like this to happen so that it could milk it for political advantage in an election year. The free rein given to its media is whipping up a frenzy. Bharat Karnad (an Indian analyst) while saying that India’s fulminations are just ‘hot air’ has proposed that— “the other, more effective, option is right in the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s supposed area of expertise – activating RAW and other sleeper cells in Pakistan for attacks to execute Sayeed, Masood, et al. If successful, it will put the fear of God into these miscreants without disturbing the general tenor of bilateral relations. The Pakistan government cannot publicly object to their killing because it does not own up to sponsoring them in the first place. Moreover, there are lots of ways to make their elimination look like accidents—“By going public he has effectively ruled out the possibility that Pakistan would consider such attacks as accidents. What he is proposing is a covert war waged by intelligence agencies on each other’s people—a recipe for disaster.

India needs to look at the situation in IOK and understand that a people subjected to rape, torture, blinding’s and killings would want their voice heard and what better opportunity than on the eve of a high profile visitor from Saudi Arabia. The mode of the attack is a new upturn in the situation and something that India needs to take note of in its policy towards the Kashmiri people. Blaming Pakistan may get some words of support from those ever ready to target Pakistan but it will not get India off the hook in IOK.

The Indian Foreign Minister has visited Iran and this is a tweet from  Iran’s Seyed Abbas Aragchi—“

Seyed Abbas Araghchi

Iran & India suffered from two heinous terrorist attacks in the past few days resulted in big casualties. Today in my meeting with Sushma Swaraj the Indian FM, when she had a stopover in Tehran, we agreed on close cooperation to combat terrorism in the region. Enough is enough!”

The carefully worded tweet does not take aim at Pakistan but taken in the context of India’s post attack outbursts and the emotional response by the IRG general these could be construed to mean that they will collaborate against Pakistan. If this happens it will be total disaster considering the forces arrayed against Iran and Pakistan’s repeated offer of joint operations in the Iran-Pakistan border area. Iran needs to take a hard look at the situation and determine who gains from such an attack—certainly not Pakistan.

To say that these attacks if not sponsored by Pakistan took place from its soil and therefore require retaliation against Pakistan would be ignoring the consequences of such retaliation—long term consequences in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Much more rational and productive would be dialogue that leads to bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan and between Pakistan and Iran. This would lead to joint structures against terror and the resolution of disputes that spawn terror. This would also defeat those who thrive in an environment of terror and conflict and sideline them effectively. The sooner this happens the better.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)