India’s Terrorism bogey

Obama visit to India is over and so is India’s cry wolf of terrorist attack coming. Indian establishment and spy agencies never failed in springing from its visceral anti-Pakistan propaganda. Indian agencies, aided by the country’s media, constantly trump up charges of infiltration and terrorist attack from Pakistan and the unfortunate part is that the US and Western countries buy such propaganda. Days prior to Obama’s visit, Indian side started the rhetoric and while churning out the lies that hundreds of infiltrators are waiting for an opportunity on Pakistan side across the LoC and Working Boundary, Indian agencies cooked up yet another incident attempting to cast Pakistan in negative light.

This time it was a fishing boat claimed to be spotted by the Indian coast guard, which according to the Indian agencies, was directed and controlled from Pakistan. But no sooner the incident was brought to the light, the thin veneer of Indian propaganda began to rip apart. The melodramatic presentation to the media flavoured by the hawkish statements from Indian high officials boomeranged, when voices from within and outside of India began calling for hard evidence. What added to this jaundiced India view about Pakistan is the saffron mindset being in full swing paddled by the RSS, Intelligence Bureau and its associated spin-doctors who stalk the landscape of the country in all walks of life. Taking advantage of the situation arising out of international community’s renewed focus on India the incumbent right wing government underwrites all the anti-Pakistan propaganda based on figment of imagination, falsehood and travesty of facts.

India claimed that on the New Year’s eve, a fishing boat was spotted 10 to 15 km inside Indian waters and 365 km from west-southwest of Porbandar in Gujarat by Indian coast guard. As the story was cooked-up, the so-called the boat came from Keti Bunder near Karachi. On being asked to show up, the boat did not comply. Then the hot pursuit started which lasted for few hours resulting in the fear of arrest among the sailors. However when cornered, four men sailing the boat exploded the boat and set themselves on fire. It was here that the loosely knit Indian plot went asunder exposing the malicious design against Pakistan. No evidence was brought forth to establish the veracity of the event at home let alone sharing it with Pakistan. In order to sound convincing in a false story, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar joined the fray and stated that the boat was on a purpose to perpetrate terrorism in India. “The most important factor for classifying them as suspected or probable terrorists is they committed suicide, ‘harakiri’. Even normal boat with drugs would throw them away and surrender unless they are motivated to do it”. Going into specifics Mr. Parikkar reasoned, “The route taken is not normal fishing route and the area is not a fishing area. Even smugglers take a busy route to pass of as a fishing boat”. Later on in an interview to Karan Thapar on January 12, Mr. Parikkar contradicted his earlier assertion stating that the boat used a “regular fishing channel” thus eroding the tenuous claims implicating Pakistan. Other officials also joined the chorus and began to issue statements aiming at maligning Pakistan.

An interesting but revealing turn of events came about when the opposition led by Congress questioned the intent of the Modi government and the substance of the claim. They asked for clear and tangible proof of what the government described as foiling a potential terrorist attack being orchestrated by Pakistan. When hard-pressed for bringing a reasonable proof, the BJP Mehtas got frustrated and tried to turn the tables on the voices of sanity – already stifled in India ever since the BJP came into power. Addressing a rally in Orissa on January 07, the BJP President Amit Shah asked Congress to go to Pakistan and contest elections there. In response the Congress leader and former Commerce Minister Anand Sharma stuck to the line. He went on to assert that the Congress did not need any certificate of patriotism from BJP. Sharma advised the BJP leaders to consult with one another as they were making contradictory statements on the issue. As the time passed by, the high-pitched Saffron leaders lowered their decibels. They began to realise that this time their plot hatched on the lines of earlier one in November 2008 with Mumbai as the locale is not going to hold. Now the standard line is that investigation is being carried out to establish that the boat came from Pakistan and it was not a smuggling or fishing boat. On another plane falsifying the official Indian version NTRO – National Technical Research Organisation – did not pass any intelligence to the Indian coast guard about the Pak boat as being on a terrorist mission. The technical intelligence agency only mentioned “suspect Pak entity” in the first piece of communication with the coast guard. In the second alert again word “terror” did not appear. NTRO is bound to coordinate first with IB/Intelligence Bureau in case it detects anything pertaining to terrorism.

Questioned on this, the NTRO responded that liaison with IB is mandatory only in case of some potential terrorist event to be fended off. But in this case the agency did not intercept any conversation hinting at some terrorist activity. The subsequent detailed communication between NTRO and coast guard is under review as part of so-called investigation. Indian media also claimed that the name of the boat was Qalandar, providing details of the crew as well. Sources have revealed that no boat with the name Qalandar is registered in Pakistan. However, a 25-foot long fishing boat, Al-Qalandri, is registered with Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority. The boat is present in Karachi and could not have been involved in the incident.

The falsehood of circumstantial evidence could also be gauged from the fact that the photographs of the boat shown in the newspapers and electronic media appeared to be of an Indian fishing boat rather than a Pakistani fishing vessel, distinct in shape typically of Indian vessels. Moreover, any explosion of even low intensity with a small quantity of explosive onboard could break a wooden fishing boat into pieces. However, the photographs of the boat which have been released to the newspapers and electronic media showed a boat on fire with its structure intact. The statement of the Indian Defence Minister that the so-called terrorists were on a suicide mission could not be farther from reality. If the boat was at all on a suicide mission, it would have caused some damage to the Indian coast guard ship which had chased it.

Now India is compelled by the circumstances to bite the dust on the matter. It has become the prisoner of its own anti-Pakistan worldview which has become an albatross around Modi’s neck and the chains in the feet of his cohorts.

An important consideration to be zeroed in on is that what prompted India to conceive this ill-intentioned and poorly-executed plan against Pakistan. The flop show was meant to coincide with pre-Obama media hype in the country and beyond. Ever since it was made public that the US President will grace the Republic Day celebration in India, leaks were fed to media from different intelligence sources that terrorism is very likely in the country. The buzzword was that Pakistan has unleashed Jihadi elements to wreak violence in India to spoil Obama’s visit. How the Indian bogey of terrorism appealed to the world’s most smart country’s leadership, the US?

One particular news report read that President Obama has warned Pakistan of consequences if any terrorist attack traces back to Pakistan during his visit to India.” Pakistan’s ambassador to the US reacted cogently and sharply to these speculative even false media reports terming them “baseless propaganda”. It seems more than clearly that India is out to make Pakistan’s fight against terrorism more ticklish by creating and dishing out to media the conspiratorially-motivated false stories with a terrorist twist. At the same time when Pakistani forces are in the midst of Operation Zarb-e-Azb on one side of the border, India has chosen to send the other side of the border alive. India is carefully trying to put the boat fiction under the carpet. Pakistan should insist on fair inquiry into the matter in line with civilized and basic norms of justice. If no conclusive proof emerges, then the issue needs to be taken up bilaterally and other global for a with a view to drive the point home that India is acting in bad faith vis-à-vis Pakistan which is not good for what was provided for in the Modi-Obama joint statement “regional peace, security and stability”.

The writer is a Srinagar based export on Pak-India relationship and on Kashmir. She can be reached at nuzhatjansgr–Nuzhat Jan