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Threats to peace in Indian Punjab reappear

By Lt Gen (R) Kamal Davar

The Centre and the state administrations will have to keep a “hawk-eye” by effective human and technical surveillance on the remnants of the Bhindranwale followers and radicalised religious outfits. The fact that Pakistan’s notorious spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has built a formidable reputation for its diabolical string of terror-oriented successes in Afghanistan and, importantly, India in the past few decades is unquestionable. It is equally a reality that the ISI has not been able to achieve former Pakistani military dictator, Gen Zia-ul-Haq-conceived diktat of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts.” But no one in India’s security institutions should downplay the ISI’s dogged persistence in stoking the fires in India, be it Jammu and Kashmir or the North-East and now Punjab, once again.
The “Khalistan Movement”, checked and then buried after many years of a concerted struggle by the endeavours of the Centre, successive Punjab state governments, the will of the common people of Punjab and the professionalism of the security forces, is now showing signs of re-emerging. This churning is, once again, attributable to Pakistan’s ISI, making renewed efforts to stir the pot like in the 1980s and early 1990s.One of the chief architects of combating the highly violent and grossly anti-national “Khalistani Movement”, super cop KPS Gill passed away recently. No representatives from the previous ruling Akali Dal and even the Aam Aadmi Party did not care to attend the formidable cop’s “bhog ceremony” in New Delhi. This does display the priorities and inclinations for national causes of these two parties.
The very fact that the Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh specially went from Punjab to New Delhi to pay homage to KPS Gill displays the correct attitude that India’s politicians must display publicly for those who have honestly and professionally spent their lifetime working for the unity and integrity of India. Undoubtedly, KPS Gill was one such personality. Somewhere, successive governments have not given him his due. As leopards never change their spots, some intelligence agencies too display a propensity for consistency in their evil ways. The ISI stands out as a glaring example for now reviving its wicked strategies to create unrest in India’s strategic border state of Punjab in concert with the sinister forays it is planning in the neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir. All security organs of the nation and Punjab will have to factor in their security preparedness to thwart Pakistan’s new stratagem of stoking communal disharmony and terrorist acts in Punjab. Fortunately, the Punjab Chief Minister is a former Army officer and thus will be able to galvanise as well as keep a sharp eye on the state police, the intelligence set-up and the members of the central police organisations and paramilitary forces deployed in Punjab. Effective synergy between all security organs of the state and the Centre is a pre-requisite to counter the security threat will be merely stating the obvious. The Ministry of Home Affairs, the sleuths of the Intelligence Bureau and the Border Security Force will have to work in close coordination with the Punjab Police.
Additionally, units and formations from the Army and Air Force deployed close to the international border will have to be included in the overall existing security matrix, even during peacetime. Standard Operating Procedures between these different set-ups must be streamlined for effective and speedy responses to any terrorist threats as and when they emerge. It is hoped that lessons learnt from the security inadequacies witnessed, in the last two years, from the Dinanagar and Pathankot episodes, will be scrupulously rectified. Terrorism, in most parts of the world, is linked to drug running and Punjab is no exception. With Pakistan’s ISI having foisted the drug menace in India’s strategic and communally sensitive state, since the last many decades, the Punjab administration, down to the panchayat level has to remain more than vigilant. The Congress Party, in its campaign during the recent state elections in Punjab had made the eradication of the drug problem as one of its major planks. It is time for the Punjab government now to go on an all-out blitzkrieg to root out this serious menace from Punjab.Millions of Punjabi youth, once famed for their physical prowess, are now mere shadows of their earlier “avatars” gravely afflicted by drugs from neighbouring Pakistan. Only a dedicated effort by the Punjab government, anti-drug campaigns by civil society especially religious and educational institutions, ruthless stamping out of drug-runners by effective policing at the grass-roots level and speedily administered justice will have to be ensured. Local manufacturers of toxic drugs need to be severely punished under the law of the land.
The Centre and the state administrations will have to keep a “hawk-eye” by effective human and technical surveillance on the remnants of the Bhindranwale followers and radicalised religious outfits like the Babbar Khalsa, the Khalistan Commando Force and such like outfits. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and their political mentors, the Akali Dal, must put in unwavering efforts to ensure that radicalisation among their followers is nipped in the bud.Canada has a fair number of Khalistani sympathisers and our intelligence outfits including the Research and Analysis Wing and the National Technical Resources Organisation have their work cut-out, including keeping an eye on these anti-national elements and particularly on “hawala money” transactions. Meanwhile, our Ministry of External Affairs must send out a stern message to the Canadian government not to be lax with anti-India Khalistani supporters in their country. The Punjab Chief Minister displayed courage and pragmatism in not hosting the Canadian Defence Minister on his visit to Punjab as the latter reportedly has Khalistani sympathies. How many politicians will do that? The coming months will be crucial to ensure that Khalistani stirrings are effectively squashed notwithstanding the ISI’s evil machinations. Importantly, all political parties in Punjab must not politicise national security challenges. It is imperative for all of them to rise above petty motivations and thus create a conducive environment for the “sword-arm” state of India to ascend to its yet unattained progress and glory.
The writer is the founder-DG of India’s Defence Intelligence Agency. The views expressed are personal.

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