Islamic terrorists waging jihad against the Union of India with the full support of Pakistan have scored a big hit by striking successfully at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar on Wednesday.
Terrorists attack tourist centre in Srinagar
Media attention has been focused on the fact that the 21 passengers scheduled to travel by bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad on Thursday, when the much-hyped service across the Line of Control is launched, were being kept in safe custody at the tourist complex.
But that's not all. The Tourist Reception Centre also provides accommodation to senior administration officials whose names figure on the death list of jihadis. In normal times, it is under constant guard by heavily armed security personnel.
With the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus passengers lodged in one of the buildings, the level of security at the complex was raised several notches. Technically, it was supposed to be terror-proof, especially in view of the jihadis' threat to the passengers.
Yet, two (or may be three) jihadis were able to breach the security cover and launch a spectacular attack. Television footage showed security personnel running helter-skelter. There was total chaos at the scene, with nobody visibly in charge.
It is obvious that the security arrangements at the tourist complex were not foolproof. To suggest that 'desperate men' cannot be prevented from committing 'desperate acts', as has been done by the UPA government, is tantamount to trying to fool the people of India.
Put off bus service: BJP
The Road to Peace
Yes, it is true that battling terrorism is an asymmetrical war in which large armies have to be deployed to fight a handful of killers. But in this particular case, it is astonishing that the jihadis were not only able to reach the gates of the allegedly heavily protected complex, but also slip in and launch their attack without being put down.
Heads should roll. But that won't happen. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has dismissed this jihadi assault as 'unfortunate.' Home Minister Shivraj Patil is, as always, clueless. National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, who now doubles up as super boss of Intelligence Bureau, is busy keeping Madam Sonia Gandhi in good humour.
It will be self-defeating to see Wednesday's attack in isolation and pretend that terrorism and separatism are on the wane in Jammu & Kashmir. Statistics show that this far from the truth.
'We are lucky to be alive'
Between January 1 and April 3, 2005, security forces have killed 181 jihadis and lost 31 of their colleagues; 100 civilians have died in terrorist related violence. That's a total of 312 in less than four months.
And the UPA government, eager to say what the Bush administration wants to hear, insists that terrorism is on the decline, that Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf is behaving himself. Even as jihadis are sniggering up their Kalashnikov nozzles, the UPA is embracing them, to quote Mr Patil, as 'our brothers.' How does it matter that India is being shamed?
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, greatly enthused by New Delhi's abject collapse in the face of Islamabad's intransigence, has just announced that 'It was time for cricket diplomacy when President Musharraf was going over to Pakistan -- or over to India to watch a cricket match.'
Pakistan, India one and same. A few Indian lives snuffed out now and then, how does it matter? Boys will be boys, you see; we cussed Indians get unnecessarily worked up over minor non-events like Wednesday's blow-up.
Meanwhile, here's some news for all those 'security experts' and 'journalists' who have been propagating the fiction, to quote the front page banner headline in a national daily, 'US gives Pak F-16s, India gets F-16s plus plus'
There is not even a whiff of a possibility, at this point of time, of the USA either allowing the sale of F-16 or F-18 multi-role aircraft to India or agreeing to its co-production at Indian facilities.
Not just about F-16s!
The clarification has come from none else than Condoleezza Rice during her interaction with a group of editorial writers in American newspapers at Washington, DC on Monday afternoon.
'All that's been asked for, so far, is a request for information on can we supply, are we willing to bid. It's really even, are we willing to bid on high-performance aircraft to India,' Ms Rice told Sarah Penderson, a journalist with the Star-Telegram published from Fort Worth, Texas, where Lockheed Martin Corp, which manufactures F-16 fighter jets, is located.
With F-16 sales dipping, workers at Lockheed Martin Corp are facing layoff. The Bush administration's decision to supply F-16s to Pakistan could save as many as 5,000 jobs.
Obviously, Ms Penderson was looking for some good news for her paper's readers when she asked Ms Rice: 'Several thousands of my readers are very interested when they hear talk about co-production of F-16s or of fighter jets with India. Could you expand on that a little bit?'
Ms Rice: 'No. At this point, all we're talking about is tendering -- the Indians have asked for information about our high-performance aircraft. What kinds of arrangements would be worked out for what kinds of production, we're not there yet. So I would just say to your readers all that's been asked for, so far, is a request for information on can we supply, are we willing to bid. It's really even, are we willing to bid on high-performance aircraft to India.'
Implicit in this comment is the assertion that the USA has not offered F-16s or F-18s to India, but it is India that has sought product and price details and these are being provided. Nothing more, nothing less.
US tells India, drop dead
This is in sharp contrast to what has been claimed by some national newspapers, on the basis of briefing of 'select journalists' by unnamed sources in the State Department and a late night briefing in New Delhi after President George Bush called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the evening of March 25 to convey his decision to resume F-16 supplies to Pakistan.
It was claimed, as reported by the newspaper which declared to the world on March 26 that 'US gives Pak F-16s, India gets F-16s plus plus' 'The Bush administration has now taken a decision to permit its companies to bid for the Indian Air Force contract on the acquisition of 126 multi-role combat aircraft and give them licences for manufacture and production in India.'
Compare that with what Ms Rice said on Monday: 'It's really even, are we willing to bid on high-performance aircraft to India.'