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Rediff News  All News  » News » Forget Eden Gardens, the real test is in Pathankot

Forget Eden Gardens, the real test is in Pathankot

March 21, 2016 08:01 IST

'The Pakistani JIT's visit is the first ever experiment by the two South Asian neighbours to probe a terror attack 'jointly.'
'Well, it is not unlike the scenario wherein the thief himself is made an investigator,' says Rajeev Sharma.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Pathankot airbase, January 9, 2016.

IMAGE: Accompanied by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, General Dalbir Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is given a briefing on the counter-terrorist operation at the Indian Air Force's Pathankot base, January 9, 2016. Photograph: Press Information Bureau


Forget about India's enthralling victory against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup tournament on Saturday. A 'test match' is on the cards between the two South Asian neighbours, politically speaking.

The upcoming 'test match' starts on Sunday, March 27, when Pakistan's Joint Investigation Team arrives in India to probe the terror attack on India's biggest military base in Pathankot which started on January 2 and continued for four days till all four Pakistani terrorists were neutralised.

The 'test match' is scheduled to reach its climax this month end when the two countries' prime ministers, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, hold a summit in Washington, DC on the sidelines of the fourth and final World Nuclear Summit.

As it happens in cricket, the key lies in having a good start -- that is, not losing early wickets if you are batting first and capturing early wickets of the opposition if you are bowling first. The Pathankot probe by the Pakistani JIT falls in that category.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that the Pakistanis won't be coming to Pathankot to help India, but to obfuscate the case, find as many loopholes in India's case and finally go home to write a report explaining how the terror attack was, after all, NOT choreographed by elements in Pakistan.

The Pakistani mission objective won't be to get to the root of the terror attack and help India in what is euphemistically called 'joint investigations.'

Rather, Pakistan's one point mission objective would be to tell the world how Pathankot was the result of India's own home-grown terror apparatus.

Inevitably, the Pakistani JIT would be out to stitch its coat around the button. Its effort would be to study the loopholes closely and then try to wriggle out of the episode.

The Pakistani JIT's main brief would be to find evidence of who did it, why and at whose behest.

The Pakistani JIT's visit is important as it constitutes the first ever such experiment by the two South Asian neighbours to probe a terror attack 'jointly.' Well, it is not unlike the scenario wherein the thief himself is made an investigator.

This kind of 'cooperation' has never happened before in the India-Pakistan bilateral context. It's more of political razzmatazz designed to impress than anything else.

The Pakistani JIT's proposed visit is all about each side trying to score brownie points against the other, rather than a sincere and honest attempt to determine who did what, when, how and why.

The Narendra Modi government cannot be unmindful of what lies ahead, and indeed it isn't unaware of the pitfalls and the challenges. And yet, the Modi government is going ahead with this experiment for the sake of proving its sincerity to the international community in improving relations with an intransigent neighbour like Pakistan.

In that sense, the Pakistani JIT's visit is more of a political and diplomatic test that the Modi government has to endure for the larger cause. In that sense, the Modi government's decision to permit the Pakistani JIT is right and justified.

It will have to be seen how Captain Modi plays the upcoming 'test match' and how well he utilises his resources.

Modi's biggest test will be to see whether he allows the Pakistani JIT to enter the Pathankot air base, which will be the key military base to launch operations against Pakistan should a war break out between the two neighbours.

As of now, this vital issue remains nebulous. Modi's ministers have spoken in conflicting voices on the question whether the Pakistani team will be allowed entry inside the base, with the home minister saying that the Pakistani JIT would be allowed access inside the base while the defence minister has said that nothing of the sort would happen and there was no question of allowing the Pakistani team to enter the base.

The Modi government would be scoring a self goal if it were to allow the Pakistani team access to the base.

The Congress-led Opposition would definitely be sharpening its knives and won't be wasting time in attacking the Modi government if the Pakistani team is allowed to enter the Pathankot base.

The 'death overs' of the upcoming 'test match' will be played in Washington this month end when the captains of the two teams meet. Much would depend on how the Pathankot segment of the 'test match' is played out by the two sides.

Rajeev Sharma is an independent journalist and strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha

Rajeev Sharma