It is easy to be wise in hindsight, but the killing of eight jawans by militants just before a very high profile visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi could perhaps have been averted with better intelligence. While it is also easy to blame intelligence failure for such incidents, it does not seem that the number of terror attacks in recent times have imparted any sense of urgency to the security and intelligence agencies.
Despite the situation on the ground being very fragile and fraught, we have not seen any initiative by the home ministry or the state government. The danger signals should have been there when a new civilian government came to power in Pakistan. No one disputes that Pakistan is the fountainhead of terror in the region.
When Nawaz Sharif spoke of better ties with India and his determination to combat terror, the militants were bound to do something spectacular to signal that they were not to be trifled with. There have been numerous bloodbaths in Pakistan in recent times and now in India. We should have been better prepared for this. A rail link from Banihal to Qazigund, the first all-weather surface link in Kashmir, will make access to the
Valley so much easier all year round. That such a positive development would not have gone down well with the militants was a foregone conclusion.
It is now quite clear that whether a civilian government is in place in Pakistan or not, the militants are a law unto themselves. The fact that a so-called social wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba has got state funding in Pakistan's Punjab only shows how well-entrenched the militants are in that country and how there will be no lack of resources or logistical support for attacks in India.
The attack on the convoy of jawans suggests that the militants were well aware of the route and were able to get past the security, if there was any, and carry out the audacious attack. This is demoralising for the troops at a time when they are really stretched with rescue operations in the flood-hit areas.
But it does bring home one thing in no uncertain terms -India has to fight this menace on its own. US secretary of state John Kerry did not so much as mention Pakistani terrorism as a destabilising force in the region during his India visit.
All the development projects in the world will not turn the tide in Kashmir unless the source of this terror is dealt with. For this the Pakistan government has to do much more than pay lip service to peace in the region and talk of boosting trade ties with India. The outrage in Kashmir as well as the surge in terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan suggests that the region has become if anything, more volatile and dangerous than ever.