The Pathankot attack was the result of Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex being rattled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Af-Pak diplomacy of December 2015, though there is no evidence of state support for the assault, according to experts in London.
Shaun Gregory, director of the Durham Global Security Institute, told Hindustan Times that groups such as the United Jihad Council and factions within them (such as Harkat-ul Ansar) “do act independently and would wish to undermine any Indo-Pak rapprochement which they see as sidelining the Kashmir struggle”.
“We can’t say therefore, in my view, that the army (or) ISI somehow ordered the Pathankot attack to torpedo the Modi-Nawaz rapprochement. After all political relations are still strained and no such attacks took place after other Modi-Nawaz meetings, including Nawaz Sharif’s attendance at the inauguration, or the SCO sidelines meeting in July 2015,” he said.
The attacks on Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif were expected and could not have been a surprise to the Indian security establishment, according to Rahul Roy-Chaudhury of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Harsh Pant, a professor in the Department of Defence Studies, King’s College London.
Pant said: “Modi’s proactive Af-Pak diplomacy in December 2015 clearly ended up rattling those elements within the Pakistani military-intelligence complex which have a stake in perpetuating Indo-Pakistan hostility. So the attacks in Pathankot and in Afghanistan are merely symptomatic of this enduring Indo-Pak conundrum and were to be expected.”
According to Pant, the Indian government, for all the criticism it is facing for the Pathankot attack, has clearly changed the dynamics of the India-Pakistan relationship over the past year.
“On the one hand, the border attacks by Pakistan are receiving a disproportionate response and on the other, the diplomatic juggernaut of Modi has ensured that there is spotlight on the Pakistani military’s role in sponsoring terror. The problem is structural for India as it lacks credible military options to impose costs on Pakistan,” he said.
“Those calling for ceasing talks or for immediate action don’t have a clue about what a sound strategy entails.”
Indian engagement with the Pakistani civilian and security establishment is essential, Roy-Choudhury said.
“But we need less of a see-saw in relations that we’ve seen in the past few weeks – from heightened firing across the Line of Control and international border to the PM’s surprise Christmas visit to Lahore – and more of a balanced and institutionalised policy towards Pakistan which both the Indian as well as the Pakistani governments are aware of,” he added.