“Composite dialogue a very good initiative: Pakistan security sources
India and Pakistan must take reciprocal steps to lessen the threat of violence by non-state actors against each other, senior security sources told a group of visiting Indian journalists.
“We have to sit down and work it out both ways,” said the sources, wondering how “ragtag” groups on the border with Afghanistan came to acquire anti-tank mines and anti-aircraft guns.
“The leaders should resolve disputes by talking. Otherwise, a third party will always be there to take a piece of the cake. The best way is to talk to each other,” the sources said to a question on the security threat India was facing from Pakistan-based groups. In their first-ever interaction with a team of Indian journalists, the sources commended the now-suspended composite dialogue and said this “very good initiative” must be revived.
While the Pakistan security forces had militants in Punjab under surveillance and were taking action against them, their priority was stamping out militancy in the frontier regions and Balochistan, where there was credible evidence of the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies. “How do ragtag groups acquire the capability to create this kind of impact with the entire [Pakistani] military being engaged to overcome such groups,” they asked and suggested that India and Pakistan as well as other actors in the region interact to allay each other's apprehensions.
The sources declined to name the foreign intelligence agencies suspected to be involved in Balochistan and frontier areas, nor did they offer proof of their activities. “The work of intelligence is not to leave signatures, not to leave behind anything on the table. Not all the [militant] groups are indigenous. There are substantial arms, ammunition and money from other sources,” they said, while cautioning, “If you hit us, we will hit you hard and leave no signatures as well.”
Banning groups was no solution; that would only lead to the formation of splinter groups, the sources said. Though south Punjab in Pakistan, home to several anti-India militant groups, was densely populated, the state had access to all parts of the region and operations were constantly taking place. “Still a lot of efforts are on. The way Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was organised, there is no huge organisation [here] which has a huge area to itself. Military is not required.”
The sources said: “Then, we have to see the capability of the group to threaten the state at that point of time. If you dissipate resources and a reverse happens, then there will be no last line of defence.”
“Because of overwhelming threat, Pakistan became a security state. The youth in Punjab have been brutalised. One group or the other can keep forming. We have to address the cause leading to the formation of such groups. The best way is to talk to each other.”
Admitting that there was a lot of criticism of the Pakistani Army being India-centric, the sources said this was based on threat perception. Pakistan had to configure deployment of armed forces towards India due to a history of conflict, unresolved political disputes and increasing offensive capability. “No state can be expected to lower defence in such an environment.”
Though the Indian Army's doctrine of Cold Start might or might not have been validated, Pakistan had to guard against such an eventuality in view of its increased offensive capabilities. The doctrine is the Indian Army's quest to reduce the time taken to reach the border. It was adopted after it took nearly three months to bring its men and equipment to the border with Pakistan during the December 2001 mobilisation.