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An Indian security personnel asks people to move away from the area outside the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Pathankot in Punjab, India, January 3, 2016 (Photo: Reuters/M. Gupta)
Image: Reuters/M. Gupta

Pakistan to probe Indian air base attack

Shamil Shams
February 19, 2016

Pakistani police have registered a case against "unknown assailants" in connection with last month's attack on an Indian air base. But can the move allay New Delhi's concerns and growing Indo-Pakistani tension?


Pakistan's counter-terrorism force registered a case against the alleged attackers of the Pathankot air base in India. The January 2 assault killed seven Indian soldiers and all six terrorists, which New Delhi claims had come from Pakistan.

Rana Sanaullah, a provincial minister, told reporters in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore that the case was registered on the basis of information provided by the Indian government.

Last month, Pakistani authorities arrested several members of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad Islamist group, which is believed to be linked to the Pathankot assault. They also took the leader of the group, Masood Azhar, into "protective custody" for interrogation.

"We will not allow 'non-state actors' to use Pakistani soil to plot terror attacks on other countries," Sanaullah said Friday.

Indian concerns

But New Delhi appears far from pleased by Islamabad's efforts so far.

"They [Pakistani officials] have to investigate the role of the people in their country," Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Thursday. "The government has continuously given evidence to Pakistan… If they are serious, they can act."

The defense minister also said India could not guarantee the resumption of bilateral peace talks if Islamabad didn't cooperate with Indian officials on the Pathankot case.

Pakistan's "dubious" commitment against terrorism

In 2008, Indo-Pakistani relations broke down completely after 10 Pakistan-based gunmen carried out coordinated terror attacks in various parts of India's financial capital, Mumbai, killing 166 people. New Delhi has accused Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group of orchestrating the attacks - a charge Islamabad denies.

Moulana Masood Azhar (Photo: Dpa)
Islamabad hasn't taken any proper action against Masood and his Jaish-e-Mohammad militant gruopImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Last week, David Headley, a Pakistani-American convicted in the Mumbai terror attacks, made revelations about his close ties with Pakistani officials, especially with the ISI spy agency.

The 55-year-old Headley told a special Indian court via video link on Tuesday, February 9, that the ISI gave "moral, military and financial support" to LeT.

"India is still not persuaded that Pakistan is embarking on a comprehensive combat against terrorism," India's former ambassador to Islamabad and political commentator G. Parthasarathy told DW.

The Indian government believes that Pakistan is targeting only the terrorists acting against its own state machinery, Parthasarathy added, referring to the masterminds and planners of the Mumbai attack. Parthasarathy said it is impossible for India to take Pakistan's claims of establishing peace with India seriously as long as the perpetrators of the attacks are at large.

Savita Pandey, a professor of Social Sciences at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the Indian government needs to be more assertive with Pakistan on the issue of Islamic terrorism.

"India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism since 1989. It needs to pursue a national policy against terrorism in congruence with international methods of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism," she told DW.

Firefighters trying to douse the fire as smoke rises from the Taj hotel building in Mumbai, India during the terrorists attack
Pakistan denies involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacksImage: picture-alliance/dpa

South Asia needs peace

The Pathankot attack happened just days after the historic meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif in Lahore, a move that appeared to promise better relations between the South Asian rivals.

Indo-Pakistani ties have never been cordial, but the recent escalation of tensions have upset the neighboring countries' peace activists, who say that the blame game from both sides would be harmful for the public, which needs peace and development more than anything else.

"If conflict persists, fundamentalist groups in India and Pakistan will benefit. The right-wing groups in both countries want war and animosity," Baseer Naveed, senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, told DW.

The Pakistani investigation into the Pathankot attack, however, has been hailed by peace activists, who lauded Sharif for efforts to promote peace with India. Activists said the inquiry represents the first time Islamabad has "admitted" its citizens could be involved in the assault.

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