Slaughter at Wagah

Wagah bombings should be a shared concern for India, Pakistan and inspire co-operating mechanisms for peace and security
The dastardly bombing attack close to Wagah border on the Pakistani side, on Sunday, is shameful and condemnable; no right thinking and sane person can condone such an act. 55 peoplewere killed and dozens wounded when a suicide bomber struck near the Wagah border crossing between Pakistan and India just after a ritual flag-loweringceremony Sunday evening. The beating the retreat ceremony, in recent years, has become a major tourism destination with hundreds of people on both sides of the border descending at the borders to watch the beating the retreat ceremony, a display of military pageantry, every day. The attack, believed to be the handiwork of a suicidebomber, is reported to have taken place at the second check entry point after the ceremony when people gathered to watch it began returning and were crossing the said point. It appears to be a major security breach, though Pakistani army officials have denied any lapse reasoning that the bomber blew himself up from outside the entry point. The facts will be clear only after a fair and impartial probe and Islamabad must be fully prepared for that without diverting attention to the power tussle between the military and the executive in Pakistan. The matter cannot be taken up non seriously as media reports in Pakistan have pointed out that intelligence agencies had warned the police of a possible attack on Wagah border but the warnings were ignored. At the same time, it is important to focus on the very motive behind Sunday’s incident. The incident may not expose the vulnerability of the border areas but exposes the vulnerability of place that is a common meeting point and thus is an attack on shared spaces of common interest. 

The motive behind the shocking terror attack is obviously clear. Wagah which is a major transit route between India and Pakistan is a symbol of not just the military flag lowering ceremony performed by the BSF and the Pakistani rangers. It is also an enabling space for friendship with exchange of delegations, to and fro movement, travel of people and trade. In itself it presents a picture of bonhomie even through those formidably shut gates and it is this picture of bonhomie that is the prime target. The motive of the bomber is apparently to sabotage any normalcy and whatever little movement that Wagah border witnesses on a daily basis. If the Wagah border triggers yet another bout of jingoistic frenzy between the two sides, rigidness or far worse, a frustrated spike in violence on the borders it would be even more shameful. 

55 people have died and 100 injured, all on the Pakistan side. But this should be an occasion for collective mourning and collective introspection. Terror attacks are one of the common concerns, among many others, of both India and Pakistan, and so there is need to think of a collective approach to tackle the issue. For years, India has insisted that terrorism should be on top of the agenda of talks and dialogue with Pakistan but instead of suggesting joint mechanisms to deal with the issue, terrorism rather has been used as a stick to beat Pakistan with. True indeed, a great deal of terrorism today operates from the Pakistani territory but it is also true that a major share of these attacks happen inside the confines of Pakistan, making the country more a victim than a perpetrator. It is for this reason that rather than Wagah incident becoming a trigger point for combat of egos should become a starting point for seriously thinking on co-operating mechanisms for ensuring peace and security with focus on sharing of information, intelligence inputs and moving towards joint patrols. This co-operation is the need of the day for resort to old models of jingoism and hype would be at the peril of the collective insecurity of the sub-continent.