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Air base attack continues near India-Pakistan border

At least two gunmen were holed up in a two-story building on an Indian air force base near the Pakistan border and exchanging gunfire with troops Monday, more than two days after they and several others attacked the heavily fortified compound, officials said. “This is a predictable modus operandi of the ISI and its protege terror outfits”. Clearly, there was poor coordination between the local police, the intelligence services and the military brass, including the commanders of the Pathankot air base.

“The government of Pakistan has spoken very powerfully to this and it’s certainly our expectation that they’ll treat this exactly the way they’ve said they would”, State Department Spokesman John Kirby said yesterday. No group claimed responsibility for the strike, but officials suspected Pakistan-based militant groups.

“Living in the same region and with a common history, the two countries should remain committed to a sustained dialogue process”, it said, adding, “The challenge of terrorism calls for strengthening our resolve to a cooperative approach”.

The attack on the Pathankot air force base started before dawn Saturday and is seen as an attempt to undo recent improvements in the relationship between archrivals India and Pakistan.

“Through timely and prompt action by all agencies, the likely plan of the terrorists to destroy valuable assets of the Air Force has been foiled”, the Indian Defense Ministry had said in a statement at the time.

The air force base is on the highway that connects India’s insurgency-plagued Jammu and Kashmir state with the rest of the country.

(AP Photo/Channi Anand). Indian security forces stand outside the Indian airbase in Pathankot, 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of New Delhi, India, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in fact, went ahead with a pre-arranged meeting with former foreign secretaries and ex-envoys to Pakistan to know their mind before the FS-level talks.

Ties seemed to take a turn for the better after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, late last month.

Speculation is also rife that the two NSAs may talk or meet before foreign secretary S. Jaishankar’s proposed visit to Pakistan in mid-January.

“We’ve been clear with the highest levels of the government of Pakistan, that it must continue to target all militant groups”, Kirby told reporters on Monday.

It is understood that Doval briefed the PM on the operations against terrorists and senior officials discussed the strategy to deal with Pakistan. Though nothing will be gained by calling off the dialogue process, which had received a big boost following Modi’s unscheduled Christmas Day stopover in Lahore, it should be appreciated that if such terror attacks continue even Modi will feel obliged to terminate engagement with Pakistan.

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