Three days before Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif were to meet, heavily armed men first barged into a police station in Jammu region, killing eight people, and then drove off with a truck to attack an army base where they killed an officer and three soldiers.
It was one of the worst terror attacks in recent times in Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the terrorists involved in the attack had sneaked into the state from Pakistan in the last 12 hours. He also hoped that the mayhem would not derail the India-Pakistan talks.
Three militants reached the Hira Nagar police station in Kathua district, located seven km from the Pakistan border, and attacked it with grenades and automatic weapons.
In no time, eight people lay dead: six policemen, a shopkeeper and the driver of a truck parked in the complex. Four others were hit, suffering critical splinter and bullet injuries.
The guerrillas escaped in the truck, drove on the Pathankot-Jammu highway and opened fire at Samba town.
Military sources said the militants then entered an army unit around 35 km from Jammu, killing Lt. Col. Bikramjeet Singh and three soldiers. Some soldiers were wounded.
In response, the military flew in commandos by helicopters to the attack site. An incensed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) immediately asked the government to axe the Manmohan-Sharif talks.
“The terrorists have attacked India almost at will,” BJP president Rajnath Singh said. “The PM is in a hurry to start dialogue with Pakistan. There should be no talks with Pakistan unless there is a conducive environment.”
His colleague and former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said such “attacks always happen with the backing of Pakistan Army… Therefore, call off the bilateral talks”.
In Washington, Manmohan Singh said that “such attacks will not deter us and will not succeed in derailing our efforts to find a resolution to all problems through a process of dialogue”.
Conveying his condolences to the families of those killed, he said: “This is one more in a series of provocations and barbaric actions by the enemies of peace.”
In an obvious reference to Pakistan, he said: “We are firmly resolved to combat and defeat the terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border.”
In Srinagar, Omar Abdullah said “it would be great injustice” if the India-Pakistan dialogue process got stalled following the terror attack in Jammu region.
He blamed the attack on “forces inimical to peace between India and Pakistan” and said it was aimed at derailing the Sep 29 meeting between Manmohan Singh and Sharif in New York.
He said it would be difficult to speculate if the attack had the backing of the new government in Pakistan.