When Pakistan helped India tackle a cross-border menace

Can India and Pakistan ever work together? Can they join hands to wipe out terrorism? When I wrote about the bandit Jagmal Singh who terrorised parts of Jaisalmer in the 1950s with help from Pakistan police (see A Forgotten Bandit and a Lesson in India-Pakistan Diplomacy), some readers said it was a sign of India’s weakness at the time that she had not raided Pakistan to catch or kill Jagmal. Some others thought it validated India’s new approach of ‘surgical strikes’.

To many in India now, talks have no place in India-Pakistan relations. Pakistan is seen as a promoter and exporter of terrorism, but in the language of business it is also a bigger ‘consumer’ than India. It is fourth-placed behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria among countries most severely affected by terrorism. It needs to nail terrorists more than India.

Could Pakistan cooperate with India in the future to root out terrorism?

Leaving that question hanging here, let’s go back to the 1950s when Pakistani security forces used to back up Indian bandits. On November 18, 1957, India’s deputy external affairs minister Lakshmi Menon told Parliament about a police raid on bandits that was thwarted by Pakistani forces:

A Party of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary, on receiving information, reached the hideout of a gang of notorious dacoits near Nachana, about one mile inside Indian territory from the Rajasthan-West Pakistan border and engaged the dacoits after surrounding them at about 5.30am on August 25 (1957). By 7am, the dacoits’ gang had suffered three or four casualties and was about to be liquidated when a Pakistani armed force trespassed into Indian territory for the rescue of the dacoits and started firing on the Rajasthan Police party. As a result, five persons, including the deputy superintendent of police (Jaisalmer), were wounded and the action against the dacoits had to be broken off.

The bandits troubled India but it was a matter of time before they started raiding villages on the Pakistani side also (just like terrorists today). The one-sided pain became mutual. What did Pakistan do then?

Here’s a United Press International (UPI) report from 1963, the year a notorious group of bandits surrendered to Indian police:

Nineteen masked bandits recently rode out of the scorching Rajasthan desert. They whipped off the black cloths which covered their swarthy faces and ended a legend as romantic as anything in the Arabian Nights.

“The hard-eyed desert raiders have been feared for 20 years as ‘The Bhatis of Modha’. Their camels had clattered a hundred miles across sand and bone dry gullies to surrender the bandit clan at the feet of Rajasthani home minister B. Mathur…

“The Bhatis of Modha had been driven to Mathur’s feet by a combined operation in which India and Pakistan had tried to stamp out the ancient profession of banditry along the sun seared deserts of their border.

“For three months before the surrender, the Bhatis had made raids into Pakistan, while Pakistani troopers had tightened a noose which drove them back toward the Indian border.

“Then the Rajasthan deputy inspector general of police Jaswant Singh pitched his camp in the village to which the Bhatis finally were driven.

Now read this very carefully:

Mathur told newsmen much of the glory for the mass surrender should go to the Pakistanis who had driven the clan back to the edge of a net of Rajasthani police. He said he would send officers to Pakistan to assist at the trial of bandit leader Jagmal Singh, who had been taken before he could reach the Indian border.

There now, you know what became of Jagmal Singh. Perhaps you will also continue to hope that some day Pakistan will help India root out terrorism.

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