Less than a week after India’s Prime Minister Modi dropped by at Lahore to offer a birthday wish to his Pakistani counterpart, Pathankot Air Force Base in Indian Punjab was reverberating with explosions and gunshots. While the year 2015 ended on a note of hope and optimism for peace between both the countries, the year 2016 started with half a dozen terrorists sneaking in the Pathankot cantonments area.

Reports of the dastardly attack that took away seven precious lives at India’s Pathankot Airbase started appearing on Indian media early in the morning on January 2. The reporting on it has been confused, incoherent and contradictory ever since. By the times these lines are written, two terrorists are reported to have entered residential quarters, while four of them have been killed in three-days long operation.

At one point on Jan 3, the number of dead terrorists was reported as 6. It has now gone back to 4.

In less than three hours after the attack, Indian media had started accusing Pakistan while taking ISI’s name as the planner and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as executor. Quoting officials, Indian TV channels had reported interception of phone calls to Pakistan by the terrorists. Within hours of the attack, the media also knew that a meeting had happened few days ago between JeM and ISI operatives in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). Despite all this detail, total number of terrorists and even those killed in the operation remained unclear.

By 9 am on Jan 2, reports from Press Trust of India suggested the end of gun-battle. That evening Mr. Rajnath Singh, India’s Home

Minister congratulated his forces for successful operation and killing five terrorists. The statement came via a tweet that he later withdrew.

Next evening, Air Martial Anil Khosla and Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi jointly held a media briefing led by the latter (strange no?), in which they said operation continued. Air Martial Khosla told that two more terrorists might still be inside the Airbase. That still continues.

While, following their usual practice, Indian media was fiercely bashing Pakistan for “stabbing India in the back once again” and “sabotaging civilian-led peace process”. India’s political parties were sounding firm against terrorism (and against Pakistan too), but no party called for the suspension of dialogue. Ministers were visibly observing restraint while talking about Pakistan and the peace process. BJP’s statement expressing its unflinching resolve to not retract the dialogue ‘just because of one attack’ made front-page news in most of Indian newspapers on Sunday.

On the second day of Pathankot Operation, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj chaired a meeting with former High Commissioners to Pakistan for what the Ministry described as “diplomatic consultation on Pakistan strategy”. Indian Prime Minister Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were still in a high level meeting to review security situation and assess the environment for the dialogue till the filing of this piece.

Here in Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif condoled the deaths on the first day while strongly condemning the attack. No political party lashed out any statements responding to aggressively anti-Pakistan reporting on Indian media. Pakistani media too restrained itself from going the hawkish way other than a couple of comments from fringe journalists retorting on Pakistan bashing. Sense seems to have prevailed. So far.

Most of the Pak-India observers were anticipating such a thing, ever since the Modi-overture this Christmas. Just like the method in madness, there has been a long sustaining pattern of things between Pakistan and India. Every advance in the peace process has followed an incidence like this. When the recent thaw happened, many suggested that both the countries must devise a contingency for the apprehended obstacles and obstructions.

Mr. Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, said yesterday, “terrorists can’t tolerate India-Pakistan dialogue, this is in reaction to that”. This outlines what both states need to do. Point your guns at the terrorists instead of each other. As India’s former Air Vice Martial Kapil Kak said while speaking in a talk show on India Today, fighting the terrorists is one common ground between India and Pakistan because JeM (which is being accused of Pathankot attack) was more closely aligned with TTP than Pakistan’s establishment.

Kak also said that JeM had no organizational links with Pakistan’s establishment anymore. He seems logical there because after army’s operation in Waziristan in 2003-4, JeM had parted ways with establishment, except a small now-non-functional faction, and had staged attacks on Pakistan’s then president General Musharraf. Watch this space for a more detailed overview of JeM.

But just a while ago, a Srinagar based group United Jihad Council has claimed that the Kashmiri militants from ‘Highway Squad’ have carried out Pathankot attack. This seems to be a rapidly changing high pitched saga.

The painful truth is that the galaxy of nation-states that we are a small part of is not much inclined to believe what we say. It would, however, easily trust what is said of us. The most pressing of our to-do list items must be the maintenance of restraint, extending cooperation in nabbing the planners and going to the table for it would help us talk the banes away and negotiate basic code of ethics.

Pakistan must also stop being seen on the side of the alleged attackers. When we scream to the world that we are the biggest victims of terror, we must be seen doing something against the scourge. Not allowing these elements taking our image in their hands, as a starter.

A quick cost-benefit analysis of our moves might help.

One: After keeping a year of aggressive posturing, Prime Minster Modi has established himself in last few months as a peace-mongering, courageous and innovative leader. By supporting such an attack or protecting alleged attackers, Pakistan would prove itself to be rogue once again.

Two: With Foreign Secretary level meeting just days away, which is expected to fine-tune the agenda of Comprehensive Dialogue, Pakistan would be bringing terrorism at the top as opposed to its permanent priority, Kashmir. Avoid!

Three: A second attack within a span of six months in Punjab is going to make India increase its deployment on Punjab-Punjab border & LoC. Indian Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, has already made a demand yesterday for additional BSF deployment along the border. At the time when Pakistan’s forces are fighting under Zarb-e-Azb and things are heated up at the Western border too, this instigation should be the least favored option for a logical player that Pakistan army is.

While some sources in Indian media are saying behind doors that the intelligence about the attack actually came from Pakistan’s security agencies, some TV channels are directly accusing Pakistan’s COAS for having overseen the attack. “Pakistan sponsored terror” is the keyword on Indian media while it is overlooking inconsistent and illogical information about the attack.

This must not sway Pak-India. Media should not be allowed to direct the relations between countries. Pakistan must cooperate in nabbing the planners if they’re proven to be in Pakistan. Both the states should make sure that the dialogue must go on. Come what may.