Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on Wednesday put up a vociferous defence of government’s counter-terror operations in Pathankot, saying that the Army was in control of it and he personally monitored the situation.
The defence, however, raised several questions including contradiction between claims of the Air Force and the government. The chief’s statements also went against the observations of security experts, including many retired generals, about the failure in putting up a security perimeter by the Army.
“As far as Army is concerned it was not under anybody, it was under Army Commander, Western Command. There were other agencies like NSG, Garuds, police, and intelligence agencies. He was (Army Commander) the one controlling the operation,” Gen Singh said at the annual press conference ahead of Army Day.
Stating the Army Para Special Forces were also present on the ground, he said, “On the ground it was the Army Brigade commander who was controlling the operation.”
Contrary to reports that the Army came in late, Gen Suhag said Army columns were deployed both inside and outside the perimeter within few hours of the intelligence alert after which no one has breached the base. “Army columns were deployed inside and outside the perimeter within 2-3 hours after the alert. No one came inside after that,” he said.
This raises further questions as to how the terrorists got inside and gives credence to reports that they came in prior to January 1 when the specific alert was received. It also goes against the Air Force version that the entry of terrorists was monitored by thermal sights on UAVs. He added that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is probing the incident would determine how the terrorists sneaked in.
Officials have been defending the conduct of the operation saying that strategic assets had been secured and only one soldier was killed in actual combat. However there is no clear answer to the fact that the perimeter was breached despite having prior alert and seven personnel lost their lives with the operation itself taking four days.
Gen. Suhag said he gave three instructions to the Army Commander which included security of assets, safety of families and to carry out deliberate operations to minimise casualties. “There was no deficiency in coordination. There was total synergy in operations,” he added.
On the role of Pakistan in the attack, he said the terrorists were clearly from Pakistan based on the markings on medicines and other things and said “involvement of Pakistan will be known after the investigation”.