Modi’s drop-in at Lahore was security risk: experts

Security experts say the guard of honour to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Lahore stopover did not follow protocol.  

The intimate >reception accorded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his >“drop-in” at Lahore on Christmas day was an uncomfortable spectacle to many security experts, reviving memories of the attack on Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 during a guard of honour in Sri Lanka.

As Mr. Modi came down from an Indian Air Force aircraft at the Allama Iqbal Airport, lining up on either side of the red carpet were men of the Pakistan Air Force. With traditional Heckler & Koch G3 rifle mounted with a six-inch bayonet, >the personnel stood on either side , hardly a couple of feet away from the two Prime Ministers.

A former Protocol Officer told The Hindu that nothing about the Lahore visit fitted into any rule book. It was a completely impromptu visit, he said. “We don’t have a protocol for drop-ins.”

Another officer who handled protocol during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Lahore visit in 1999 recalled that “we preferred Bhangra to the ceremonial welcome by the armed forces”. “As Indians, we remember the incident involving a Sri Lankan soldier at a guard of honour for Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on July 30, 1987.”

On July 30, 1987, a day after the India-Sri Lanka peace accord was signed in Colombo, the then Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was hit with the butt of a rifle by Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni, a Sri Lankan Navy sailor, as Mr. Gandhi was inspecting a guard of honour. Recalling that moment, security experts, too, sounded a note of caution.

“It is very strange. When I saw him [Mr. Modi] walk past the Pakistan Air Force personnel along with Nawaz Sharif on the red carpet, what struck me was the Rajiv Gandhi moment,” Maj.Gen. (retd.) Ashok K. Mehta, who served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, told The Hindu. “The spontaneity of the visit clouded everything else,” he said.

Another retired Army officer Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal said that while the reception for Mr. Modi was arranged in haste, the use of bayonets could have been avoided.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 5:05:04 PM |

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