Time for questions on Pathankot

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:21 am IST

Published - January 07, 2016 02:33 am IST

There is much relief as quiet finally returns to Pathankot. However, the immediate questions that need to be asked are about the way the security operation was carried out from the moment a specific intelligence alert came to the Centre about the possible targeting of the Pathankot airbase. >This newspaper has already reported that by Christmas , a foreign intelligence agency had passed on a tip-off about terrorists planning to attack the base. Was that not treated with seriousness because most intelligence alerts do not mean anything? Is the response a reflection of the poor quality of general intelligence alerts? On January 1, early morning, the abducted Superintendent of Police, Salwinder Singh, reported to the local police that his vehicle had been snatched. By afternoon >, the government at the Centre had confirmation about the presence of terrorists in Pathankot. What the security establishment did from that moment raises several questions. A meeting chaired by the National Security Adviser and attended by, among others, the chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, decided to rush NSG commandos from Delhi. How did they take that decision, when it was clear that an airbase had to be protected and terrorists could be anywhere in the district? Does this reflect the poor thinking of senior members of the security establishment? Or does it hint at autocratic decision-making in New Delhi without professional participation?

Over the last few days, the government has been making a desperate effort to defend the course of action that was followed in fighting terrorists. From informal briefings in New Delhi to the formal briefing on Wednesday evening by Lt. Gen. K.J. Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, the government has been putting up a spirited defence of the operations. Gen. Singh admitted that the first to react to the terrorists were the DSC (Defence Security Corps) and Garuds, but added that the second contact was the Army columns. >As Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar did on Tuesday , Gen. Singh claimed that there was total operational synergy, and he justified the time taken by saying that forces had to be applied sequentially, and not simultaneously, and they were also careful to avoid a hostage situation and other eventualities. However, all this does not answer the basic criticism by military veterans and security experts: despite the Pathankot airbase being at shouting distance from thousands of Army soldiers trained to deal with terrorists, why were they not even called in to provide perimeter security to the base? >What was the need to send the NSG into a military installation where the Army’s para commandos and quick reaction teams would have been more familiar with the terrain? Why was the operational command not handed over to the senior-most Army commander on the ground? The answers should not only inform decisions to hold those responsible accountable for the mis-step in operations, but also lead to an upgrade of existing protocols.

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