Chronicle of an attack foretold

Chronicle of an attack foretold
Chronicle of an attack foretold

New Delhi

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]N[/dropcap]ow that the Pathankot operation is over, the Government will have to seriously look into security lapses that could have led to a major tragedy and international embarrassment for India. The Indian air force has ordered setting up of a Court of Inquiry to go into the lapses even as there is an attempt to pass the entire blame on the Punjab police, which undoubtedly failed the nation in a big way.

If an IAF man from an air force is passing information to the ISI, then you don’t need to be a Sherlock Holmes to tell you that the neighbor was planning a strike on air bases in the state.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday admitted to “some gaps” that led to the terror attack. Addressing a news conference after a visit to the forward base, he said, “I see some gaps. But I do not think there is any compromise on security.”

Following are nine crucial lapses that need to be probed.

  1. The arrest of spies: For the last three months, a number of IAF men and Army personnel have been caught for spying for the ISI. Two such spy networks were busted on November 30 and on December 28. In both cases, their interrogation showed they passed crucial information about strategic assets, troop deployments along the Pak border, and Air base strength. Incidentally, the `honey-trapped’ IAF personnel Ranjit, was arrested from the Bhatinda air force base, which is just six hours drive from Pathankot. These increased ‘spying’ activities and involvement of defence personnel in them should have rung alarm bells for the security establishments in India. If an IAF man from an air force is passing information to the ISI, then you don’t need to be a Sherlock Holmes to tell you that the neighbor was planning a strike on air bases in the state. The security of Pathankot air bases along with Bhaitnada should have been increased long ago.

  2. No sign of police presence: By Defence minister’s own admission the terrorists were carrying 40-50 kgs of bullets, mortars, which were fired from modified Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher besides some magazines. How did they bring in some such huge ammunition in a sensitive zone?

  3. Inaction on intelligence inputs:There have also been regular inputs from interception of telephones that JeM was planning attacks in India. The calls were intercepted during the two months. Border Security Force, which guards the Indo-Pakistan border, was alerted a fortnight ago and asked to enhance security to check possible infiltration.

  4. Warning ignored: The daring hijacking of Gurudaspur SP’s car by the first batch of four militants should have alerted the Punjab police. After all, in several recent cases the militants adopted the same modus operandi. They would snatch a vehicle, drive it to nearest point of attack, abandon it, and then take the next step. But the Punjab police ignored the warning signs and treated the entire incident as an attempted robbery. Between Thursday late night when the SP alerted the Police and issuance of alert about a possible attack on Pathankot air base, several crucial hours were lost.

  5. SP’s role: An SP of the Punjab police posted in sensitive district can’t be expected to go back and sleep if his superiors ask him to return the next day to register his complaint about the hijacking of his car by suspected militants. Such a senior cop should have approached his superiors and alerted them about the terrorists. Why did he not do that?

  6. Security Breach: While the militants dumped the SP and his cook after while, they took their fellow passenger Rajesh Verma with them. They later wounded his throat and dumped him just a kilometer from the Pathankot air base. There must have been some breach in the security cordon because the militants seemed to have walked into the air base from there undetected.

  7. Communication gap: On Saturday evening, the government gave the impression that the operation was over. Home Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated forces on “successfully neutralizing” all the five terrorists in ‘Pathankot Operation.’ This shows that there was complete communication gap between different stakeholders involved in carrying out the operation. The operation was still on and only four of the six terrorists were killed! The minister later deleted his tweet. Who was responsible for wrongly briefing the minister?

  8. Delayed Army deployment: The first information that the terrorists might have infiltrated in the air base came around Friday afternoon to the Punjab police. But there was an inordinate delay in deployment of army even though a full cantonment is located just 10 kms from the Pathankot air base. The army was pressed in the operation only on Saturday.

  9. Casual approach: There was an obvious lack of coordination at the Government level. Prime minister Narendra Modi remained in Bangalore and Mysore for two days when the Operation was on, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in North East while Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was in Arunachal Pradesh. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who never misses a chance to visit his home state Goa, was in Panjim for New Year’s celebrations. He returned to Delhi on Sunday and the next day went to Bengaluru to attend an HAL function.

Navin is a senior journalist with years of experience in covering India’s Capital city. His keen observations and ability to create the big picture from disparate pieces of information is invaluable.
Navin Upadhyay


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