Pathankot terror attack: Playing between army and civilian establishment unmindful of the consequences for the nation

Screen shot 2016-01-06 at 12.18.03 PMBy Shantanu Basu*

The balance sheet of le affaire Pathankot does not appear to tally for the following reasons:

1. Why was a Punjab Police district SP traveling without his gunman and driver? Why were his cook for company and a jeweller friend at the wheel of the SP’s official car in the midst of nowhere that too in the wee hours of the day? Was it an official vehicle at all? What was it doing at that site at that unearthly hour without its usual complement of personnel? If the vehicle had a GPS tracker, has that been examined by Police HQ to track this vehicle’s movements before its alleged waylaying?

2. Why was the army with its extensive mass-scale terrorism fighting skills honed over the decades fighting militancy, not called in to defend the air base? Why the NSG that is essentially a hostage rescue force?

3. The hallmark of a fidayeen attack on a sensitive air base would normally be expected to be sheer simultaneous overwhelming and coordinated pincer movement to target personnel living quarters, fuel storage and ATC that would paralyze the aircraft on the ground without any need to destroy them. In other words, to cause the maximum havoc and destructive impact within the space of say 4-6 hours. Isn’t there something odd about the fidayeen operating in twos and threes, that too as if by turns, as if mocking our security forces to come and find them (hide ‘n seek) over close to 48 hours? Not just that, media reports say a large cache of IEDs, explosives, etc. has having been recovered from the killed terrorists. Then why did these terrorists not use such large explosive power for the optimum destruction at once for maximum impact? Further, no committed fidayeen would use an Indian police phone to communicate with his handlers. Pre-paid Pak international SIMs must be commercially available for this purpose or even sat phones. The fidayeen entered India on Dec 30 say media reports. And it takes barely 15 minutes to fill a form with a digitally created unsecured EPIC on the Indian side of the LAC for a desi SIM. Is this infantile tale of using the SP’s cellphone believable?

4. Why is it that the security of this base was left to an overaged DSC and air force commandos? Why were military platoons from nearby army units not moved to encircle the base when intelligence alerts were available at least 24 hours in advance? Why was the NSG team not even provided with basic life-saving suits and equipment, even a defence service ambulance, normally available at all air bases, to carry their fatally wounded to hospital?

5. The sole evidence that points to the involvement of a new Jaish Council, apparently found in a letter in the SP’s vehicle (?). Nor has the media, domestic or foreign, received any communication from the Council directly admitting their complicity. How then did India conclude that there was Pak involvement when such letter suffers from a patent crisis of credibility?

6. India’s PM returned from his sudden visit to Pak just about a week back. Surely this was no overnight magnanimity? I find it difficult to believe that the Pak army would engineer this attack within a week of the visit when they matched magnanimity with magnanimity at Raiwind, albeit at the probable behest of an obvious unseen hand that has historically funded Pak most liberally. Is that why there is no return to the frozen position before Raiwind? Is that also why India’s top most political establishment has done not much more than lip service to this latest attack?

7. India has procured several Israeli drones in recent months, ostensibly for border patrolling. Were these drones deployed for securing this base? If not, why? Moreover, there are wireless intrusion detection devices that can be monitored centrally, even aerially by drones, on sensitive perimeter fencing. If these were available, how did the terrorists mange to hide for a reportedly full 12 hours (in broad daylight) before launching their attack at 3:30 am? Besides, perimeter patrolling must have covered the base over a span of 12 hours. Why did the patrols miss any breaks in the perimeter fencing?

8. Kargil owed its genesis to the then NSA refusing to believe conclusive and crystal clear aerial footage provided by its own external intelligence agency, instead relying on army border scouts who claimed they saw no infiltrators. Likewise, the Myanmar raid was shrouded in secrecy and media reports that followed proved that there was precious little to crow about since all the raided camps were abandoned by the army’s targets. The reports were never denied. In both cases it was the NSA at the centre of the controversy, playing between the army and the civilian establishment unmindful of the consequences for the credibility of the nation.

basu9. Last, I may clarify that I remain stoutly Indian in my core beliefs with unalloyed loyalty to my nation.

*Indian Audit and Accounts Service (1984) at the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Source:


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