Did the Pathankot operation take too long?
The operation in Pathankot against suspected JeM terrorists is complete and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has begun its probe into the cross-border conspiracy of the dastardly attack. The leading investigation agency has to untangle the terror plot and answer several unanswered questions. The NIA Director General Sharad Kumar has already termed the investigation ‘challenging’.
Firstly, how the terrorists, armed with AK-47s, under barrel grenade launchers (to fire mortars) knives and 40 to 50 kilograms of bullets and four dozen magazines, hoodwinked the BSF and the thermal cameras at the border to infiltrate into the Indian territory?
Secondly, how did they manage to enter the highly secured IAF Station particularly when the security was significantly enhanced following multiple advance intelligence information and alerts that the terrorists would target military installations?
Thirdly, there are inputs to suggest that the terrorists had local helpers in nearby Gujjar dominated villages, who they are.
Fourthly, did the terrorists had a mole inside the air base who helped them prepare for the attack?
Fifthly, whether Leading Air Craftsman Ranjith KK, befriended by ISI spy girl Damini McNaught on Facebook, played a role by passing on sensitive information about the Station.
Amidst all the cacophony questions have also been raised on country’s security forces. So many people are asking as to why the security forces took so long to eliminate the terrorists in Pathankot. The casualty figure of Indian armed forces (7) too looked bigger than that of the terrorists.
The fault-finders are busy slamming the security set up by saying it was his inept supervision which turned the short counter terrorism operation into a fiasco. While it would be correct to say that despite one day advance intelligence we couldn’t prevent the terrorists from entering the forward base, but the initial lapse was well rectified later.
The security forces have successfully achieved the objective of protecting high value IAF assets like the MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft, MI-25 & MI-35 attack helicopters and civilian lives inside the Station.
The political leadership too has expressed satisfaction that the damage to air force assets was fully avoided. As Arun Jaitley, who attended the high level meeting at PM’s residence puts it, “Our security forces were completely successful in averting damage to the strategic assets in the base.”
If the forces had not acted swiftly, the terrorists would have penetrated deeper into the technical area and gone ahead with their likely objective to detonate the ammunition dump, damage the high value assets and massacre civilian population inside.
Unfortunately, the four DSC (Defence Security Corps) men were totally unarmed in the kitchenette when the terrorists confronted them. Even then DSC Havildar Jagdish Singh bravely pounced on one terrorist, overpowered him quickly, snatched his rifle and neutralized him instantly. However, he sustained gunshots by other terrorists.
The Garuds (IAF Commandos) too did well to timely secure air assets from the terrorists. IAF Commando Gurusewak Singh’s valorous effort will long be remembered as played a crucial role in preventing the terrorists from going to the technical area.
With the NIA questioning SP Salwinder Singh, his friend Rajesh Verma and the cook and saying that the statements given by him are repeatedly being verified owing to some “contradictions”, the larger plot leading to the attack is yet to come to the fore.
Defence Minister Manohar Parikar’s statement is worth mention here- “I can see some gaps but I don’t think there is a compromise on security. The army cannot perform civil duties to set up check posts on the passages.”
Once the terrorists were encircled by security forces, the situation was under control to a large extent. After the accidental death of Lt Col Niranjan Kumar, security forces were issued instructions to meticulously handle the situation, ensure minimum loss of lives and collateral damage.
The 32 year old officer from the NSG’s bomb detection squad was martyred while defusing an explosive from a terrorist’s body. The forces also wanted to capture at least one of the 5th and 6th terrorists alive for crucial leads into the terror plot- one of the reasons the operation was carried out slowly. Reliable sources have informed that a group of commandos also tried to establish contact with one terrorist but he hurled grenade at them.