Pathankot questions

Fighting at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot has come to an end, leaving in its wake a contentious debate on what went wrong, and why. This is exactly as it should be. Improving the security of our republic demands that hard questions be asked, and answered. First, there is the question of just […]

By: Express News Service | Published: January 6, 2016 12:48 am
Pathankot terrorist attack, Pathankot Air Force Base, India-Pakistan peace talks, pathankot security, pathankot operations, pathankot martyrs, pathankot rescue operation, terrorism, pathankot news, india defense, india news, latest news Saturday’s terrorist attack on the Pathankot Air Force Base has left readers demanding better security in place for such critical establishments. (PTI Photo)

Fighting at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot has come to an end, leaving in its wake a contentious debate on what went wrong, and why. This is exactly as it should be. Improving the security of our republic demands that hard questions be asked, and answered. First, there is the question of just how six men, carrying tens of kilograms of ammunition and explosives, succeeded in entering an airbase protected by high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire. The base’s perimeter had no electronic counter-infiltration equipment. It relied, instead, on the ageing personnel of the Defence Security Corps (DSC), recruited from retired army personnel. The ease with which the perimeter was breached clearly calls for an independent review of security arrangements at other defence facilities. Second, even though dozens of military facilities housing over 50,000 trained troops are located in Pathankot, there was no area-wide emergency-response plan to deal with attacks. Thus, the reaction to intelligence warnings was ad hoc, with just 50-odd troops and 150 National Security Guard personnel given the task of defending against an attack that could have taken place at multiple military facilities scattered across many square kilometres. Finally, neither the police, responsible for the streets, nor the DSC, tasked with base security, had received specialist counter-fidayeen training. Local police personnel, like their counterparts across the country, do not even have the chance to attend a firing range once a year.

It is imperative that a serious debate take place on these issues — not because it may embarrass ministers and high officials, who rushed to declare victory before the fighting was done, but because the cost of failure could have been unacceptably high. If the terrorists, located by air force helicopters and interdicted by DSC personnel, had the few minutes to move just another couple of hundred metres before detection, the damage could have been far greater, and India could even have found itself pushed into a confrontation.

Luck, as much as some good management and courage, averted a larger disaster at Pathankot — but national security is too serious a matter to rely on the gambler’s gods. In coming weeks, the government must be compelled to give a full account of just what went wrong, and Parliament must push for it to produce a clear roadmap to address the deficits that are revealed. From Operation Bluestar to the Kargil War, and from the 1993 Mumbai bombings to 26/11, governments have glossed over failures of equipment, procedure and leadership, in order to shield high officials from accountability. The results are before us. This government came to power at the Centre promising to take national security seriously. Telling Indians the truth is the necessary first step.

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  1. A
    A k
    Jan 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm
    At one hand government say that there were inputs of attack on Pathankot air base, even than our system failed to contain and liquidate these intruders properly and precious lives of our army were lost . It is a serious lapse on part of concerned commanders . A thorough enquirer in all these aspects be done .
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    1. P
      pkpk
      Jan 6, 2016 at 4:49 am
      Integrated field commands and Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff in Defense Ministry, available to PM for emergency advise is the need of the hour. Politicians don't have to worry from the Chairman as he would be chief of defense staff and not the supreme commander. Obviously the appointment has to be the senior most defense officer like Cabinet Secretary on civil side. Since he would be equal to the cabinet secretary in political structure, having direct access to PM, Babus would put all sorts of hurdles in this re-structuring but national interest should be paramount. USA, China and India are projected to maintain biggest standing armed forces in next 20 years. It is high time, Indian political leaders start a serious discussion on re-organization of military in contemporary WORLD. Here is one of the option USA is successfully maintaining over a century: RE-ORGANIZATION OF MILITARY/CIVILIAN COMMAND STRUCTURE: There should be only 5 commands (NOT as Army, Navy or Air force but all three integrated) - Northern Command, Western Command, Eastern Command, Central Command and Maritime Command (including Strategic Command). Eastern Command will include areas right up to South East Asia. Western Command will include areas up to Russia. Maritime Command will include areas up to West Asia including Arabian Sea, India Ocean, right up to Australia. Northern Command’s area will be limited but Kashmir itself is very important and areas in China (Tibet) and Mona can be included. Central Command will contain all strike formations of Army/AF and all erstwhile area/sub area headquarters. All 5 commands should be commanded by a 4 star general from army, air force or navy, who will report to Joint Chiefs of Staff (4 star general but a higher appointment) deputed by another 4 star general. Both Joint Chiefs of Staff and his deputy will report to the defense minister and their offices will be in Defense Ministry and PMO. Prime Minister will be connected to all 4 star commanders in field by a hotline. There should be a situation room in PMO where regular meeting of top br of security apparatus can take place. Current service chiefs of army, air force and navy will remain in service headquarters to maintain and inter command transfers of the forces, however the military commanders in field will exercise the command and control over the forces under their command. Instead of one defense secretary, there will be secretaries each for army, air force and navy to exercise civilian control.The above model will ensure complete civilian control over military, yet the highest level defense decision maker (PM) in touch with matters military and national defense. Imagine our PM calling the field military commander directly on hotline, eliminating all red tape. There will be no more inter-service acrimony and all forces will jointly responsible for national security! If you ask for the opinion of service headquarters, that may be biased.
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        V.S.Malhotra
        Jan 7, 2016 at 12:09 am
        It is not only a serious but a very very serious lapse. Many people have said so. Please give this matter an equally serious thought and give us the benefit of possible solutions.
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          V.S.Malhotra
          Jan 6, 2016 at 5:39 am
          Pathankot episode is a very disturbing signal of a possible future tragedy awaiting us all and the observations made in the editorial are a timely clarion call sounded by the Indian Express for consideration and for taking immediate appropriate action. Yet this is a clarion call not only for the government but it is an equally urgent call for all of us no matter what part we are playing in the society. This is so because the people who now consute the government did not fall from the sky. They arose out of us all including you and me. They will therefore usually apply to their duties as part of the government, the atudes and behaviors we as members of the society have built into them. So though the editorial is very right in asking the government to come out truthfully the lapses made on the part of some of its consuent organs which enabled the attackers to succeed in entering so easily ‘an airbase protected by high concrete walls, topped with barbed wire’, it is equally necessary for us all to contemplate why we on our part could not instill in these would be governing personnel the right type of atudes and capacities as a first step while they were being groomed for handling public duties.
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