Overhaul of anti-terror systems urgently required

The Pathankot terror attack has yet again bared several infirmities in the security system. No two opinions about that. Bungling was written all over the Indian response. First, the fact that the terrorists could intrude without being challenged deep inside the Indian territory across the Punjab border made it plain that the border is poorly guarded. Whether it is electric fencing, more guard towers and more border security, the authorities will have to bolster defence on the Punjab border.

The terrorists who might be finding it difficult to cross over to the Indian side from the Line of Control in the J and K sector, may now have found an easier route to infiltrate from the Punjab side. This needs to be fixed on an urgent basis. Which means more funds and a bigger deployment of security forces in Punjab as well.

Notably, this is the second intrusion by the jihadis into Punjab, and virtually in the same Gurdaspur-Pathankot region. Given that the security forces are present in greater strength in J and K, especially in the Valley, if India feels obliged to augment vastly their deployment in Punjab as well it would be a victory of sorts for Pakistan insofar as anything that inflicts costs, financial, military, etc., serves the anti-India designs of that country.

Two, aside from the fact that a group of fully-armed terrorists could walk deep into our territory,  that at least twenty hours separated the hijacking of the Gurdaspur police officer’s car and their penetration of the high-security Pathankot air base underlines the gross failure of the security forces. Why wasn’t the air-base further fortified with a cordon of military personnel even after it became known that a group of terrorists was on the loose is a vital failure.

Clearly, there was poor coordination between the local police, the intelligence services and the military brass, including the commanders of the Pathankot air base. Three, it is claimed that the Intelligence Bureau had warned about the terrorist attack a good 24 hours before it happened. How come no precautionary steps were taken, especially when it is commonsense that the air base in the region would be a natural target?

Four, even when the intelligence agencies heard the terrorists talk to their handlers on the phone about the attack on the Pathankot air-base a good two hours before they actually managed to gain entry there, even if they did so wearing fake military uniforms, it underlines the total lack of preparedness and, presence of mind of whoever was supposed to be in charge of the anti-terror operation.

Five, announcing the successful end of the operation and the elimination of the intruders exposed the amateurishness of those in-charge, given that at least two intruders were still holed up inside the base and exchanging fire with the security forces. Even Prime Minister Modi was wrongly informed about the end of the operation by National Security Adviser A. K. Doval. The NSG should try and maintain a low public profile and a high degree of professionalism in his given official remit.

For, the Pathankot operation was bungled from the word go. At the time of writing, the security forces were still trying to neutralise the terrorists. A number of Indian fatalities would have been avoided had there been better coordination, and the control of the anti-terror operation transferred immediately to the commander of the air base. Delays and confusion result from a lack of coordination, thus giving the terrorists vital time to carry out their cowardly mission.

Meanwhile, the proposed meeting between the two foreign secretaries scheduled for mid-January ought to proceed as planned. Also because it would afford a direct opportunity for India to take up the latest provocation from the jihadi factory, which has overt and covert support of the highly-placed elements within the Pakistani establishment. It is hard to believe that the mighty Pakistani army cannot switch off the tap of terror if it really decides to.

The Rawalpindi GHQ does not convince anyone when it pleads its helplessness in controlling these ‘non-state actors’ masquerading as jihadis on its soil. Though nothing will be gained by calling off the dialogue process, which had received a big boost following Modi’s unscheduled Christmas Day stopover in Lahore, it should be appreciated that if such terror attacks continue even Modi will feel obliged to terminate engagement with Pakistan.

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