Shocking security lapses in Pathankot

Shocking security lapses in Pathankot

The ham-handed handling of the terrorist attack at the Pathankot air base raises vital questions about the country’s preparedness to deal with such situations.

Quick credit was claimed for neutralising the terrorists on the very first day. But the operation against six terrorists who had entered the high-security air base has been continuing for the past three days. It resulted in the death of seven security personnel, more than the number of terrorists who had sneaked in. It turns out that even the limited praise that went to the security establishment was misplaced, and they do not deserve the congratulations that the government bestowed on them. In fact, even the government was misled, because it was prematurely informed that the operation was over on the first day. The home minister had to withdraw his announcement about the end of the operation after a few hours.

There was inexplicable delay in acting on the information about the presence of the terrorists in the areas near the air base. The account of a Punjab Police officer, who had been kidnapped by the terrorists and released in a forest, was disbelieved, and no attempt was made to follow up on his information. When finally there was some confirmation, which came from tapped phone conversations, an alert was sounded, but for many hours, the terrorists, who did not stray far away, could not be located. The fact that they entered the high-security air base so close to the border without any resistance is itself scandalous. There are theories about an opening in the outer wall and encroachment of the security zone outside the air base. These, or any other excuses, cannot justify the entry of outsiders in a base where aircraft were kept battle-ready. Better explanations have also to be made about the long time taken for the operation and for the high number of casualties of security personnel.

This confirms the perception that little has been done, in spite of all claims about national security reforms after 26/11. There are no proper security outposts on the coastal belt even now. Money has been spent on the police, but there are hardly any signs of capacity-building. NATGRID is still an idea. Training standards are poor. It was recently reported that the IB is short of strength and has cut down training time. The slow operation at Pathankot may be compared with the swift action of the French police which reached the venues of the recent terrorist attacks within minutes and finished the operation in two hours. There is much to go for the country in dealing with terrorism. 

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