Govt admits to communication mess during Pathankot op

Review team feels the need for proper strategy

Govt admits to communication mess during Pathankot op

 The government on Friday virtually conceded that communication break down led to much of the confusion during the Pathankot operations, victimising several officials in the process including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Singh had to delete his January 2 tweet congratulating the security agencies for killing five ultras after realising only four terrorists were killed and the operation was far from over as more militants were out in the open. The first set of congratulatory tweets from the Prime Minister and Defence Minister were also appear to be premature, as the operations went on for two more days.

The operation ended on January 4 and the first detailed account came from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who traveled to Pathankot a day later. Six militants were gunned down whereas India lost seven brave hearts and 20 soldiers were injured in the gun battle.

On Friday, Parrikar, Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and top officials from the defence and home ministries reviewed the operation and felt the need for communication strategy. “The need to have a better media communication strategy was felt,” a spokesperson of the Union Home Ministry said in a statement.

At the time of 24x7 television channel, flourishing social media and expanding print media, the ministers and NSA recognised the need for accurate and periodic flow of information.

“It was decided that in such incidents, media is best briefed by the authorised persons on the spot,” said the spokesperson. Arrangements for such briefings, including training of the officials, would be put in place to meet such contingencies, should they happen in the future. Officials from multiple agencies feeding information to their own network from inside the Pathankot air station contributed to the communication mess leading to a goof-up by the home minister, defence ministry sources told Deccan Herald. Top bosses from the National Security Guards, Border Security Force, Army and Indian Air Force were present in Pathankot.

The operation was carried out under the command of the Western Army Commander, whereas on the ground, the Army brigade commander was in charge, Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag clarified, countering reports of command confusion due to the involvement of multiple agencies.

Absence of a communication strategy and policy was also one of the lessons learnt from 26/11 when terrorists received undue advantages from live coverage of the terror attack in Mumbai, six years ago. Pathankot operation didn’t involve much live coverage as media entry was blocked outside the air station with an area of almost 1900 acres.

The government decided to carry out security audits of all military and paramilitary installations and improve the intelligence network in the wake of the Pathankot attack.

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