Too many cooks spoil the broth

After analysing various terror attacks in India, including the recent one in Pathankot, it is evident that our security establishment’s readiness to defend and prevent such strikes is well below par. It is high time the Government of India pulls up its socks. Everyone had praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statesmanship after a recent visit to Pakistan, where he held talks with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. However, the recent terror attack on an airbase in Pathankot has turned everything upside down and raised several questions.

The ground operation in Pathankot had turned out to be the longest ever counter-terrorism action anywhere. But the results have been very disturbing. This is the first terrorist attack before which our intelligence agencies had received specific information. Unfortunately, the entire system failed to act in time. Why couldn’t the local police do anything? Why did the police and security force fail to understand the motive of the attackers? These are some questions that remain unanswered. 

It has been observed that governments have always deployed different security agencies to counter terrorists. Such instances prove the well said proverb “Too many cooks spoil the broth”. More than hundred security and police personnel were deployed to fight against six terrorists in Pathankot. 

Despite the availability of the Indian Army, Border Security Force (BSF), and local police, the National Security Guard—a Special Forces unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)—was deployed. But the end result was the loss of seven brave Indian soldiers. 

There was apparently no clear-cut responsibility assigned to anyone. The operation was carried out without any proper leadership. Although a clear pattern emerges from similar terror attacks in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, it is clear that the security forces have not yet learnt anything. 

The attack on the Pathankot air base raises a serious point of concern. Certainly it has cast aspersions on the readiness of our security forces in counter-terror operations and the soundness of our internal security structure. The inaction of the local police is yet another point of serious concern. Despite receiving prior intelligence from its local superintendent, why didn’t Punjab police take any timely action? Meanwhile, the actions of the abducted SP and his cook should be analysed. Were there any lapses on the part of our security forces, including the local police? 

It is a pertinent question that remains unanswered every time such incidents occur. Instead of addressing such questions, the state machinery goes into damage-control mode. Why can’t the system be made robust to handle such situation instead of reacting after something happens? The demise of Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan Kumar of the National Security Guard to a booby-trap is unacceptable. The Army knows this ploy well and approaches terrorists’ bodies in Kashmir with caution, knowing the terrorists’ dying act could have been to activate a grenade and lie on it.

This was the second terror attack in the span of one year. Earlier last year, terrorists had attacked Dinanagar town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, leaving seven people dead. Reportedly, the Indian Army had sounded an alert and placed two columns and a special forces team at the Pathankot base prior to the attack. However, all these efforts went in vain. Similar instances of intelligence failure stare from the past. 

Does it mean our security forces do not have a coherent plan to tackle such types of emergencies? Can an inference be drawn that the Indian mechanism fails to deliver results under pressure? 

Apart from the Pathankot incident, there have been more than a hundred small and big terror-related incidents reported from the Kashmir Valley area in 2015. More surprisingly, statistics shows increasing security personnel deaths compared to that of the militants, a reversal from what was seen in previous years.

Even, global figures show that the number of people killed in acts of terror reached a record high last year. According to the third edition of Global Terrorism Index 2015 (GTI), India ranked 6th out of 162 nations most affected by terrorism in 2014. Data tells us that Indian security personnel are increasingly falling prey to terrorists, as they do not possess adequate systems to handle such situations. Whether it is in the execution of any combing operation or the diffusion of a live bomb, everywhere our security forces lack the proper objective and advanced technology. 

The Pathankot incident has sent out very clearly lessons to the Indian government. The continuous spate of terror incidents also tells us that such attacks are not going to stop. After this incident, there is a serious need to consider whether the International Border on the Punjab side also requires sanitisation like the one on the side of  Jammu and Kashmir.

India needs to put its armed forces might on the cutting edge of 21st-century military armament. Whatever the army and security forces need, they must be well-equipped and trained with the modern techniques and infrastructure. At this moment, none of the Indian forces is battle-ready.

(The author is a Delhi-based freelance journalist. Views expressed are strictly personal)

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