Thursday, 13 August 2020

Defenceless in J&K Powerless in Delhi

Updated: December 16, 2016 12:18 pm

What a shame, the fourth largest army in the world and second largest in Asia, cannot secure itself against the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, more so when it is happening  repeatedly. Lessons should have been learnt and loopholes plugged and security of army bases and camps should have been tightened so that intrusions could be pre-empted.

But in this year, four major attacks have martyred over 35 personnel. What dignity India is left with? Pakistan attacks our military bases, whenever it wants and strikes wherever it wants. After every attack high-powered committees, presided by either Home or Defence Minister, meets and discusses ways to prevent further attacks. Everyone is smug and happy. Until the next assault, the cycle begins again. If the Army cannot defend itself, how can it defend India?

Who’s to blame! The buck of course stops at the Ministry of Defence because unlike Pakistan, it is the civilian government which is responsible for the security of the country and of the people. But the Army cannot escape censure. There are similarities in all the attacks which bare the criminal negligence of the GHQ and the Commanding Officers in not properly briefing Jawans and the officers of all units in front line and prone to attacks from across the border.

In the first of the series of major intrusions this year which caused heavy casualties, terrorists entered the strategically crucial air-base in Pathankot, almost unchallenged. It is said the searchlight at the gate was turned inwards. How such a thing was missed by officers. The terrorists had hijacked the SP’s official car and enjoyed the security while being driven to the gate of the air base, where they walked in unchallenged wearing J&K police uniform.

They did not neutralise the SP– why they were so sure that he would not raise alarm? We are told that an inquiry was set up. If so, the report must have cleared the SP.  Both the Central Government and the GHQ must have been satisfied. So be it!

Compare Pathankot assault with the terror attack in Uri. Terrorists were again wearing the uniform of J&K Police. They reportedly walked 1000 feet inside unchallenged because the area was not lighted. Why? It is said that there is a wide and long stretch of uninhabited land opposite the gate. Why the terrorists could not be spotted?  In the recent terror attack in Nagrota camp of an Artillery unit the terrorists were again wearing police uniform. And they are supposed to have come in a Maruti car, was this the reason for the three terrorists to walk in unchallenged.

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Why is such a state of affairs at the higher echelon of the Armed Forces, the sheer negligence in not training the jawans and units’ officers to be able to respond quickly and effectively in emergency situations, especially, those at crucial bases and camps.

A retired Major General who has been in the 1971 war and served in J&K for number of years was angry and frustrated that training, motivation and leadership all are not attuned to the geo-political situation pertaining presently. He was also unhappy that the morale of the army was down, salaries are neither adequate nor promotions on par with the civil services. Impression has somehow been gaining that this government is for whatever reason is partial to the police force. But he said that at his time, the anti-India feeling was neither that strong nor that widespread. It is much easier for intruders to get local help now than in his time.

A retired Colonel who commanded a unit in Jammu went further and said he would not be surprised if the three terrorists who killed seven in Nagrota could be home grown. They came in a Maruti, and one has not heard if a report about a missing Maruti was filed. The Colonel could be right.

True in India it is impossible to keep track of sleepers, but an enquiry by military intelligence, at least in Pathankot, Uri and Nagrota attacks and along the route the terrorists came in should be conducted to flush out those who helped them. It should have a salutary effect.   But is it too much to expect from the present dispensation ? It is a mockery of concern for the security of our front-line bases and camps that even after 11 months, it’s not clear how many heavily armed terrorists trespassed into the base, supposed to have 3-tier security ring.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament there were six terrorists, four at one place while two started firing from another building. There was much chest thumping that the terrorists were prevented from reaching near the jets.

Recently, Minister of State for Home, Hansraj Singh contradicted his senior and said four Pakistan-based terrorists entered Punjab via Janial Road, Dhusi turn, near Ravi river bridge. He confirmed that terrorists came through the border manned by BSF.  To confound the confusion, BSF declared that there was no evidence of infiltration on Punjab border. A formal enquiry by BSF came to the same conclusion. The BSF Director General K.K. Sharma too contradicted and added that it was all a matter of conjecture. So who is telling the truth. Gabbar in Sholay asks Kitne admi they kalia, we who are not brigands but who have reposed confidence in the  government for our security are surely entitled to ask, Kitne admi they kalia—six or four.

With such nonchalance and equanimity, is it any wonder that in 2016, the infiltration by armed, highly trained and motivated terrorists has gone up by 100 per cent. According to the figure given in Parliament, 90 attempts to infiltrate were made in the first six months of this year of which 54 were successful.

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One expected that lessons will be learnt after the attack on the Pathankot air-base. But we always underestimate the languidness and overestimate the concern for the prestige of the country both in the Government and the Army Top Brasses in the South Block.

The high number of casualties in the Uri terror attack could be attributed to the fact that a large number of soldiers, from the Dogra Regiment, had been stationed at the camp in tents and other temporary structures. Some of these tents caught fire during the attack, and the fire spread to other parts of the barracks. The soldiers had been stationed there as they were turning over from a tour of duty.

Those who were supposed to be on watch, were reportedly brushing their teeth. A Major General said that a tent with more than five soldiers is and must be secured by an armed guard who are changed after eight hours. If there had been a security guard the casualty would not have been so high.  The terrorists reportedly infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and might have entered along the SalamabadNallah into Uri.

This attack came two years after terrorists carried out a similar type of attack at Mohra, in the same region. Ten security personnel were killed in the attack that took place on December 5, 2014.The same evening on the day Uri attack took place in the morning, both Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar rushed to Delhi and held high level meetings to evolve system or set up a structure to effectively neutralize terror attacks.

Naturally we cannot be privy to what transpired at these two meetings presided over by senior ministers. But what we know is that within two months of the terror attack on the camp in Uri, three heavily armed terrorists dressed as policemen could enter unchallenged an Artillery unit camp, about three kms from the headquarters of the 16 Corps at Nagrota  a town on the Jammu and Srinagar highway. About 40 kms from Pakistan border it is a gateway for pilgrims to Amarnath and also to Katra from where climb to Vaishnav Devi temple starts. In a separate gunfight 70kms from Nagrota in Chamliyal area in Samba, three infiltrators were killed a senior BSF officer (possibly a DIG) and five jawans were injured.

This latest incident should be the proverbial last straw for the Army. How long can such humiliating attacks to be tolerated from Pakistan on our air base, artillery and infantry camps, first in the chain of defence and security aparatus. The British built cantonments and command headquarters across the length and breadth of the country. India as per the imperatives of the geo-political situation has added to the military locations and air bases.

Retired Army Vice Chief Lieutenant General Philip Campose spoke to CNN News18 and said that the tactics used by terrorists has been the same since 1990s. He also mentioned that the government needs to bring in technology into the armed forces. He said that he was a part of the over-seeing army establishments and admitted that there are a lot of loopholes in the system.

He suggested that the local authorities and the army needed to be on the same page.He repeatedly told India needs to come up with a strategic plan to tackle terrorism and Pakistan.It was suspected that the terrorists had help from some insiders and the local police might also have helped. This is suspected by many, in fact a serving Lt. General said if the valley uprising lasted three months and stopped because of demonetisation, the most fundamentalists could, or rather would, turn to sabotage all plans India envisagesand join in all anti-India subversive activities sponsored by Pakistan.

This means India cannot hope for a let-up in terrorists intruding into India. More so they have been allowed by our forces to have a free run and achieve their objectives to some extent. Remember the saying, we have to be lucky all the time but terrorists have to be lucky only once. Is there any excuse left for letting Pakistan-sponsored four assaults within a span of less than 10 months on supposedly most guarded air force, army and artillery units, strategically located, in the front to engage the intruders or take the offensive across the border.

The evidence of utter carelessness or better call it callousness of   India’s security establishment was provided when despite warning by Intelligence, no extra alert or precautionary measures were taken which could have prevented the lethal attack in Nagrota.  Later the authorities denied that the Intelligence had warned and said it was all very vague. Our security establishment will act only if ISI sent them the time, route, and the target to it      “In Pathankot and Uri, or in Gurdaspur and Udhampur before them, perimeter security was clearly not of the standards that ought to exist in a region hit by one of the world’s more lethal Islamist insurgencies. In other countries, gross failures of this order would lead to an investigation of errors made, and the assignation of responsibility.”

In India, there will be high-level meetings, and there will be all hush-hush, the public will move on – until the next attack. Every attack not only humiliates India but reveals to the world our utter unpreparedness and lack of determination to respond in the manner that Pakistan stops such terror activities.

“Perhaps just as important, the attack ought to be a lesson in the perils of the kinds of braggadocio that has characterised Indian security policy these past months,” wrote a columnist. “Following the cross-LoC strikes in October, planners should have foreseen an escalation in both infiltration and terrorist violence — Pakistan’s inevitable tactical response to Indian pressure. Instead, Indian leaders spoke as if a single series of limited actions had silenced the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate for good, and allowed themselves to be beguiled by their own rhetoric.” A senior official sought justification for latent weakness in responding to terror attacks, ‘We Indians do not have the spirit of Jihad in our DNA. We can’t just go and start firing’.

This officer had not heard a much decorated Lt. General explain the psyche of a jawan as he rushes into battle “He fights first for his country, then for his unit leader and then for his unit.  “He does not worry about his life, otherwise he can’t fight. I have seen young Leginents and Captains rush forward if they find some jawans hesitating to go further.” When asked he said our jawans are not jihadis they are motivated to kill the enemy of his country and not to commit suicide.

The only way to stop the humiliation of the country which affect its stature in the world and the loss of young lives is to fix accountability. Someone or some people have to answer why 40 young ones, who had dedicated their lives for the security of their country were burnt in a tent or died fighting intruders who should not have been there if the security establishment had done its job and the government fulfilled its responsibility to safeguard the freedom and prestige of the country. We have seen Lal Bahadur Shastri and Madhavrao Scindia,  both exceptionally good and honest ministers resign owning moral responsibility. Someone has to go, before people start saying go, for country’s sake go!

by Vijay Dutt       

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