Wo Chahte Hain Jaage Na Koiiiii, Ye Raat Ye Andhakar Chale Har Koi Bhatakta Rahe Yunhi, Aur Desh Yunhi Lachar Chale
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
SOME POSITIVES THAT HAVE EMERGED FROM PATHANKOT TERRORIST ATTACK
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 | Dr Rajeshwar Singh
Terrorism and Drug Smuggling are Siamese twins. Although both look in different directions, they move together in one direction. They support each other, they help sustain and strengthen each other andproceed with single-minded determination to move towards their goal.
In Punjab, their target is just one: Bleed India. This truism was once again displayed beyond any doubt in the recent Fidayeen attack on the strategic air base in Pathankot. Just as the dawn was struggling to welcome the New Year in the blood-curdling cold, a sinister, well-armed, well-trained and highly motivated suicide-hugging Fidayeen gang sneaked into the Pathankot air base, which housed, besides several ‘vital assets’, 10,000 family members of air force personnel.
The ease with which the Fidayeen could move in Pathankot and commandeer the vehicle of the district superintendent of police also speaks volumes of the collusion and deep-rooted criminal nexus between drug smugglers and the Pathankot police. While this nexus is well-known and needs to be somehow broken-easier said than done-it is not confined to Pathankot only but has its tentacles all over Punjab. Drugs are doing more damage to the youth and future of Punjab (and India) than terrorist bullets.
Although ill-informed media men and so-called ‘experts’ started tearing into the Indian response to the Fidayeen strike, their self conceit blinded them to the several positives that were exhibited by the Indian air force and counter-terrorist machinery that existed on the ground at the air base. When talking about any terrorist strike and the response of the counter-terrorism machinery, the fact that the 'element of surprise' is always with the terrorists has necessarily to be kept in mind. After every terrorist strike, the post-mortem that is doe in the entire media, specially in TV debates, just does nottake into account this 'element of surprise'. Naturally, this gives rise to a lot of misinformation being disseminated.
My intention is not to run down anybody or any thesis about terrorist strikes, it is my humble endeavour to give a few valuable tips to whosoever speaks, writes and discusses on TV suicide attacks. Urban terrorism is now a fact of life ans we have tio live with it. The dynamics and mechanics of terrorism are such that terrorist strikes will continue to take place, despite best precautionary measures. They just cannot be avoided as it is the job of terrorists to keep the pot boiling. The efficacy and effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies can be gauged only from the time it takes them to"neutralize" the attackers without substantial "collateral" damage. A lot of misconceptions and myths get circulated when all and sundrystart condemning the anti-terrorism machinery without taking hard realities into account.
The same was the case with the Pathankot air base attacks in which 7 innocent lives were lost. These deaths need to be condoled but what emerged crystal clear was the ‘quick response’ by the Defence Security Corps personnel.
It showed beyond any reasonabledoubt that even at that unearthly hour when the Fidayeen struck, the reflex action of DSC Jawan was A-grade. India should be proud of suchalert and brave officers and men. It showed that India has learnt itslessons in teaching Fidayeen a lesson of their lives.
Some of the myths that got circulated after the Pathankot strike were:
(MYTH 1) The casualties were very high.
FACT: (a) Only one Air Force Guard Commando was killed in direct combat with the terrorists; (b) In keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian armed forces, whose officers lead from the front, one NSG officer who died was actually accidental in nature. He died while defusing an explosive device;(c) the bulk of the casualties-five in all-occurred in the 'langar' (cook house) of the DSC Lines located near the outer perimeter wall of there air base. Though unfortunate, the five DSC Jawan died when they were not on sentry duty. They were actually off duty. Hence, the casualties can in no way be described as very high. In fact, they were minimal.
(MYTH 2) Why did it take so much time to terminate the operation?
FACT: The aim was to keep own casualties minimal. No casualty occurred, except that of the NSG officer who died accidently while defusing an explosive device, and the deaths in the 'langer' in the first fewminutes, there was no casualty after contact was established with theterrorists.
The operation was neutralize the Fidayeen was done in a very deliberate and meticulous manner to firstly avoid "collateral" damage in terms of own troops and vital assets like buildings and airplanes.
The operation was deliberately slowed down so that the type of weapons and firepower used by the Fidayeen could be calibrated andeffectively countered. Further, priority was accorded to cutting off all escape routes that the Fidayeen could take as the final aim was to catch them alive.
These orders had been given by the topmost officer supervising the operation, who was none other than the National Security Adviser tothe Prime Minister.
Mr Doval, a hard-bpoiled Intelligence officer. Critics who were raising a hue and cry over why it took so long to end the operation even when the Fidayeen were not many in number probably did not know that the air base is spread over 2,000 acres.
Naturally,the search and combing operations took a long time as they aredeliberately done very slowly and meticulously, avoiding all kinds ofbooby traps.
That the actual engagement (fire-fight) with the terrorists was actually for just 11 hours speaks volumes of the clinical manner in which this operation was carried out. In fact, it denotes a welcomestep forward in the war against terror.
Hence, by no stretch of imagination can it be said that the operation was either prolonged or took too long to terminate. The air base security staff need to becongratulated for securing all the valuable assets which were actually air borne within minutes of the sudden attack. This fact is not knownto many.
(MYTH 3): Why was it announced on the very first day that the operation was over?
FACT: The two terrorists were holed-up inside a building and they just could not move out or carry out any of their sinister designs as anair-tight cordon had been thrown around them. This encounter site was so tightly secured that the Fidayeen had no options but to either die or surrender.
They were finally neutralized on January 3. Hence, the operation, in a practical way of speaking, was actually over on the first day itself. Buty it was not called off as search and combing continued. It was the media which hyped it. Mopping up operationcontinued for a few days more.
(MYTH 4 ): Why were the Army's Special Forces not employed?
FACT: This was a blatant canard as the Special Forces were kept in readiness to move in any moment in case the need arose not just at the air base but at other military installations in entire Pathankot district.
(MYTH 5): Even when there was advance information about the Fidayeen attack, how could they enter the air base?
FACT: Security personnel were deployed to protect vital installations and assets in and around Pathankot, which has the distinction of being the largest cantonment in Asia and has several military installations.
Further, due to the tactical situation-- the exact location of the Fidayeen was not known nor was it certain whether they had already entered the air base-it was decided to first secure the vital assets and 10,000 civilians and dependents of air force personnel present at the air base. Due to this significant factor and criticality of time,it would have been counter-productive to first secure the 25-kilometrelong outer parameter. Hence, the main consideration was on securing the aircrafts, radars, anti-aircraft batteries. Ammunition/POL dumps, etc. This strategy greatly helped in countering and containing the Fidayeen.
(MYTH 6): There was no Centralised decision-making apparatus and also there was lack of synergy on the ground.
FACT: Nothing could be farther from truth than alleging that there was no Centralised decision-making and no synergy on the ground. Little knowledge is always dangerous and it was this lack of knowledge that prompted some critics to make this allegation and assumption.
The sudden Fidayeen attack would have taken a different shape if time was wasted in convening meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security and the National Crisis Management Committee of the Union Cabinet.
The criticism that there was no Centralised action or synergy on the ground is most unwarranted. An accurate reading of the situation and analysis of the intelligence inputs led to the pre-positioning of specialised forces on the ground to deal with the emerging threat andsituation.
On the ground itself, complete synergy among the forces was seen. Exemplary coordination was also on display which helped the security forces choose the firepower and type of resources to deal with theevolving tactical picture and requirements. Minute-by-minute reports were sent to the National Security Adviser, Mr. Doval, who, in turn, kept the members of the CCS duly informed.
(MYTH 7): Why was the Army not involved in the entire operation?
FACT: Nothing could be farther from the truth than this unwarranted criticism Perhaps lack of knowledge led to this allegation beingleveled. The real picture is:
NInfantry columns played a leading and vital role in the operation - maintaining a tight inner and outer cordon, providing fire support to the strike elements of the NSG, carrying out search and areasanitization operations inside the air base.
NArmy columns were mobilized on 01.01.2016 itself, well before the first contact was established with the terrorists at 03.30 hours on 02.01.2016. Since the afternoon of 01.01.2016, Army columns were assisting the local police in strengthening nakas and beefing upsecurity at the air base.
NThe first persons to be involved in formulating the strategy after news of the sudden attack reached the NSA were the Army Chief and the Air Chief who initiated the necessary actions. Both were present in the first meeting called by the NSA at 1500 hours on 01.01.2016).
N Lt. Gen. KJ Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command was in overall commandof the operation.
N The NSG contingent present at the air base consisted of 320specially selected and trained Army soldiers from the Special Action Group (SAG) - component of the NSG and Special Forces units.
The counter terrorism and counter hijack task force of the NSG was led by Maj. Gen. Dushyant Singh, IG (Operations), NSG, himself an Infantryofficer, who only recently relinquished command of an Infantrydivision in Jammu (and hence was intricately familiar with the general modus operandi of Fidayeen terrorists).
N The Army had deployed 9 Infantry columns (70 soldiers in eachcolumn) in addition to bomb disposal squads, engineering, medical element and casspier mine / armour protection vehicles.
Since we Indians will have to live and suffer terrorist strikes by ultras of all hues, we would do well to do our homework and collectall details before jumping in front of TV cameras and air all kinds of misinformation and lies about terrorist attacks as such utterances only go to help the terrorists, who need condemnation and not theforces fighting them at great risk to their life and limb..
(Dr Rajeshwar Singh, Formerly Police Officer of Uttar Pradesh Govt, is currently Deputy Director of Directorate of Enforcement).