The Indian state is facing a new form of threat that has started after India broke Pakistan by actively supporting the creation of Bangladesh. Everybody knows ( as mentioned by General Musharraf in an interview) that Indian special forces were operating inside East Pakistan along with the Mukti Bahni, months before actual war broke out.

This breakup of Pakistan was in my view a Pyrrhic victory as the Indian political leadership seemed to have caught a tiger by the tail. Another fact that has negated the Indian stand is the passing away of a decisive leader like Indira Gandhi and her son  Rajiv Gandhi and their replacement by men who lacked their strategic sense and world view.

The Pakistan defeat and breakup has had a traumatic effect on the Pakistan army and millions of Pakistanis, who want revenge. A conventional war with India is not likely to  bring the desired results, hence the Pakistan political and military leadership has decided to try and bleed India with a 100 cuts. This has led to a terror movement and attacks by Fedayeen fighters on Indian assets.

One of these attacks is the latest one on a high value target in Punjab, the important airbase at Pathankot. This was an operation perhaps conceived in Pakistan, but the Fedayeen who attacked were a dare devil lot and were ready to die and embrace a life in the next world. Against such a dedicated lot the Indian response was not professional and for once one can't blame the political leadership, but the security establishment where the role of Ajit Doval needs to be pointed out. This man who is an IPS officer and later joined the intelligence Bureau was the biggest weak link in this entire operation and an operation that  should have been over in 4 hours took 4 days. This has been adversely commented upon by foreign military experts and commentators.

I have also analysed this operation and concluded that the Indian security aparatus is rusting and creaking and there seems to be no plan how to tackle such problems even after the dastardly attack on Mumbai on 26/11.

The Operation

The facts of the incident are well known.  We now know that perhaps 6 or 7 heavily armed and motivated fedayeen infiltrated into Punjab with the intention of attacking the air base at  Pathankot, which houses the MIG- 21( Bis) and Mi-25 and M- 35 attack helicopters.

The fedayeen "abducted" a SP of the Punjab police , but inexplicably released him. This rouses the needle of suspicion, that this man was perhaps a conduit for some action by the terror group.

The Fedayeen could easily penetrate the base and as per reports remained inside for a full 24 hours without any action by the Indian security apparatus, despite intelligence inputs being available with the Chief Security Advisor, Ajit Doval. One of the reasons is that the most military establishments as well as Pathankot airbase are guarded by the DSC( Defense Security Corps). This consists of retired soldiers from the army, who have just been given some employment so that they can earn a living. In real terms they are a demotivated lot and many are old and useless. They are the wrong persons to guard any senstive installation. Most of them also cary the First World War .303 rifles which are breech loading and unfit for combat with trained opponents who carry sophisticated weaponry like the AK -47 and 56. The DSC are thus the first line of defence and are woefully lacking in both motivation and training and thus almost redundent.

Despite information being available with Ajit Doval, he decided to use his own apparatus to neutralize the Fedyeen. He overlooked the fact that the Pathankot belt has almost 50000 army troops spread out  and could have been used. All he asked for was 2 columns of army troops for back up operations. This is hard to reconcile as the army which has been fighting insurgency in Kashmir and Nagaland for decades was the best bet to fight the terror group.

An examination of the profile of Ajit Doval will show that he was unfit to take charge of such a operation. Firstly, to command troops in a counter insurgency operation is a different game from sitting in an arm chair and sifting intelligence information. Doval all his life was an IPS officer and responsible for such mundane things as traffic control, crime and law and order. Later he joined the Intelligence Bureau and retired as director. The job in the intelligence Bureau is one of collecting and interpreting information and does not involve actual operations. Thus poor Doval in real terms had no idea as to what it means to fight the Fedayeen in a counter insurgency operation. That was the reason he failed to hand over the operation to the army.

Ajit Doval perhaps wanted to corner all the "glory" of killing the fedayeen and  as part of his plan airlifted 150 commandos from the National Guard from Manesar from Haryana. These commandos were rushed to Pathankot and had no knwledge of the region, its topography and environment. It took them many hours to get acquainted with the topography of the region. Ajit Doval thus committed a cardinal blunder by handing the operation to the NIS and keeping the army out. He was assisted by the DSC which as I have pointed out are not the best form of defense.

The NIS could make no headway and the result is that a Lt  Colonel  was sacrificed. Losing such a senior officer was by itself a blow. After 4 terrorists had been killed, it was Doval who informed the Home Minister that the operation is "over". Nothing could be more silly than this as the operation continued for another 2 days  and the Home Minister Rajnath Singh had to cut a sorry figure, as he had tweeted his congratulation on this operation.

Doval lost precious time and at the end of the 3rd day asked for Army help. The army has had counter insurgency operation for decades and should have been called in at the first sign, especially as it had over 2 divisions in the area.  This shows that Doval had no comprehension of conduct of an operation. One wishes he had at least taken lessons from the 26/11 attack which also dragged on for 6 days. The Israeli's ( who lost many of their citizens) were highly critical of that operation which they felt should have been finished inside 6 hours. Doval needed to have studied the operations of Israeli and American outfits.One really can't blame him as he was a man unfit for the job. It's about time we stopped scraching each other back and say he is a " old wise war horse" and such euphuisms which lead nowhere.

The fact is this operation again brought out the incompetence of the security establishment. It's about time people like Ajit Doval are confined to intelligence work and the job of security advisor handed to a professional soldier who has handled battle hardy troops. Pakistan has also removed a civilian as security advisor and replaced him with a professional general. The Security Advisor appointment should not be thought off as an alternate appointment avenue for IPS. Incidentally Doval retired from the IB in 2005. Why can't he be sent home ?

Lessons

Lessons have a meaning if they are to be followed.One had assumed after over 250 deaths and the botched up operations on 26/11 in Mumbai, the security operations would be better. One will recollect it took 11 hours for the NSG to move in to attack the terrorists, holed up in the luxury hotels at that time.

There also is a need to re-evaluate the role of the DSC. They need to be disbanded or at least used for other duties than guard sensitive installations like Radar stations and air fields. The government must think of alternate avenues of employment for retired soldiers. 

Secondly there seems no comprehensive plan and the security advisor is an untrained man. There is a need for a professional soldier to head this senstive appointment. The reaction time also needs to be looked into, as of now it takes over 24 hours for action to begin. The US forces can act anywhere in the world inside 2 hours. At least In India we should be able to react inside an hour, which is a lot of time. The fact is India is labeled as a soft state . Perhaps it has something to do with the Hindu ethos where everything is left to the allmighty.


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