The aftermath of every terrorist strike witnesses a blame game. The case of the Pathankot attack is no different. The liability needs to be fixed and for that we need to await the result of the investigation that is being conducted by the National Investigating Agency.
Until such time, the need of the hour is to stop the blame game and re-strategise. Blaming the Border Security Force does not give the Punjab police a clean chit, says V Balachandran, the former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and a member of the High Level Committee which enquired into the police performance during 26/11 Mumbai.
In this interview with OneIndia, Balachandran says that the Pathankot incident must civil and defence security stronger and the time now is to re-strategise.
The scenario is no different and there is a full-fledged blame game on. What are your views on this?
The blame game must stop. The fact that the BSF is being blamed does not necessarily give the Punjab police a clean chit. On the other hand the BSF should have taken care to ensure that there was no malfunctioning of the thermal imagers along the border.
How do you think the terrorists must have infiltrated with such ease?
In my experience, I would think the drug smugglers may have helped the terrorists infiltrate. Drug smuggling is rampant on Punjab border and there is a possibility that terrorists might have bribed their way repeatedly with their stock of arms, posing as drug carriers for storage in secret dumps.
The gaps need to be plugged and it is only now that a high level joint BSF-Punjab Police survey was conducted to plug the riverine gaps near Ujh and Tarna rivers which are 50-60 meters wide.
What do you think of the response by the security personnel?
I think we must compliment out security personnel for saving our vital air assets.
You were part of a commission post 26/11 to analyse the police performance. What is your assessment of the Pathankot attack?
I would say that there was an improvement where the quick dispatch of the NSG commandos was concerned. During the 26/11 attack there was a delay in dispatching the NSG. There is no doubt that the presence of NSG at Pathankot had contributed in a big way in blunting the attack of terrorists who could have otherwise gone on a rampage.
What are your thoughts on the version given by the Gurdaspur SP who was abducted by the terrorists?
His version seems incredulous. He claims to have been gagged and tied up by the terrorists before they hijacked his official vehicle. Pakistan trained terrorists do not show that type courtesy.
My professional experience tells me that it is a long standing rule in all states that police vehicles should be driven only by official drivers. In this particular case, the SP's friend was driving that vehicle. What exactly they were doing in this area when there was a state wide terror alert?
What should be the strategy now?
After the 26/11 attack the Government was compelled to create more NSG hubs and ask the states to train their own SWAT teams. Even that does not seem to have been adequate as the flushing-out operations at Pathankot air base had started only after the NSG had arrived.
When the Mumbai police found themselves incapable of handling the 26/11 attacks they immediately summoned the army and navy SWAT teams.
The Pathankot experience should make our civil and defence security managements to realise that better-trained SWAT teams are needed at more strategic places so that they do not have to wait for the NSG to arrive.