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Monday, 4 January 2016

From Today's Papers - 04 Jan 2016

Op Pathankot continues, so does confusion
No clarity on number of terrorists after firing, explosions inside Air Force base in ‘afternoon’; martyrs’ toll climbs up
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
Indicating that it was unsure of how many terrorists were holed up in the Pathankot air base premises, the Centre today said that the security forces had contained two terrorists in a specified area, besides neutralising four of them. Yesterday, the Punjab DGP had put the figure of those gunned down at five.

The counter-terror operations continued for the second consecutive day and the forces would be able to sanitise the campus by night, as the operation was in its last leg, the government hoped. There was no news of that till last reports came in.

Editorial: Stay the Lahore course

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, at a press conference, refused to take questions on the contradiction between his claim that the “operation continues” and that of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who yesterday said in a Twitter post that the operation had ended with the killing of five terrorists. Rajnath, however, later deleted his Twitter post.

Mehrishi said, “We are sure that still there are at least two more terrorists as firing has come from two places. But we are not sure whether there are some more. We will come to know the number of terrorists only after completion of the operation and body count.”

While confirming that four terrorists were killed in the gunfight yesterday and the firing resumed today afternoon at two places in the air base, Mehrishi, when asked repeatedly about the Home Minister’s tweets, said, “I am giving you authentic information and I don’t know what others are saying.” Denying any lapse on the part of the security establishment, he said, “Some casualties are obvious when there is an operation of this scale.” He said so far there were seven casualties — six Air Force men, which included five Defence Security Corps personnel and a Garuda commando, and one NSG officer, Lt Colonel Niranjan. Eight IAF personnel and 12 NSG commandos were also injured.

Asked when the operation would be over, DG (Air Operations) of IAF Air Marshal Anil Khosla said they were not sure about that.
Curious case of Punjab SP: When victim is a suspect too
Jupinderjit Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, who was “let off” by a group of terrorists who had kidnapped him, remains at the centre of the investigation into the Air Base attack.

“I am a victim in the terror incident and I am being wrongly accused of misconduct in my personal life. I am clear and an investigation, if any, will prove it soon,” he told The Tribune.

Salwinder also lodged _an FIR at the Narot Jaimal Singh police station _about his kidnapping _last evening.

Salwinder said he was not in the detention of any security agency, after his reported questioning all day yesterday.

A departmental Sexual Harassment Committee headed by an IG-rank officer had visited Gurdaspur last week after five women constables, posted with the district police, accused him of sexual harassment. A senior official involved in the inquiry said the SP was transferred pending further inquiry and on administrative grounds to PAP, Jalandhar, two days before the terrorists waylaid him.

It is ironical that the SP_is a prime witness as well as a suspect, considering the coincidence that he was travelling on the route taken by the terrorists in the wee hours.

While being questioned on his kidnapping claims, investigators are also probing his personal conduct.

Pathankot SSP RK Bakshi, however, said that Salwinder was a complainant and not a suspect, “He is neither an accused nor a suspect. The other complaints against him are unrelated with the Pathankot police or with the terror attack.”
Intelligence alert came on Dec 26
Mohit Khanna

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 3
“Fifteen terrorists have sneaked into India to carry out some major attack on New Year.” This message was sent to all police districts by DGP (Intelligence) Anil Kumar Sharma on December 26, six days before a group of terrorists waylaid a Punjab Police SP.

If the Intelligence input was indeed credible, the terrorists remained in the area for a long time and went untraced despite the alert.

Despite this alert, which senior officials term a general alert, the terrorists were able to kidnap a police officer and take away his blue beacon SUV, besides another Innova, and attack the Air Force station.

Sources said IG (Counter Intelligence) Pramod Ban had spoken to the SSPs of various districts, especially border districts, to work on the inputs.

“We get such general alerts. The information was not specific about Punjab. Still, we took it seriously. We intensified night patrolling, set up more ‘nakas’ and increased general vigil. More force was alerted when the SP incident came to light,” an officer said.
Commando from Ambala who fought till end
Suman Bhatnagar

Ambala, January 3
Garnala village near Ambala City went into mourning soon after hearing the shocking news of Gursewak Singh, who attained martyrdom in the Pathankot terror attack yesterday. The village wore a sombre look as most shops remain closed.
The body of the martyr would be airlifted from Adampur (Punjab) to Ambala air base this evening for the last rites in his village. Deputy Commissioner Ashok Sangwan said the martyr would be cremated with full state honours. Gursewak served the Garud Commando Force, a Special Forces unit of the Indian Air Force in Adampur.

Even as people mourned the death of Gursewak, his father, Sucha Singh, said he was proud of his son’s supreme sacrifice for the country. He said he got the information about the martyrdom of his son from his elder son, who is also an Army officer. Later he confirmed the incident with senior officers of the Garud Commando Force.

Sucha Singh said Gursewak was very intelligent and cleared the Air Force exam in his first attempt six years ago after completing his graduation. His idol was Shaheed Bhagat Singh, he added.

Gursewak is survived by his wife Jaspreet, to whom he was married around one and half months ago, parents and an elder brother. Gursewak’s village friends could not believe he is no more as it was just last Sunday they had met him. One of the village youths, Amarpreet, said Gursewak was very bold since childhood and he never wanted to face defeat in the life. Heath Minister Anil Vij visited Gursewak’s residence today to share the family’s grief.

Haryana to give Rs 20 lakh

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday announced financial assistance of Rs 20 lakh to the next of kin of Gursewak Singh, a resident of village Garnala in Ambala, who was killed in the Pathankot attack. He said martyr Gursewak Singh has done the state and the country proud.

In a condolence message, the Chief Minister expressed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and prayed to the Almighty that the departed soul might rest in peace. “Brave soldiers of Haryana have always defended the borders of the country and never hesitated to sacrifice their lives for maintaining the security and integrity of the country. Such brave men sacrificing their lives for their country remain immortal and their sacrifice always inspires fellow countrymen,” the CM said. TNS
Pathankot, a tactically important air base
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Located on the northern tip of Punjab just about 40 km from the India-Pakistan international border and close to the Punjab-Jammu and Kashmir-Himachal Pradesh inter-state boundaries, the Pathankot Air Force Station is a tactically important base.

Part of the Western Air Command, it is home to No. 18 Wing, currently being commanded by Air Commodore JS Dhamoon.

The 108 Squadron “Hawkeyes” that fly the MiG-21 fighters and the 125 Helicopter Unit “Gladiators” that operate the Mi-35 helicopter gunships in support of the Army are based here, besides a Pechora air defence missile squadron and other auxiliary outfits.

The air base is spread over 75 acres and in November 2006, a civil enclave attached to it for commercial flights was inaugurated in November 2006 by Praful Patel, the then minister for civil aviation. However, no civilian domestic flights operate from this airport.

The air base saw action during the Indo-Pak wars. It was the target of Pakistani special forces during the 1965 War though no real damage was done. An air strike was launched on it by Pakistan in 1971 in which part of the runway was damaged.

It has also seen mobilisation during other operations such as Safed Sagar during the 1999 Kargil conflict and Parakram in 2002 after the terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001 as well as training exercises.
NSG Lt Col among seven casualties
High number of fatalities raises concern
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
A Lieutenant Colonel heading the National Security Guards’ (NSG) bomb disposal squad was among the seven fatalities in the terrorist attack on the Pathankot Air Force station. Five NSG commandos were among the 20 who sustained injuries.

The high number of casualties and injuries despite “specific Intelligence inputs” is being viewed in security circles with concern. Particularly a senior officer of an elite counter-terrorist force losing his life during sanitisation operations. A commando from the IAF’s Garud special force, Gursevek Singh, was also killed.

Lt Col Niranjan E Kumar was commissioned into 10 Engineer Regiment in 2004 and moved to the NSG on deputation in May 2014. He leaves behind his wife and an 18-month-old daughter. The last rites are scheduled to be performed at his hometown, Palakkad in Kerala, tomorrow.

The mortal remains would be airlifted to Bengaluru and thereafter ferried by road.

A tweet by the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, stated that the officer was killed in “mopping-up operations”. Reports suggested that the NSG casualties occurred due to an explosion from either an IED that the terrorists were carrying or a booby-trapped body that was moved by them. One of the NSG jawans, Bhoop Singh, who sustained serious head injuries, has been airlifted to Chandigarh.

Hailing from Ambala, IAF commando Gursevak had been hit during the initial gunfire. He carried on fighting and later succumbed to his injuries. He got married a month ago.

Most of the other fatalities were from the Defence Security Corps (DSC), a branch comprising retired armed forces personnel who are reemployed for undertaking guard duties at military establishments. They included 51-year-old national shooting champion Subedar Fateh Singh and Hav Kulwant Singh, both of whom were from Gurdaspur, and jawans Jagdish Singh and Sanjiv Kumar. One of the DSC jawans had chased a terrorist and killed him with the terrorist’s own weapon before falling to fire from the other intruders.

While the management of entry points into military stations is controlled by the Military Police, Air Force Police or Naval Police, as the case may be, along with armed active-duty personnel, DSC personnel are deployed on secondary duties such as guarding buildings and manning internal check-points. They are distinguished from the regular services by their khaki uniforms.

Some security experts also pointed out that specially trained dogs could have been deployed for sanitising operations. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police has recently started training “commando” dogs, referred to in service parlance as Smart Mopping Up Dogs (SMUD), for sanitising encounter sites and hide-outs by sniffing out possible mines, IEDs or booby traps.
JeM militants planning attacks in Delhi?
Tribune news Service

New Delhi, January 3
A day after the Pathankot attack began, two Jaish-e-Mohammad militants are suspected to have sneaked into the national capital and planning high-profile attacks, including taking hostages. The Delhi Police received specific intelligence input about the presence of militants.

Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi today held a meeting with his senior officers and discussed the matter, said the police. The Delhi Police has sought the assistance of paramilitary forces in securing vital installations in the national capital. The police have been given companies of paramilitary forces in this regard.

Security has been strengthened at the Delhi airport, railway stations, bus stands, markets in south and central Delhi and VIP areas. Delhi Police’s special units, Crime Branch and Special Cell, have also been made part of the security arrangements.

Bassi also took to Twitter to request the citizens of Delhi to be alert. He tweeted, “Citizens’ vigil against suspicious persons/ objects/ activities is vital to counter terrorism. Report anything amiss at no. 100 or helpline 1090.”

Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi district) MK Meena said, “We have given instructions to ensure round-the-clock checking. Officers’ leave have been cancelled. Counter-terrorism measures have been put in place. Security around railway and metro stations has also been beefed up.”

Earlier today, the Delhi-Lucknow Shatabdi train was stopped for a search in Ghaziabad and other trains were also halted after the northern Railways was alerted about a possible bomb threat to trains running between Delhi and Kanpur.

“We received a call from the railway control room in the morning in which they said that they had received information about a potential bomb threat on a train plying between Delhi and Kanpur,” a police official said.

Several security personnel are checking passengers and their luggage at the entry points and the platforms of the railway stations. Extra vigilance has been placed at the areas, where the parcels to be transported by trains are kept.
Stay the Lahore course
Modi is being tested but must contain the hotheads
It took just eight days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise stopover in Lahore for the inevitable to happen. And it was big. As the security forces battled to quash the threat, public opinion is being stirred against his judgment about rebuilding bridges with Pakistan. The Pathankot attack was exactly meant to do that — bring hostility surging back in the narrative of Indo-Pak ties. The relationship was about to be rescued from institutional vendors of negativity. Now Pathankot has happened.

In the context of both countries trying to turn a new page, the attack and its intensity should not have been a surprise. There are elements on both sides with a vested interest in keeping the pot boiling. After about 16 months in office, the Prime Minister seemed to have put aside his own cultivated hostility towards Pakistan and, for now, overruled the hawks in his security establishment. He seemed to be coming to terms with the axiom that domestic and foreign policy imperatives do not countenance permanent hostility as a workable strategy.

The Opposition’s initial reaction to the Pathankot was reasonable. Apart from stray pot shots, the Opposition commended the security forces for their fortitude and desisted from hauling Modi over the coals for going to Pakistan. While the road to restoration of civility in bilateral diplomatic ties will be a long haul, Modi should  try to neutralise the domestic obstructionists wanting to inflame and incite Indian public opinion against Indo-Pak dialogue in the wake of the Pathankot attack. The challenge before Modi, if the Pak opening was not another headline grabbing moment, will be to control the hotheads within his Parivar as well as build bridges with reasonable sections of the Opposition to isolate the spoilers. The wreckers who carried out the hits in Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Udhampur will return like a bad penny. Modi will need to curb his own instincts for abolsute power  and his colleagues' practiced machismo to build political consensus and steer India towards a constructive engagement with Pakistan. He is being tested. He must stay the Lahore course.

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