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Monday, 25 January 2016

From Today's Papers - 25 Jan 2016

Trust deficit poor way to counter terror
The growing trust deficit and one-upmanship not only amongst the security agencies but also individuals responsible for security-related matters is a matter of concern. A cursory analysis of the two recent anti-terrorist operations in Punjab drives home this point.
A typical post-terrorist strike scenario is re-enacted time and again in our country. The attack on the Air Force Base (AFB), Pathankot, despite available prior intelligence  brings to the fore the same weather-beaten shortcomings; poor intelligence sharing, lack of coordination and standing operating procedures between security agencies, command-and-control problems, inadequate and inappropriate equipment etc.

Availability of early and actionable intelligence is the start point for effective counter actions but has seldom been provided by intelligence agencies. In the case of Pathankot air base, prior intelligence was available but timely dissemination to  security agencies concerned was definitely not done. A clear indicator was the confused planning and inappropriate response. At what stage the BSF was provided (or not provided) this information/ intelligence is not clear. Now to expect them to admit and pinpoint undetected infiltration is very unlikely and mere conjecture.

The terrain along the International Border (IB), especially the stretches of the riverine terrain, is vulnerable. The shortcomings have long been assessed and requisite counter-measures should have been in place. We repeatedly shut the stable gate with moth-eaten wood, thereby providing a recipe for reoccurrence sooner rather than later.

The Air Force and the Army were also clearly out of the dissemination loop. Nothing could be more telling than the fact that the terrorists managed to breach the perimeter of the AFB and the Defence Service Corps personnel were caught napping, busy with their daily chores. The early induction of the NSG and late arrival of the Army on the scene is clearly indicative that the latter had no initial information. The delay in dissemination of real-time information available with the Punjab Police (PP) to the military is unpardonable.

The flaws at Gurdaspur were distinct; complete lack of intelligence enabled the terrorists to reconnoitre and ensconce themselves in a building before the police reacted. The Army was requisitioned by the civil authorities but strangely they were not permitted to get into action. as evidently the DGP, PP wanted to prove his credentials and that of his force in handling such situations.

This one-upmanship took toll of precious time and human loss as the DGP drove down from whereever he was and the Army columns just stood by twiddling their thumbs. Post the operation, amidst much bravado by the police SWAT personnel and the din of loud cheers, the poor conduct of the operation and the wasteful act of not utilising the Army were forgotten. Also, since the state did not allow the National Intelligence Agency to investigate, opportunity was lost to take remedial measures.

At Pathankot, a high-ranking police officer was kidnapped under mysterious circumstances. As he yelled blue murder, no heed was paid to him for almost 14 hours. Was it sheer disbelief or trust deficit within the police force (affected by the past nefarious conduct of the police officer in question) or an effort to cover up some tracks? Post this operation, the Deputy Chief Minister's statement that there is a need to strengthen the deployment of the BSF along the India-Pak border in the state and the intention to make Punjab Police a second line of defence carries merit.

However, for this to fructify while the onus of upgrading the BSF troops is on the Home Ministry, for Punjab Police to change tack lies with the state government. The foremost need is to make a dramatic shift in the present work culture of the state’s police — from a “Politicians’ Police” to a “Peoples’ Police”. They need to reorient their intelligence grid (upwards from the village level) in close coordination with the Army and BSF intelligence setups and neutralise the drug nexus (reportedly involving politicians, central and state police forces personnel, rich businessmen and the smugglers’ cartel).

This requires additional manpower, which is readily available if the politicians are willing to reduce the number of police personnel on their protection duty (which basically fulfils their desire for personal aggrandisement) and the red, blue and orange lights culture! Availability of manpower will allow the police to train better and perform wholeheratedly their duties, particularly patrolling and traffic control.

The problem of command and control between various security agencies is perennial. The BSF, or for that matter all CAPFs and even a paramilitary force like the Assam Rifles, officered by Army officers, function under the Home Ministry. These seldom agree to function under the Army and are always looking back towards their line of command rather than operational requirements. Repeated display of one-upmanship in handling such situations at the Centre’s  level definitely shows a trust deficit in the Army.

Like in Mumbai 26/11, also in Pathankot, the National Secuirty Adviser (NSA) took the call to send in the NSG ahead of the Army. The NSA has an advisory role but he seems to be moving to an executive role against all norms. The roles of the Army vis-a vis the NSG, are clear and criss-crossing of turfs only adds to confusion. Nothing could be more flawed then remote controlling a situation like this, sitting at Delhi without any knowledge of ground realities. In calling in the NSG, no lessons seem to have been learnt after Mumbai 26/11, where vital hours were lost in getting the NSG into the act. No attempt was made to requisition the trained Infantry battalion located close by at Colaba or for that matter, to drive in infantry troops from Pune. At Pathankot it was a repeat. Again time was lost in flying in the NSG; whereas the immediate call should have been to rush in troops from the large trained force of infantry available close at hand; or, to fly in the crack special troops at Nahan.

Forgotten was the fact that all Infantry battalions are well trained and capable of handling varied terrorist-related situations. Even in peace stations, especially in the vicinity of the International Border in sensitive areas like the Pathankot corridor, the vulnerable areas or points are identified, operations planned and rehearsed with quick-reaction teams on standby. An enhanced surveillance grid can be established in a very short time. The AFB, Pathankot, without doubt is an important vulnerable area, so keeping the Army out of the loop made no sense.

One-upmanship showed up between ministries too. The Home Ministry was at the forefront, with the Ministry of Defence visibly on the backfoot. While the Defence Minister blows hot, the Home Minister shows a carrot.  Handling of grave situations cannot be done in such a lop-sided way or to prove a point. There is no shortcut to unity in security matters. For comprehensive national security, turf wars and parochialism has to be shed, issues of command and control have to be resolved without delay.

A must is NSG must be headed by an Army officer and immediate intelligence sharing with those who have to act on it. Requirements of hi-tech equipment have to be met. For this, the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has to be created. We need to move from trust deficit and one-upmanship to mutual trust and unity.

The writer is former Commandant, IMA & ex-Chairman, PPSC.
Army officer’s car stolen from Delhi


 Less than 24 hours before the scheduled visit of French President Francois Hollande at Lodhi Estate’s Alliance Francaise De Delhi, the theft of a car bearing a defence sticker nearly 650 metres from the venue sent the Delhi Police into a tizzy.

The car, owned by an Indian Army doctor and carrying a Defence Services Officers’ Institute (DSOI) sticker, was stolen from Lodhi Road on Sunday afternoon.

Police officers confirmed the theft and also the fact that there were no CCTV cameras or added security deployment in the area where Mr. Hollande and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to visit on Monday. The area houses several ministerial bungalows and other vital installations.

The stolen vehicle, a white Santro (registration number: HR 51, T 6646), belongs to Dr. Col. Shailendra Singh from the Army, who was visiting the Lodhi Garden with his family. “Mr. Singh reached the area around noon and parked the car outside the Lodhi Road post office, opposite gate number 1 of Lodhi Garden. When they decided to leave around 2.45 p.m., they could not find the car and lodged a complaint with the police,” said a police officer.

Fearing a security breach, the police immediately sounded an alert in all the districts. The car had not been traced till late Sunday evening.

This is the second incident raising security concerns in the National Capital Region in less than a week. On January 20, the official vehicle of an Indo-Tibetan Border Police Inspector General was stolen from outside his residence in Noida’s Sector-23. A similar security alert was issued by the Delhi Police on Friday after the driver of an Alto car hired from Pathankot was found dead in Kangada.
The Indian Army Special Forces Undergoing Amphibious Training Will Tell You How Tough They Are
The Indian Army Special Forces stand amongst the best in the world. They are highly skilled, excel at operating specialized weapons and are equally deadly in water and air as they are on land.  
All these skills are of course not learned in a day. It takes years of brutal war-like training regimes and focused grit to never give up. The Special Forces Training takes our commandos all over the world to train with other specialized units. Lately though, in the wake of relentless terror attacks our commandos have been training with the US Special Forces. Here are some stunning pictures from their latest joint amphibious training with US Army Green Berets that will blow you away.

Indian MARCOS diving from the recently acquired Chinook helicopters from the US Army.

This Joint training exercise was called ‘Vajra Prahar’.

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