Army chief General Dalbir Singh rejected on Wednesday criticism of poor coordination among different agencies during the recent Pathankot air base siege in the wake of growing calls to fix accountability for confusion during the anti-terror operation.
At an event in the Capital, the army chief also said his force was not under anybody’s command, except the western army commander, attempting to quash rumours of a tussle for control of the operation between the National Security Guard, the army and air force.
“Lessons definitely need to be learnt from the Pathankot operation but it will be premature to elaborate before the National Investigation Agency probe is over,” Singh said.
The army chief also dodged a question on the reasons behind the operation running long, saying the matter was “best left to commanders on the ground who did a splendid job”.
A group of six suspected Pakistani terrorists crossed the border and entered the strategically-important Pathankot air base in Punjab on January 2, killing seven soldiers before being neutralised.
But several questions were raised in the wake of the massive confusion about the number of terrorists and the state of the counter-terror offensive that saw home minister Rajnath Singh declaring the operation over and deleting the tweet hours later.
“Coordination among different agencies wasn’t lacking during the Pathankot operation. There was total synergy. 560 soldiers were part of the operation and a team of Special Forces was also deployed,” Singh said.
He also dismissed criticism of the NSG’s deployment in the situation, saying the elite forces were called in as the government feared hostage situation developing in an air base that houses over 10,000 people.
“All army commanders ordered to carry out comprehensive security audit of key military installations across India,” he said.
Singh said the 26-hour siege of a building near the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif was not connected to the Pathankot attack.
Questions have already been raised about the role of the Border Security Force after the alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists exploited gaps in Indo-Pak border security to sneak into Punjab before infiltrating the high security base.
Singh also said he was deeply concerned about terrorists breaching the Punjab border.
“Terrorists are breaching the Punjab border as LoC counter-infiltration has been tightened in J&K, they are exploring new areas to sneak in,” he said.