With uncertainty looming over the upcoming Indo-Pak foreign secretary-level talks in the wake of the Pathankot terror strike, army chief General Dalbir Singh on Wednesday blamed the Pakistani army for derailing the peace process several times.
“It has done it a number of times in the past. I am not saying it in this (Pathankot) connection,” Singh said when asked if the Pathankot strike was an attempt by the neighbouring army and the ISI to disrupt talks.
Asked if the army could pull off covert operations to destroy terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Singh said his force was ready and competent to carry out any task assigned to it.
His comment came on the heels of defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s remark on Monday that any individual or organisation harming the country should be made to suffer the pain for their actions and “how, when and where should be your choice.”
Singh said 17 terror camps were active in PoK, down from 42 a few years ago due to mounting global pressure on Pakistan.
Six Pakistani terrorists stormed the Pathankot fighter base on January 2, killing seven soldiers before being neutralised. Questions were raised about India’s response and the operation running too long, but Singh asserted there was no lack of coordination among the agencies and the operation took time to ensure fewer casualties.
“There was complete synergy among the agencies,” he told reporters at his customary media briefing ahead of Army Day on January 15.
Asked why the operation took four days, he said the matter was “best left to commanders on the ground.”
Singh said the army personnel were not under anybody’s command, except the Western Army commander, seeking to dismiss reports 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 Pathankot,” he said. But he was quick to point out that it would be premature to elaborate on the issue before the National Investigation Agency completing its probe.
Singh brushed aside criticism of the NSG’s deployment, saying the force was called as there were concerns about a hostage situation at the airbase that houses over 10,000 people.
He said the motive of the attack was to inflict “maximum casualties” and trigger “media hype.”
Singh said terrorists were breaching the Punjab border as the LoC counter-infiltration grid had been tightened in J&K and “they are exploring new areas” to sneak in.