Four days after Pakistani terrorists attacked the high-security Pathankot fighter base, questions are being raised within the security establishment over deploying National Security Guard (NSG) troopers to combat the crisis instead of bringing in elements of the army’s Special Forces (SF) stationed closer to the border town.
Top security officials said the NSG was an elite force but the testing scenario could have been better handled by making the army the lead agency for counter-terrorism crisis management.
Two battle-hardened commando units — 4 Para (SF) and 9 Para (SF) — are stationed in Jammu and Kashmir, while another – 1 Para (SF)— is based in Himachal Pradesh.
“The Special Forces are cut out for such tasks and the army should have been the lead agency for handling the operation. There wasn’t a hostage situation that required bringing in the NSG,” said a senior officer, who did not wish to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.
The army’s 29 infantry division is headquartered in Pathankot and the formations there account for more than 40,000 troops.
“The question on everyone’s mind is who was in charge,” said strategic affairs expert Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).
Another sign of the situation being misread was the initial requisition for only two army columns (80 soldiers) though subsequently more than 300 troops were involved in the operation. The final assault was made by the army using its infantry combat vehicles armed with 30 mm cannons.
“There were huge gaps in counter-terrorism force application and too many organisations were involved in the operation,” said strategic affairs expert Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd).
Kak questioned if the security establishment had drawn any lessons from similar attacks on Pakistani military establishments.
The Pathankot strike has raised serious questions about perimeter security of vital military installations and the role of the Defence Security Corps — an organisation that consists of retired army jawans.