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Defence personnel say Modi's security adviser Ajit Doval was "villain of the piece": Pathankot anti-terror operations

Lt Gen Panag (retd)
By Our Representative
Adding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discomfiture over strong adverse reactions to anti-terror operations at Pathankot, top defence personnel of India have begun questioning the way Indian authorities, especially Modi’s national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, handled the whole affair, saying only “luck and providence saved the Air Base.”
If an email sent by Lt Gen HS Panag (retd), who was Northern Army Commander, to Maj Gen Pradyot K Mallick (retd), formerly of the National Defence College, points to how India became a “laughing stock in the eyes of world and ISI in particular”, Brigadier Deepak Sinha (retired) said in an article that the attack “highlights the deep flaws that have always existed in our national security architecture.”
Accessed by a top news site, Panag’s email, claimed to have been used with his approval, called the operation a “disaster from the word go”, pointing towards “pathetic internal coordination”, and adding, “We were not only slow to respond but were actually caught with our pants down.”
Referring to how NSA Doval held a conference on January 1 at 1500 hrs, which was also attended by Chief of the Army Staff, and where the air base was assessed as the target, Panag regretted, “no lead agency or overall commander appointed” to handle the situation.
Panag said, the area in vicinity of the base was “not combed”, public was “not informed”, there was “failure” of the Pathankot police and possibly the Indian Army “if they were tasked at all”, the preventive security of Air Base was “not beefed up”, despite the fact that, given the size, “an Infantry Battalion should have manned the perimeter and patrolled the wall from outside.”
The email noted, “Lesser said about the security of our Air Bases. There were just “four-five Platoons (60 men) of rag tag DSC capable of being static security guards only”, apart from “poorly trained” Garuds numbering “approximately 20-30.” But there were “no electronics sensors of any kind along wall and fence”, the outer periphery was “not lit up”, though the civilians’ houses were “right next to the wall.”
“Despite the 24-hour warning, 5-8(?) terrorists scaled the wall and entered the Administration Area and attacked the DSC Mess where men were unarmed despite warning”, leading to the loss of “five men”, the email said.
As for the response of the National Security Guards (NSG), the email said, “the lesser said the better”. It added, “Villain of the piece seems to be Doval… What was NSG doing in a purely military installation? Time is not far when we will take orders from the Home Minister/National Security Adviser/Police.”
Brigadier Sinha (retd)
In his commentary, Sinha, second-generation paratrooper with over three decades of service in the Indian Army, writes in the “Indian Defence Review”, that Doval is “being correctly seen as responsible for the fiasco by some analysts as without his approval the NSG could not have been inducted.”
“He appears to have forgotten that he is the Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and neither the de-facto Chief of Defence Staff nor the tactical commander in the field”, said Sinha, adding, “This unhealthy practice of overseeing tactical operations first emerged during the Special Forces raid on terrorist camps on the Manipur- Myanmar border.”
In fact, Sinha said, “The utilization of personnel of the Special Ranger Groups from the National Security Guards (NSG) for personal protection of VIPs, the ubiquitous Black Cat Commandos, is neither authorized by the NSG Act nor a task that they were established to perform.”
“The NSG is organized and trained to carry out counter terror intervention operations and not meant to provide a protective shield against a terror attack. That the NSG accepted a task for which they were neither trained nor equipped speaks poorly of the top hierarchy”, Sinha said.

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