Security Poor, Said Pathankot Probe Report

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New Delhi: The defence ministry is yet to get fully cracking on the “highly-classified” report of a military committee constituted to pinpoint lapses that led to the Pathankot strike in January and recommend measures to plug gaps in the security ring around military installations.

A day after the Uri attack, defence ministry sources acknowledged that the report of the tri-Service panel, headed by ex-Army vice-chief Lt-Gen Philip Campose (retd), had punched holes in the existing security infrastructure.

The Campose panel, which submitted its report to defence minister Manohar Parrikar in mid-May, undertook a comprehensive audit and formulated upgraded standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all defence installations to prevent fidayeen attacks. “It holds that the security set-up is quite poor in most places, with command and control problems and ambiguous SOPs without specific responsibilities and responses being assigned to personnel,” said a source.

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“The guards at the bases are poorly equipped. Sentries continue to use outdated INSAS rifles which are no match for the AK-47s of terrorists. Most sentries and quick-reaction teams do not have bullet-proof jackets or ‘patkas’ and night-vision devices,” he added.

The recommendations range from the urgent need to install modern “access-control, perimeter security-cum-intrusion detection systems” to providing new weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night-vision devices to personnel guarding the bases.

Defence officials say several steps are being taken to address the issues raised in the report, which includes funds to upgrade security at bases. An over Rs 8,000-crore security plan for the 54 major airbases, for instance, is now being finalised.

But a lot more needs to be done. The Campose panel, for instance, highlights the tardy response systems in place to first act on intelligence alerts and then counter terror attacks. In both Pathankot and Uri, there were advance alerts about possible attacks.

Sources say the committee has recommended revamped and standardised response systems for the Army, Navy and IAF, with upgraded SOPs to assign responsibilities to ensure there is no ambiguity and confusion.

Apart from the need to deploy ‘quick-reaction’ commando platoons in military establishments, the panel has called for creation of a number of ‘commando-trained’ companies of the Territorial Army to cover gaps in extra-vulnerable installations. The IAF is already raising 12 additional “flights” of Garud Special Forces to supplement the 15 “flights” of around 900 commandos.

Similarly, a system of random security audits by tri-Service teams is now in place. “This will supplement the existing periodic audits being made more purposeful and accountable,” said a source.