In the biggest terror attack targeting military establishments since the Uri strike, militants attacked an Army base in Nagrota in the restive border state of Jammmu and Kashmir. Seven brave Army personnel were martyred in the attack, which defence spokespersons termed as a major hostage-like situation.
More crucially, the latest terror offensive has put the spotlight on loopholes and complacency with regard to the security of India’s defence establishments. The modus operandi of the Nagrota attackers does not bode any different.
The terrorists entered the Army base in Jammu and Kashmir's Nagrota after scaling a 10-m wall and cutting the wire that was set up on top of it. The terrorists had carried with them a wire cutter and a rope to scale the wall. Footprints of the slain terrorists were also found on the wall, sources said.
They then tied the rope with the iron rod on the wall and quietly slid to the ground one by one before storming the mess and indulging in indiscriminate firing.
Notedly, sources said there was no jawan guarding the wall.
They wanted to enter the family quarters where they could take the families of the soldiers and officers hostage. However, due to the bravery of these two women, who were staying in the family quarters along with their newborns, the plans of the terrorists could not materialise.
"The wives of the two army officers, who were on night duty when the encounter broke out, displayed exemplary courage as they blocked the entry of their quarters with all the household items, making it difficult for the terrorists to break into the houses," an army officer privy to the encounter told PTI.
Airforce and CRPF also flung into action. Around 7:30 am para-military forces took command of the operation. After the operation was put on hold, three jawans were missing. General Officer Commanding (GOC) found all of them within half-an-hour.
He announced if anybody is wounded and in hiding, he should come out or he may face further injuries in the night.
The army chief also rebuked GOC and CO of the army unit.
The level of security that guards our military units should be top notch is a given. However, attacks both small and big have laid bare the security loopholes that have led to many such attackers fleeing after staging the attack.
The Uri attack, for instance, that claimed 20 lives, should have come as an eye-opener. A report in Scroll.in notes how officials in the security establishment, who were part of the post-mortem carried out of the Uri attack came up with astounding details.
As per the investigators cited in the report, the attack, which took place in the early hours of September 18, showed that even basic security measures were missing. The perimeter measures were rudimentary and had chicken coop fencing with abandoned sentry points at the golf course, which had been the point of entry for the militants.
Some of the sentry bunkers were found with sandbags that had dense growth sprouting through them, indicating the state of neglect. Despite specific intelligence alerts, patrolling was minimal and the threat posture underestimated, it added.
The soldiers from the incoming Maratha battalion had not been issued weapons on the night of the attack. When the attack took place, leading to fires in the tents, the soldiers did not even have the means to retaliate. This led to a high casualties, as the units were caught napping.
The terrorists also carried along posters written in Urdu saying that the attack was to avenge the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru.
“Afzal Guru shaheed ke inteqaam ki ek aur kisht (another instalment of our vengeance for the martyr Afzal Guru),” the poster reads.
The poster proclaims the action to be the work of “Ghazwa-e-Hind key fidayeen”, or holy warriors fighting for Ghazwa-e-Hind — some neo-fundamentalist sects attribute the saying to the prophecy of an apocalyptic war with India.
Security experts believe there are more such attacks in the offing with no let down in the proxy war being perpetuated by Pakistan even after India’s surgical strikes in the PoK.
On India’s part, the realisation that it is its military installations that are being specifically targeted exists. Defence Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday cited statistics that have shown that the attack is on military installations.” Civilians are not being targeted. No civilian has been targeted as they seek local support,” he said.
The key for India, therefore, will lie in admitting to the faults that lie within and then in acting upon them.