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Terrorist attack in Pulwama: Its a tragic failure of our intelligence agencies

Lalit Shastri

Interactive groups of top brass of the armed forces are discussing Thursday’s (14 February 2019) dastardly terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and kashmir. It is their unanimous view that surgical strikes should be treated with humility. Take for example the movie “Uri: The Surgical Strike”. Question arises: What was the need to show it as victory as if it was one and all. People should know that fighting terror is a dynamic process and it will keep on happening. It is important that we should do our duties with humility. Unfortunately, the purpose of this movie, it appears, is to take political mileage in the coming election.

The way the media is discussing all the strategies after Thursday’s terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy is unfortunate. This is not the way to discuss such issues on the electronic media. For example on India Today, Rahul Kanwal and others were discussing and talking of strategy options. These may be real options but they are to be kept a secret and the media is supposed to be discreet in matters of national security. In the same context, one would like to flag what happened during the Mumbai terror attack when the media was giving a live coverage of what was happening and that is how Pakistan and the terrorists’ handlers across the border came to know about it.

Defence and security experts will have to be stopped from discussing on national TV the options before the government. Why discuss strategy inputs in the public domain? Let the establishment decide what is to be done in response to the latest terrorist attack.

A post on social media by a discerning and concerned citizen today puts things in the right perspective.

We quote: “It’s a huge setback legislating a collective national response. Our response options have shrunk to abysmal depths…so I tend to believe. Why…who is to blame…many including my ilk. There is no fear in the adversary. Deep introspection is required. Not enough to blame Pakistan…how about apportioning blame to those who have made us incapable of a response…. Surgical strikes outlived their utility in 24 hours…but to date we like to flag it…why? We need to get over political rhetoric; instead focus on deterrence options at the strategic/national level…not tactical knee-jerk reactions. Sad day, if we have to scramble for response options, would be proud if they are in place and would be put to effect.”

Through an extremely urgent letter signed on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, dated 8 February 2019, and addressed to all concerned security authorities, it had been pointed out that ‘before occupying your place of deployment, please sanitize the area properly, as there are inputs of use of IEDs. Matter most urgent.” Despite this letter (how genuine it is remains to be confirmed) , Jaish-e-Mohammed could strike its target at will. this does not expose only a chink but a gaping gap when it comes to our response and preparedness to tackle emerging security situations. A retired Army  Major General responded to this by pointing out: “They haven’t learnt any lessons from the anti-Naxal operations and also from their tenure in Jammu and Kashmir. Such a long convoy of vehicles? How did a civilian vehicle approach it? was his pointed query.

Updated at 20:33 15 Feb 2019

Postscript: Responding to the heading focusing on “intelligence failure”, the Major General (retd), who had earlier joined the discussion, has further pointed out: “To expect Intelligence to be exact is like asking for the moon. If an advisory has come, surely the staff should share down the command channel forthwith and not await orders from top boss.
Why was the convoy not broken up into smaller packets? How was this car permitted to come into the convoy and follow for 10 minutes. The IPS brass in CRPF need to be taken to task.


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