Presumably learning from the Pathankot terror attacks in January, the Indian Air Force (IAF) issued shoot- at-sight orders against anyone attempting to scale the walls of the bases under the sensitive Western Air Command.
"All bases in the Western Air Command have been put on high alert. Shoot-at-sight orders have been issued against anyone attempting to enter the base by scaling the perimeter wall or through unauthorised access," a senior IAF officer said.
IAF has also asked the government to strictly impose the ban against construction within 100 metres of any air base and within 900 metres of its ammunition depot. India has taken Pakistan on its word and is continuing to put pressure on the nation to bring the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack, which killed at least eight people, to justice.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also weighed in on the issue and said that for India, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and Pathankot terror attacks have signified a "tectonic shift". "Most of the terror attacks in India emanate from Pakistan and it will have to show some sincerity and take concrete steps to rein in the various terror groups operating against India from its soil," the Union Home Minister told reporters on Wednesday.
A senior IAF officer on Wednesday, replying to queries about an insider possibly having had a role in the Pathankot attack, said that NIA was investigating this angle but a preliminary probe by IAF has not found anything to substantiate such a suspicion.
Describing the Pathankot attack as a "learning experience", the official said that IAF is in the process of finalising a Rs 8,000-crore comprehensive security proposal for its 54 main flying bases in the country.
That will include smart perimeter intrusion system, CCTVs, motion detectors, quadro drones, among other things. The cost will come to about Rs 100-150 crore per base, he said.
The officer said, "These proposals were already in the pipeline. Because of financial constraints, we are doing it in a phased manner. Our first focus was to protect the main assets and then move to the perimeter wall."
He said the government has told IAF that there will be no financial constraints for these works.
"The proposal is being prepared. We hope to get it going as soon as possible," he said, adding that the IAF is fast-tracking the process.
Veterans and even the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted to “blind spots” and “some gaps” that led to the terror attack in which all the six infiltrators have been killed. Armed with AK 47, under barrel grenades, knives, swiss knives commando knives and at least 40 to 50 kilograms of bullets, besides three to four dozens of magazines, the terrorists who carried out the brazen attacks were amply prepared to set camp for at least a few days. That sort of an operation needs planning, and India's intel did not see it coming.
We are no expert in national security but this directive of shoot-at-sight alone will not deter attackers from launching another attack. Bolstering the armed forces with adequate equipment and increasing their budget is one of the things that veterans have suggested the Indian government to do.
Writing for Firstpost, Retired Vice-Admiral Suresh Bangara says in this piece: "This is not unique to India and the South Asian region but to most democracies that are yet to stabilise their respective economies and hence are compelled to fight with what they have due to budgetary constraints. It will be some years before India can claim to have well equipped security personnel with the requisite gear, ordnance and training. Hence constantly comparing our reactions to those from USA or UK or Israel would lead to erroneous conclusions and hypothetical discussions. Let us view the current action in Pathankot from this prism or perspective."
In the article, the retired Army veteran lists out a number of ways as to how India can end such insurgencies and attacks. Very rarely do authorities vested with the responsibility to raise levels of readiness such as red alerts, also lower the readiness level after the threat ceases to exist. On paper, it is possible that units on paper continue to remain at high alert without physically and mentally being all there. Other than the military which has well defined procedures to raise and lower state of readiness other central agencies often suffer from this lacuna.
Bikram Vohra in this Firstpost article argues: Strong defence is a great offence. We need to put our armed forces might on the cutting edge of 21st military armament. You want drones, get them. You want gunships buy them. You need to upgrade your fighters and go back to full strength (seven squadrons short) well then, move on it and stop moaning about the MiGs.
With inputs from agencies