Pulwama terror attack aftermath: Indian Armed Forces must reexamine state of readiness, move on from 60s mindset

Every Indian worth his or her salt will light a candle in memory of those who died in the Pulwama attack. If not on the window sill, certainly in their hearts. And as India mourns and the government flexes its muscles and hundreds of next of kin soak in grief and loss, it is time for us as a nation to look upon our military as saviours and wake up to the fact that the enemy is at the gate.

Pulwama terror attack aftermath: Indian Armed Forces must reexamine state of readiness, move on from 60s mindset

Representational image. Reuters

The first step that has to be taken is obvious, making observations and statements in the aftermath: easy to say and do, but still valid in the contention that by now we should have been able to create a blue book on how to preempt such an attack. And followed it. You do not have to be a military tactician to project scenarios that ensure safety and security in the defence of our troops.

That strong defence can only come about when the equipment and the wherewithal for these paramilitary contingents gets out of its .303 wooded rifle of the 60s mindset. We are a high-tech nation with the capabilities to give ourselves that sort of protection from hostile elements. In the Pulwama case, a convoy of 78 is massive and would cover over half a kilometre. It does not come together in minutes and organising such a major movement calls for considerable logistical support just getting it together to move in unison with 2,500 personnel.

Surely, a chopper air cover could have been factored in to make sure there was no suspicious activity on the route. By the same token, it is customary to have an advance party on wheels moving at least a few hundred yards armed with a light machine gun and expert snipers and spotters looking for telltale signs of hostility. A vehicle speeding in the wrong lane hurtling towards them with a single occupant would have raised an alarm. The alert could have been sounded and troops put in combat mode. The errant suicide bomber apprehended and blocked before so much damage was done.

It is said that at the point of collision, gunfire also hit the vehicles: which means terrorists were in the vicinity. A chopper would have flushed them out. A low-level drone would have caught them close up. That loaded vehicle came from somewhere yes, and, of course, our agencies will be able to track its recent movements and also those of the bomber and his cohorts, but that is all in the aftermath. Most of these trails will end up nowhere. A few people will be rounded up and then the candle will be blown out by the wind.

We have to ask ourselves if enough caution was taken in such a mass operation of this mass transit of troops. Today, drones can be dispatched into the air for Rs 5,000 a pop. You can purchase from a toy shop a miniature helicopter that engages in such maneouvres and takes five audio-visual shots of the route being traversed. High-performance drones are so common now that they are given as birthday gifts. It is not so much a question of passing blame, but lamenting our short-sightedness in not giving easy to access dirt cheap backup that would have deflected the threat and saved so many lives.

You think drones are insufficient? Then light choppers that can do the job. Enough of them float around carting our political luminaries. The Army Air Corps flies the HAL manufactured LCH derived from the Dhruv series. If just one of these had been in the air offering plain visual real-time data support, that vehicle would never have got close. They would have spotted it miles away, doubted its bona fides through close inspection and alerted the convoy. That is what is supposed to happen… soldiers aren't supposed to be sitting ducks.

India can blame Pakistan, flex its muscles and promise it will not happen again. What is more pertinent is: Why we did not have or use items like these drones, that, for many nations are simply playthings for their children?

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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2019 21:00:53 IST

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