In a sign that 2017 is likely to witness a continuation of tensions at the India-Pakistan border, terrorists killed three labourers when they attacked a General Engineering Reserve Force camp near the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir’s Akhnoor sector. The terrorists – reportedly three in number – evaded security personnel and are believed to have fled back across the LoC. Against the backdrop of such increasing cross-LoC terror strikes on military units and related camps, a recent army report has identified at least 50 gaps in security that pose a threat to soldiers’ lives.
The reported gaps include body armour, night-vision gear and flawed fuel storage. The latter in particular was highlighted during the Uri terror attack last September where 19 soldiers were killed at an army base. Fourteen of the troops were burnt alive in the attack as their tents were pitched next to a fuel dump. One would have thought that insecure fuel storage at forward military bases is a problem that the army wouldn’t be seized of in this day and age. That something so basic continues to be a challenge shows a lack of preparedness within the military establishment.
It will be recalled that after the Pathankot airbase attack in January last year, a tri-services committee had submitted a report with comprehensive recommendations to upgrade perimeter security, detection systems and standard operating procedures at army units to thwart terror strikes. Clearly there was little follow-up action, which is why Uri happened. And while government and army took credit for the successful surgical strikes against terror launch pads in PoK after Uri, such operations haven’t deterred terrorists from launching cross-border attacks – exemplified by the Nagrota attack in November where seven armymen were killed.
In fact, with new army chief General Bipin Rawat not ruling out more cross-border surgical strikes against terror camps, it’s all the more imperative that security at forward military bases is upgraded. Offence as the best form of defence is a strategy that cannot be carried out without getting the basics right first. This is especially true in light of Pakistan’s tactic of using low-intensity conflict to exploit chinks in the Indian armed forces’ armour. Hence, before politicians indulge in chest-thumping, they must facilitate and nudge the army into strengthening security of forward bases through basic equipment such as smart vests, sniper scopes and safer fuel storage.