Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on Wednesday assured the nation that the army was prepared to respond to any challenge to nation’s security.
“The army is ready to carry out any task,” he said while speaking to reporters in New Delhi. “I assure the nation that your Army is prepared to respond to any challenge to nation’s security.”
General Suhag spoke at length about the Pathankot attack of January 2, and said he was satisfied with the way the army tackled the attackers.
“It was a good operation. To ensure less casualties, we had to take time to complete the operation. No casualties occurred during the operation, all the forces worked with good coordination,” he said. “The area of contact had to be contained so that no one could escape. It was done deliberately to avoid casualties.”
General Suhag said the Indian Army needed changes to tackle emerging threats to the nation.
“Global events are indicative of the shape of the future challenges. No nation can remain insulated to these challenges. Increasingly, the security environment facing the nation is becoming more complex and dynamic,” he said. “Maintaining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and preserving the national interest against threats from external and internal forces remains a significant challenge for the security forces, especially the Indian Army.”
General Suhag said that there was “no issue of coordination” between forces during the Pathankot operation to neutralise the six terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force base.
“I can assure that there was no issue of coordination between the forces at Pathankot,” he said.
General Suhag was responding to allegations that there was a lack of inter-agency cooperation and coordination, and the three days taken by Indian forces to kill all the terrorists and sanitise the base was too long.
“There were two soldiers in the building where two terrorists were holed up. We had to first pull them out and then launch the offensive for the terrorists. It was not an easy operation and we took our time to reduce or minimise the casualties,” he explained. “The time taken to complete the operations should be left to the commander on the ground.”
In the daring pre-dawn attack by terrorists who crossed the border and opened fire at the base, seven military personnel were killed and 20 were wounded.
General Suhag said the soldiers were killed in the first few minutes. “Our forces didn’t suffer any casualties after the first contact,” he said.
The BJP-led national government has confronted criticism that a series of security lapses allowed the terrorists to enter the heavily-fortified base from where India’s Russian-made fleet of MiG-21 fighter jets and Mi-35 attack helicopters fly.
Questions were also raised as to why commandos of the elite National Security Guard were summoned to lead the ops and not the army. “How the terrorists got in despite the intelligence is being looked at by the NIA (National Investigation Agency). It is of concern and will one of key lessons learnt,” the army chief said.