Pathankot attack: Are India's nuclear sites really safe from Pakistan?

Although these nuclear installations are quite far from the border areas, there is every possibility of infiltration.

 |  4-minute read |   07-01-2016
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After so much breast-beating on the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack in Pathankot, it is time to analyse the designs of a new dimension of terrorism that India is likely to face in the future. Prior to Pathankot, all terrorist attacks - be it 26/11 or on Parliament- were executed on the motto of "kill and die" by jihadi groups at the behest of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), or the Pakistan army.

Prior to 26/11, David Headley was sent to Mumbai to pinpoint densely populated areas where terrorists were later sent to kill innocents indiscriminately. Headley did his job efficiently and heavy killing was the resultant end in 26/11.

So "kill and die" was perfectly executed in that ISI-sponsored operation purportedly done by Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The Pathankot attack was planned with a different modus operandi by its handlers in Pakistan. Now the motive was "Destroy and Die". If credence is given to intelligence outputs, these terrorists were not trained in forest camps but in two airports - either Lyallpur or Chaklala in Pakistan.

It would be pertinent to admit here that the layout of airports in India and Pakistan are almost similar. These terrorists were almost within shooting range of the hangars, ammunition depots, fuel dumps and aircraft units.

They probably had the exact locations of these strategic places due to the handiwork of an Indian mole at this airport who was honey-trapped in 2014 and passed on information to his handlers in Pakistan in exchange of money.

This is the biggest security breach in this tragedy, which the intelligence authorities had not visualised earlier. Had the vulnerable entry points been properly sanitised after this catch, there would have been little chance of such free access for the terrorists.

There is no denying that these terrorists had sophisticated weapons but recovery of aluminum powder is ample proof that they were sent on a "destroy and die" mission. Aluminum powder is the worst catalyst to increase the fire engulfing capacity that heavy extinguishing apparatus find hard to douse.

This new shift after 26/11 to "destroy and die" is evident from the recovery of this lethal powder which is the Pakistan Army and the ISI's new strategy. This is the new challenge for the security and intelligence agencies of India.

Now after defence installations, what other options could be for the terrorism-mongers of this rogue country? This is a big question mark for us and we should treat it as most important.

On January 1 every year, India and Pakistan exchange a list of nuclear installations and facilities for the last 18 years, as per agreement signed in 1988 by both countries. In this exchange, not only the locations of these installations is disclosed but the longitude and latitude is also disclosed.

This arrangement was made to prevent an attack on any nuclear site or facility in the event of a "war".

Also read: Pathankot attack: Mr Modi is no PM, his party has failed India

The latest exchange was on January 1, the day when Pakistan-trained terrorists infiltrated the Pathankot air base.

So, Pakistan is privy to the locations and facilities of all Indian nuclear sites. If we look at the change of leadership in Pakistan since the Simla agreement of 1972 till General Parvez Mushraff's ousting, it is evident that India-Pakistan agreements, of whatever nature, were never adhered to in case of change of regimes, particularly by martial rulers.

Even the Pathankot attack is proof that Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has no control either on the army, or the ISI. In view of the political instability in Pakistan, the sanctity of this exchange of information on nuclear installations could be a self-inflicted blow to India.

Pakistan never admits to the presence of any government-sponsored jihadi groups on their soil, leave aside the terrorist attacks on our various cities for the last two decades.

In view of this established background of the Pakistan government, is it a viable exercise by India to hand over this sensitive information of nuclear installations to Pakistan? This has to be reviewed by India, if not now, after waiting and watching for some time.

However, to be on the safe side, our security on these nuclear installations, along with that of Indian Space Research Organisations (ISRO) has to be reviewed on a priority basis and put on high alert despite the arrangement with Pakistan.

Also read: Pathankot attack: Stop your crying and blaming

Although these installations are quite far from the border areas but there is every possibility of infiltration, not by land or sea, but by passports to damage these Indian installations. We cannot deny any sort of such probability from the rogue nature of miscreants presence in Pakistan establishments who are least bothered about the political control on them.

Although I am not absolving the intelligence network of failure at Pathankot, they have to take a cue from it and take adequate precautions for the safety of nuclear and space related installations, particularly their employees who are easy targets in plain sight.

Writer

RK Yadav RK Yadav @rawrkyadav

Former RAW officer and author of Mission R&AW.

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