A Security Lapse That Brought Us To The Brink Of A Nuclear War

A tribute to those, who lost their lives during Op Parakram for no reason.

A Security Lapse That Brought Us To The Brink Of A Nuclear War

A reminder to those, who do not leaf over pages from history: Atal Ji-led NDA government was, perhaps, the first government in independent India, which took up the matter of national transformation in real sense. But during his tenure two most disastrous events, both related to the Military took place. First was the dismissal of the serving naval chief, merely because he challenged the power and unbridled authority of the defence secretary.

Defence secretary too was ‘punished’ by appointing him secretary of heavy industries. The second event was even more disastrous; for a security lapse due to combine of parliamentarians and lax security personnel, which resulted in terrorists entering parliament breaching three-tier security, full-scale military mobilisation was ordered on 16th December 2001.

Full-scale military mobilisation to avenge security lapse by own police and parliamentarians termed ‘Op Parakram’ was ordered. A monumental blunder at the strategic, political, and national levels was committed having no parallel in the history of international diplomacy and warfare

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On 13th December 2001 terrorists stormed the Parliament Building. At that time Parliament access was available only after a three-tier check by security personnel. Terrorists entered the complex in vehicles carrying authorised entry stickers. Three-tier security merely saluted the occupants without checking the occupant’s identity, contents of the vehicle and allowed them to pass without any inspection. Rest is History.

The weakest link in our security establishment are not the security personnel, who are underpaid, over-worked, ill-equipped, inadequately trained, and mostly ill-treated by the very persons they protect. The weakest link in our security establishment are the swollen-headed monsters, who consider proving/showing their identity as an insult to their status and dignity and treat security personnel as “doormats”.

These swollen-headed monsters lacking in conscience, responsibility to nation and accountability are present in every institution of our governing apparatus, be they parliamentarians, senior bureaucrats, cabinet ministers, secretaries to the government of India, senior military officers, and so on. The list is endless.

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The nation was told that a high-level enquiry was ordered to enquire into security lapse. That was, perhaps, the last word on the enquiry. Where is the enquiry report? Why has it not been placed in the public domain?

Will the enquiry report be made public after a presidential decree as has recently been done by the POTUS in case of Kennedy assassination way back on 22nd November 1963? Were the individuals identified, whose stickers were used by the terrorists' vehicles? What actions, if any were taken/initiated against errant personnel?

By the way, Mr. Prime Minister do you carry your ID and show it when you enter the parliament? Or is it that you also consider your motorcade as your identity? National security should be treated as religion and culture. Proving one’s identity voluntarily is the first and most important baby step and is more important than all your reforms put together. I am certain that as of date, you do not present your ID.

If you do, I withdraw my statement. If you believe in security as a religion and culture, let the nation see you flaunting your ID around your neck and show it voluntarily and not when demanded. Only a man of your vision can inculcate the “security religion” in the nation, who as PM has the moral courage to say to an international audience that indeed as PM my top priority is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and stopping open defecation.

Do it, if my message reaches you. Believe you me Mr. PM, if you start the highly desirable practice of presenting your ID voluntarily, a lot of your colleagues and others would follow out of sheer shame. The security environment of the nation would alter overnight from “indifferent” to “excellent”. Cover the issue in your ‘Mann ki Baat’. You may consider emulating your personal friend, former POTUS, Obama, who presented his ID in spite of being POTUS.

I wonder if Ministers with military backgrounds viz VK Singh and Rathore carry and show their ID? If not, I would consider it as a slur on their military service, which did not groom them well. If both of them carry their IDs and show it as a matter of personal accountability, I would be proud of them. If not I would be terribly ashamed.

Mrs. Sitharaman, do you carry your ID and show it during your numerous visits to military establishments. I have always rated you differently from your mostly semi-literate colleagues having little or no knowledge of international affairs, geostrategic scenarios, security-related issues lacking in self-discipline and accountability. Have you also closeted yourself with the mindset that I am the Raksha Mantri and should be recognised by the rest of the “second class” Indians? If you are shy to prove your identity and do not practice it, you disappoint me.

Should we then consider those, who do not practice security as a religion and culture in the same category/class as Kasab and Afzal Guru?

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Common Sense

The prime cause of security lapse was due to authorised vehicle entry stickers procured by the terrorists. Vehicle entry stickers are issued to parliamentarians and clearly designated officials by name. Each such sticker carries a unique identity number.

Security lapse took place due to two reasons: first, our parliamentarians' disdain towards anyone asking for their identity. They consider it below their dignity. And second, due to absolutely lax security personnel, who like to fold themselves by bending forwards and paying obeisance to the chosen few. Physical check of the vehicles and establishing the identity process be damned.

Contents of the enquiry, if any, were lost in the deafening roar of the tanks three days later as the insane decision-makers of the day opted to deposit their brains in the freezer and took the decision to mobilise the entire military from their failing hearts. For a security lapse that occurred due to a combination of parliamentarians and security personnel, the military bore the brunt by remaining in Op locations for 13 months.

Accomplishments and achievements of such insane decision-making by the political, bureaucratic, and military leadership combined were events such as the Kaluchak Massacre. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves: Did we achieve anything?

However meek it may have been, but I am nearly certain that someone from the military must have opposed the insane decision of full-scale mobilization. Perhaps it will never be known.

As an Indian, I only wish we could have spent all the money spent in undesirable, unwarranted mobilisation towards actually improving our security environment. I had the privilege of spending the next thirteen months in the sylvan surroundings of Rajasthan Desert with 21 Corps, heading the IAF operational component with Strike Corps.

This is my tribute to those, who lost their lives during Op Parakram for no reason.

About The Author

Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]

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