No lack of coordination during Pathankot operation: Army chief

Dalbir-Singh Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (L) IS received by the Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh (R) and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on his arrival AT Pathankot Airbase | AFP

Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh on Wednesday said there was no lack of coordination among the security agencies in handling the Pathankot attack, and the army was in control of the situation.

He also came out in defence of killed National Security Guard (NSG) officer Lt. Col. E.K. Niranjan, saying he followed all safety procedures while defusing a bomb at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in Punjab.

At the annual press conference ahead of Army Day on January 15, General Dalbir Singh said eight columns of the army—comprising around 70 soldiers each—were deployed at the base, while para-commandos, the Special Force of the army, were also present.

He said the army's western commander, Lt. Gen. K.J. Singh, was in charge of the operations.

He said the NSG was called in so that in case a hostage situation is created, it can be dealt with.

"There was no lack of coordination between forces. There was total synergy and the western army commander was coordinating," he said.

Countering claims that the army reached late, General Dalbir Singh said the eight columns were deployed both inside and outside the campus within a few hours of the intelligence alert after which no one breached the base.

"Army columns were deployed inside and outside the perimeter within 2-3 hours after the alert. No one came inside after that," he said.

Asked how the terrorists entered the base, the army chief said will be known after the probe by the NIA is over.

On repeated questions about the long time taken for the operation, he said the ground situation was known only to those who were there and they had a mammoth task of securing lives and property.

"The air force base has more than 10,000 population. My direction was to ensure their safety. Secondly, I said area of contact must be contained and strong cordon (should be) maintained to make sure no one escapes," he said.

General Dalbir Singh said the third instruction was to avoid casualties to the Indian forces.

He defended Niranjan, saying he followed all safety procedures while defusing a bomb.

The army chief's statement came in the wake of a media report that accused the officer of carelessness in handling the situation.

"I checked with the army commander... he also checked on ground... all procedures were followed by him... So whatever is the laid down method, he followed. It is very difficult today for you and me to decide and say where things have gone wrong," he said.

"Probably some booby trap, which he did not expect on the body, was there and despite having followed the brief, unfortunately this has happened... Otherwise, I would say this officer was the most qualified officer to handle that kind of situation," he said.

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