Image Source: The Huffington Post

On 2 January 2016, a group of heavily armed men attacked Pathankot Air Force Station. The gun battle lasted nearly 80 hours and culminated in bloodshed. Seven Indian soldiers and six terrorists died in the operation. Jaish-e-Mohammad — an Islamist militant group — was assumed to be the perpetrators.

An appalling news like this is not new to us. Only a few weeks ago, we heard about the devastating Paris attacks. Along with the rest of the world, we mourned the deaths of innocent civilians. We expressed our sympathy on social media. We shared our fears with friends. We complained about the state of affairs in the world. We wished this never happened to us, or anybody. But what after that? Did we consider the possibility of a similar attack on our soil?

Are incidents like the Paris attacks only meant to be mourned for a while and forgotten the next morning?

Sure, it’s near-impossible to be fully prepared for such acts of terrorism. Sure, certain incidents are hard to predict. But what happened in Pathankot wasn’t one of those inevitable attacks. It was a result of neglect. It occurred because of some fundamental security and intelligence lapses. It occurred because of our carelessness.

Amateurish response.

According to the official accounts, a team of six armed men disguised as Indian soldiers crossed the international border and sneaked into India on December 31. The border area was managed by BSF. There were thermal imaging cameras installed in the location to pick up any kind of movements at night. And there were hi-definition drones to detect any possible infiltration.

Image Source: Brunch News

Despite so many advanced detectors in place, what was the police doing when these terrorists crossed one barricade after another in an SUV? Why didn’t they crosscheck the identity of the passengers in the vehicle?

Reports say that the attackers were roaming around Punjab in the hijacked vehicle for over 15 hours. Even though the information of the carjack was given to authorities, no action was taken. Why did no one take the information seriously?

Even though after killing the six perpetrators, the operation was officially called a “complete success”, the military analysts tell a different story. They say that India’s response to the attack was “amateurish” and a “near fiasco”. Which means, the attack could have been avoided if only India was better prepared with right forces, equipment and most importantly, the mindset.

Repeating the blunder.

A lot of ambiguity that occurred during the Pathankot operation could have been avoided if had India learned from its past and the incidents happening the world over. What happened in Mumbai on November 2008 wasn’t any different. 10 armed men infiltrated into the city and fired at everyone in sight. There were security lapses, intelligence flaws that helped the terrorists survive for longer.

It was only after 166 people died did the operation came to a halt.

Image Source: YouTube

Our country shuddered the same way when terrorists exploded a number of bombs in the national capital Delhi in 2011. Go back in time and you can remember the attack on the parliament in 2001. Further back, and you can recollect the hijack of an Indian flight in Amritsar.

Plenty of attacks and hijacks have occurred in India in the past. With each terrorist incident, our country’s flaws in governance, politics, security, and management come right to the forefront. And now when we think about how the Pathankot incident took place, doesn’t it highlight our negligence?

Doesn’t it prove that we are being careless about our own country’s safety?

The question of safety.

Assuring complete safety might be an over-promise considering the events that have occurred recently. With rising chaos around the world, it might be difficult to say with certainty and conviction that a country can be safe. But what India can ensure, and later assure to its people, is that the country will learn from its mistakes and not repeat them.

Unless the authorities don’t make it a point to avoid possible blunders, safety would always be an impossible dream to attain.

Studying the Pathankot incident and various other terrorist attacks in the past, we can conclude that terrorists largely rely on two things when it comes to attacks: surprise and disguise. Previous attacks on India prove that either the country was not prepared for the surprises or couldn’t decipher the disguise.

Pathonkot incident, therefore, is a strong reminder of our carelessness and inefficiency. It’s a tight slap on our faces, asking us to pull up our socks and take the country’s security problems seriously. If terrorists can make a devastating attack on the airbase or the parliament, imagine how easy would it be for them to attack a temple, a multiplex, or a school.

More than safety, the question is about the country’s attitude towards its safety. Will India roll up its sleeves and be better prepared the next time? Or, will the country resort to being careless again? Only time will tell.