CHANDIGARH: It is nearly three months since terrorists from Pakistan attacked the important and forward air base of the Indian Air Force at Pathankot.

Despite advance intelligence and warnings our redoubtable National Security Adviser, backed by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself (who seems to favour loyalty above professionalism), messed it up. (Messing up is a mild phrase as most mothers angrily admonish their children on a daily basis for 'making a mess'(!), but I refrain from using stronger language, as we are dealing with the security of the nation, but I presume the reader has got the message!)

Soon after the terror attack on the Air Base, I had written a piece in The Citizen which had dealt with all round ineptness. At that time everyone concerned was fumbling and bungling. Now that three months have passed and the cover-ups cannot really cover the obvious, it is sad indeed that we seem to have taken the absurdities to even greater heights!

Three months after the attack, we still do not know who did what to whom and with what motive? The premier intelligence agency of the nation – NIA, which has been supposedly gathering evidence seems to be as clueless today as they were when the attack took place; NSG Commandos were flown in all the way from Delhi instead of employing highly trained troops available next door; the ‘brass’ descended to add to the confusion; and the poor Air Base Commander was moved out prematurely.

Apparently, Gurdaspur Police Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh either has the proverbial nine lives, or is so deeply in cahoots with the powers that be, in that he has been exonerated of all wrongdoings! Hurrah or should I say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', the term the Army adopted way back in the Fifties, as a replacement for the British ‘Hi-Hip-Hurrah’, but which seems to be in the eye of the storm, as if it has been only recently discovered.

In the meantime, the media reports that the bodies of the four/six terrorists, kept in a makeshift morgue are in a highly decomposed state and are unlikely to stand the march of time. This will result in inability to approach these for using them as forensic evidence; confirming their DNA etc; or using them as evidence in the future. This is getting more and more difficult, while our investigators continue their work.

We still do not know whether there were six or four terrorists. This certainly does not speak highly of our intelligence, police and forensic institutions, but seems it is not all that important. After all, we can always get a tip from the NSA of Pakistan, with whom our NSA seems to have a special relationship! I am sure the readers will recall that the gentleman had quietly tipped our NSA off or so we were told, of terrorists in Gujarat, aiming to do a Mohammad Ghouri on us. While our police/commandos/cobras and the like are still ‘jungle bashing’ in the boondocks of Gujarat, as we refer to such exploits in the army, let us focus on Pathankot.

Our revered defence minister, who loves to make statements and then keeps changing them ad infinitum has variously stated publicly that action is being taken and results would soon be forthcoming. But when?

Maybe, the Home Minister under whom all intelligence, police , BSF and so on operate is not playing ball!

Anyway, it seems our diplomats seem to have things firmly in control, having not only persisted in hanging on to the so-called peace-process with Pakistan. This despite caution from a variety of sources. However, they can be happy with the success achieved in getting a joint-investigation team from Pakistan, not only to collect what little our NIA has to share, but also agreeing to the team being accompanied by sleuths from the infamous ISI.

Our Defence Minister after going public that this team will not be allowed to visit the Air Base has now relented. He has claimed though that the technical area is still out of bounds for the Pakistan delegation. Great, you might say! Maybe, his next statement will be a further dilution of the ‘no team from Pakistan will be allowed into the Air Force base” position, but we can only speculate, for we can only go by what the media states, especially the ‘sarkari’ media!

Let me end this piece on an optimistic note, not only because it is an election season and one must not incur the displeasure of the party and government in power, but also that we are after all very small cogs in the machine, trying to put two and two together and make it five or maybe even six!

It may be best to wait for the next Official Press Release and then either go into raptures or faint in despair!

Jai Hind.

(Lt General Vijay Oberoi is the former Vice Chief of the Indian Army. He writes regularly on military and strategic issues.)

(Photograph: The Pakistan joint investigation team arrives to probe the Pathankot terror attack)