Welcome though it might be, the “security audit” of “vulnerable” defence, paramilitary and police installations ordered by the home and defence ministers does not equate with a comprehensive inquiry into the lapses that rendered “Pathankot” a shameful low. The economy of detail in the official statement following a high-level review triggers apprehensions that whatever action is contemplated is cosmetic, that the myopic reluctance to accept shortcomings persists in all uniformed forces. It is difficult to understand what is meant by “vulnerable” installations and which factors will determine that. Surely no installation should be an easy target for terrorists, militants etc. Nor did the statement clarify the “spread” of the installations to be covered. Was it to be in Punjab and J&K only? What is the time-frame by which the audit will be completed, and most importantly who are the persons/agencies conducting the exercise. The statement also sought to deflect criticism by suggesting that the “response” to the intelligence input at Pathankot was good, spoke of “synergy” among the various security forces, mentioned “strengths” that could be built upon. Do the facts on the ground justify that self-praise? Some seven lives were lost repulsing the terrorists, the perimeter of a major Air Force base was breached, there are conflicting views on deployment, so on and so forth. There can be no underplaying the gravity of what took place there. Surely Rajnath Singh and Manohar Parrikar do not deem the Indian people so naïve and gullible to be “conned” so easily by their painting a positive picture of the outcome? Parrikar had recently spoken of how soldiers should neutralise their adversaries rather than go down fighting – does a mere “security audit” reflect that pro-active thinking? Time those in government accept that they will be evaluated by performance not words.

Identifying and rectifying “gaps” in the security mechanism at installations is only one element in the equation. Cooperation and coordination among the agencies is vital – and the critical role of the local police must never be ignored. Unfortunately the police are deemed the poor cousins. Drug smugglers penetrate the Punjab border at will, and there is a flourishing “local” market for the contraband. Who has failed, the BSF or the Punjab cops? A similar blame-split was evident when some former IAF officers said their job was to fight in the sky, not on the ground. The role of the Defence Security Corps also requires re-assessment, it is a myth that ex-servicemen are infallible – they need proper management and leadership. Questions must arise if the scope of the security audit will cover such a wide canvas, and set in motion a counter-offensive against those targeting the “vulnerable”” installations. Why wait for them to get too close for comfort?