Defence experts have questioned the way the audacious terror attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot was handled, with some even saying it was the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "high-risk" mission to Lahore where he met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
While Home Secretary Rajiv Mehreshi on Sunday claimed at a press conference that there was no security lapse, defence experts, however, felt that the operation could have been handled in a better way as there was advance intelligence about infiltration by terrorists and that the IAF base could be potential target.
Former RAW Chief A S Dulat raised questions about failure of security agencies in thwarting the attack.
"Generally intelligence agencies get the flak, but here is a case when you had pinpointed intelligence and still you could not make it. Why?" he said.
Dulat said the Pathankot operation had raised many questions including those about the role of security forces who could not neutralise the terrorists fast.
"How can the terrorists enter so easily without getting noticed and that too with such a huge quantity of ammunition? Are the terrorist also paying their way through like the drug cartels? These questions need an early answer," he said.
Former Western Air Command Chief Air Marshall P S Ahulwalia, who has commanded the Pathankot air base during his service, said coordination between various security agencies "could have been better" to minimise causalities of the security forces.
"The success or otherwise of any operation could be judged by the following -- whether the terrorists were able to achieve their objective, minimal causality to our own forces, no collateral damage and attackers being neutralised in optimal time frame.
"The terrorist were not able to achieve their objective and they could not reach their target. However, we have lost more men and this could have been prevented by effective coordination. And also that the time taken to neutralise the attackers is way too long," he said.
Some defence experts also felt that the Pathankot attack was only aimed at stalling the Indo-Pak talks, with some of them favouring to call off the dialogue process, saying it was a response from the Pakistani army to the recent meeting between prime ministers of the two countries.
Commodore (retd) G J Singh said the Pathankot attack was a clear message from Pakistan Army Chief and the ISI "that we are in charge of Pakistan and we are ruling the roost and Nawaz Sharif is not incharge.
"He (Sharif) is only an ornamental prime minister of Pakistan and this is also the message to him that look you can do anything but we will run this country at our whims and fancies," he said.
Maj Gen (retd) Ashok Mehta favoured a meeting between the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan.
"In fact, the NSAs should be talking to each other and discuss whether we will continue the talks. We need clarifications and these clarifications can only come through engagement," he said.
Retired Maj Gen Gagandeep Bakshi said in a Facebook post that he feared such an incident after the prime ministers of the two countries met last month.
"Just a week after PM Modi's impulsive and high-risk mission to Pakistan to try to desperately seek peace, the Pakistani backstab has come even sooner than we expected in the form of the attack on the Pathankot air base.
"We did not give a massive mandate to the BJP to go back on its words and fare worse than the UPA in dealing with Pakistan," he said.
Defence Expert Uday Bhaskar said this attack from Pakistan comes at a time when two nations are moving closer.
"We have seen this in the past during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Whenever we move closer, such attacks take place and dialogue process goes on a back burner," he said.
Another Defence Expert P M Hoon said Pakistan was not "trustworthy", while Kamar Agha said the attack was aimed at derailing the talks between Foreign Secretaries of the two countries scheduled later this month.
"The efforts of Prime Minister Modi had raised hopes for dialogue process to get going and this attack is only meant to derail it," Agha said.
Image: A helicopter hovers over the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo