BENGALURU: The recent drone attack at the Indian Air Force station in Jammu has not come as a surprise to many who are privy to the country’s security apparatus and intelligence infrastructure. The threat had been swirling in the air for quite a long time now.
“It was known at least a decade ago to the security agencies that unmanned low flying objects drones, or even paragliders could be weaponised by enemy countries to launch an attack against India. But no concrete steps were taken then to control the drone nuisance.
The IAF, at the request of the Ministry of Defence, could have been tasked with surveillance and licensing of drones because they have the expertise. But decisions were taken at the top level in 2015 to hand over the role to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which meant that the police will monitor drones,” said sources, who did not wish to be named.
It is only after the Jammu attack that the Centre is mulling a stringent policy on licensing and use of drones. Sources added that there is “no systematic database yet on how many drones there are in private possession, who owns them; how and for what purpose they are being used. Most drones are manufactured in China and can be easily purchased online,” they added.
Citing several incidents, where reportedly there were “credible inputs” of a drone attack, sources pointed out that just before the 2015 Aero India show here, there were threat perceptions of drone attacks to sabotage the show, which was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi.
‘Drones lethal tools in low-cost war’
“The IAF officials went around informing and educating the Station House Officers (SHOs) in Bengaluru on drones. Many of them didn’t even know what a drone looked like. They look like birds but are lethal if they carry explosives. They are lowflying objects and escape radar detection. They are highly lethal tools of low-cost war,” added a source.
During the 2017 edition of Aero India too, the alert of a drone attack had come back to haunt the Bengaluru police and security agencies. “There was a heightened perception of air-borne threat and the IAF and the National Security Guards (NSG) had taken over the security arrangements. Use of low-flying objects like drones were prohibited,” said another source.
Other sources, on condition of anonymity, said that in 2013, Narendra Modi, who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat and the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, had visited Bengaluru to address a mammoth rally at Palace Grounds. There were intelligence inputs regarding a possible drone attack at the rally.
“There were serious security concerns following the serial blasts at Patna, where he (Modi) had addressed an election rally just the previous month. Security was enhanced to an all-time high, but the bigger worry was from weaponised drones. The police could not alone have saved the day. The air security was taken up by some other agencies, while the police had thrown a security blanket around,” added the sources.