Manohar Parrikar said his major concern was how terrorists from Pakistan were able to enter India, suggesting lax vigilance by the Border Security Force.
The operations at the Pathankot Air Base, attacked by terrorists on the weekend, reveal "some gaps" ceded Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar after visiting the sprawling compound where seven military personnel were martyred and another 20 injured since dawn on Saturday.
The minister was responding to allegations that a series of security lapses allowed a group of six terrorists to enter the heavily-fortified base from where India's Russian-made fleet of MiG-21 fighter jets and Mi-35 attack helicopters fly.
Pointing out that there are lots of "blind spots" in the huge compound of nearly 2,000 acres, Mr Parrikar said his major concern was how terrorists from Pakistan were able to enter India, suggesting lax vigilance by the Border Security Force.
"I see some gaps. But I do not think there is any compromise on security. Once the investigations are over, things will become clear," he told reporters.
Of the seven martyrs, one was killed in active combat, the deaths of the others were a case of "bad luck", the minister said at the air force base located just 30 km from the border with Pakistan. He confirmed that some of the equipment recovered from the killed terrorists including 50 kilos of ammunition was made in Pakistan.
Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif phoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening to assure him of full support in the investigation that has been launched.
The Pathankot attack came just a week after Mr Modi paid a surprise visit to Mr Sharif in Islamabad in a major initiative to speed up the rapprochement between the two countries after months of severe tension. India is considering delaying the talks set for January 15 between the Foreign Secretaries of both countries.
Investigators believe the attack may have been carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Pakistan-based terror group which claims commitment to winning independence for Kashmir. But yesterday, the United Jihad Council, an alliance of more than a dozen pro-Pakistan terror groups based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, claimed responsibility for the air base attack.
Analysts have pointed out that phone calls made by the terrorists were intercepted on Friday -the attack at the base began on Saturday. Yet, the terrorists were able to enter the base where they started firing indiscriminately. Commentators and experts have also pointed out that the government erred by summoning commandos of the elite National Security Guard or NSG to lead the ops, largely ignoring the Army.
The government has however said that the NSG was summoned because of its capability to handle hostage situations and its training in flushing out terrorists in built-up areas. "Neither the Army nor the IAF are trained and meant for an offensive role," a senior official said, adding that as soon as the terrorists moved into a residential area part of the base on Day 1 of the operation, the NSG was given the lead role.
"The NSG is not a first responder, and is neither trained nor equipped to protect sprawling air bases; it is meant for pinpoint operations like hostage rescue or flushing out terrorists holed up in a house," said a column in the Business Standard
These problems were compounded by a lack of inter-agency cooperation and coordination, say those examining the attack.