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New Year's lessons from Pathankot: India must stop being a grieving helpless nation

It is not a war just with guns and bullets but a war of perceptions as well. We have to win both. The enemy has to win just one.

The terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase despite early intelligence warning (a five-day lead as per some reports), has once again revealed gaps in our internal security grid. It has also been reported that the thermal imagery system between two posts at the border had broken down in July 2015. This had enabled an infiltration by the Lashkar-e- Taiba and the Gurdaspur attack. In the present case, well-armed terrorists had a free run to Pathankot. More than that, they seem to have a fair knowledge of the layout of the airbase.

A new pattern is discernible in recent attacks. Terrorists are being sent in to Punjab to see if the state has become soft and penetrable. In the bargain, there is not even a pretence that this is about Kashmir anymore. It is about India, make no mistake.

Reports clearly point out that Pakistan has spread its intelligence agents all over the country. India is an easy country to move around, settle, acquire identity and vocation and they have assessed that it is easy to carry on with their assignments. For every terrorist cell located, for every intelligence agent picked up, there must be 10 others not found. The nexus between heroin and drug smugglers, terrorists, local police, money launderers and politicians is weakening the system.

The war of perceptions

Why do we have to say war is not an option even as they send terrorists across or flash their nuclear arsenal at us? They have opened a second simultaneous front against India in Afghanistan. We should do likewise. We should not forget we have a war on our hands. It may be proxy war, or whatever else we may choose to call it, but it is war by stealth launched by an army which has a Ghazwa-e-Hind (the final battle for India) mindset. It is not a war just with guns and bullets but a war of perceptions as well. We have to win both. The enemy has to win just one

They know that India will only do so much (when Mumbai 2008 happened we did not even recall our High Commissioner, nor call off talks) and US will only say so much, usually some anodyne, limp and preachy statement as they have done again on Monday. Pakistan can happily live with this arrangement.

A country can afford to be magnanimous when it is the stronger but some countries do not do that. The United States never forgave Cuba or Iran and it has taken decades for the US to try reconciliation. At this juncture, in Pakistan's ruling circles, any conciliatory move by India is seen as appeasement. No self-respecting country, in their view, indulges in this kind of come-and-hit-me-again pleading.

Media coverage

Why show the photo of a grieving widow on our front pages? This is exactly what Pakistan wants to see and celebrate – a grieving helpless nation. Why not show a commando in action? Similarly, this universal desire to rush to interview families, widows and parents of the dead remains inexplicable. We would honour the dead better by letting the families grieve in privacy.

We invite their so-called experts on our prime time television shows, probably pay them handsomely and thus give them lucrative airtime to bad-mouth us and produce all sorts of alibis. A fine example of self-flagellation. Do we seriously expect them to join us in condemning these attacks?

Our editorials the next morning are very erudite and dispassionate as they advocate the big picture of continuing talks with terrorists. It is perhaps easy to be dispassionate when we do not quite know how it is to sit alone crouched behind a bush on a dark cold winter's night waiting for the unseen terrorist. At least for the present we could have spared a thought for those young men who died for us and put some fire and anger in our editorials.

Apart from the editorials, take the reportage in the press: On January 4, the Times of India referred to the terrorists as fidayeen five times in one report. Have the reporters not been told that terrorists on suicide missions use this term to glorify themselves in the name of Allah while on suicide missions? Why do we want to give them this honour when they are brutal murderers? So is the expression mujahedeen. Let's get it right: They are all terrorists, bar none.

The Indian Express report freely cites a senior officer's comments and those of a military officer. Is there no gag order? There is an imaginative report of how the Research and Analysis Wing or R&AW was able to identify five terrorists. How does the reporter know this? Has some one told him? Has he seen the report? Is it necessary to disclose this? Would it not be better to keep the opposition guessing? It is also described how the terrorists, after entering India, changed into military fatigues. Where and when did they do this? Who saw them? Or is this deduction? Did they really use this route that evening or had they slipped in even earlier? Who escorted them? It should be easy to confirm.

Taking stock

One hears that government would now be conducting an enquiry into this episode to determine how we suffered fatalities and how the terrorists penetrated thus far despite some early warnings. Depending on the source of intelligence, the timing of the report and its accuracy, it can be said that had this intelligence not been received and some measures taken, the attack on the Pathankot Airbase would have been a major disaster. It must also be said that the airbase is huge and it takes time to clear such an area. Having said that, it is important to address our shortcomings.

Our first line of defence at the border had some gaps and weaknesses. The opposition knew about this and, quite possibly, there was complicity as well. The local police should be the first point of call for any such terrorist incident after the border crossing. It should be a well-equipped mobile force which is familiar with its area of operation and able to reach the spot before specialised reinforcements arrive. In India, local police deployments are numerically low (one of the lowest globally as a ratio to population), they are thus thinly spread out. What makes it worse is that the quality of training, equipment and morale are equally low. Over time, police and counter-terror policies have been politicised. For decades now there have been commissions that have urged police reforms. These have been promised but never delivered. Prakash Singh, former chief of the Uttar Pradesh Police and Border Security Force, went to the extent of seeking legal redress for this, but nothing has happened so far.

Terrorists and their mentors use each terror attack also as a probing mission to test defences, reactions and about lessons learnt for the future. The adversary hopes to learn more about abilities not just of the security forces but the administration, politicians and media. There are thus two important issues in such situations. One is the functioning of the command and control of the state. The state must be seen to react with speed and efficiency, to be in charge all the time and on top of the situation. The citizen and the forces want to see that there is no panic or confusion. In the past there used to be meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security, although this did not guarantee that the image portrayed was that of a state in charge. Secondly, terrain knowledge and target familiarity enables quick and appropriate action. The National Security Guard or the NSG is a fine force but it is unfair to push it into this kind of a situation unless it has performed dry runs. Perhaps Army commandos could have been used.

It is going to be same old story again, I fear. We have had 30 years to put our counter terror practices in position and for a while we succeeded in Punjab, but the last two decades have pushed all these measures away. In the end, it seems like we have been here before as we wait for the next terror attack.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing

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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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