Pathankot Airbase Report: The Quint Responds to IAF’s Rebuttal

The Indian Air Force sought to refute our story, ‘Pathankot Airbase Ex-Chief Dhamoon Resigned Before Inquiry Began’

Updated24 Jun 2017, 06:58 AM IST
India
4 min read

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday sought to refute The Quint’s story ‘Pathankot Airbase Ex-Chief Dhamoon Resigned Before Inquiry Began’, saying that the “article is malicious and far from the truth”. In its rebuttal, the IAF claims that “inter alia the facts” are:

“Air Commodore JS Dhamoon has not resigned from service till date.

“No senior officer took the plea of danger to Air Commodore JS Dhamoon in an Islamic country.

“Air Commodore JS Dhamoon was not called and coerced to tell anything about the number of terrorists.

“Air Commodore Dhamoon’s course was cancelled by the Chief of the Air Staff because he was involved in the inquiry.

“Air Marshal SB Deo neither met, spoke or in any manner tried to influence the CoI. In fact after the incident, both Air Officers spoke for the first time during the courtesy call on by AVM Amit Dev on 12 June 17.

“Details about what transpired at the base operations are factually wrong.

“Air Marshal SB Deo had given no instructions to Lt Col Niranjan or anybody in NSG about what they were suppose to do. Air Marshal SB Deo and Lt Col Niranjan never met. Lt Col Niranjan was not taking a photo of the dead terrorist and no senior officer from Delhi asked him to do so.

TV news was not HQ WAC’s source of information. Media was not aware of this matter when WAC was alerted.”

Here’s the full copy of the IAF’s response:

The following is The Quint’s point-by-point response to the IAF’s rebuttal:

1) Air Marshal JS Dhamoon, who commanded the IAF’s Pathankot airbase when the terrorist attack took place there on 1 January 2016, had put in a letter of early discharge (with effect from 31 August 2017) from service, but withdrew it last week after speaking with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa. He has three-and-a-half years of service left.

2) The MoD had sent a note to Air Headquarters, asking whether the IAF brass would send Dhamoon to Bangladesh, an Islamic country, especially when he had very recently been at the receiving end of a terror attack on the Pathankot airbase allegedly carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

The IAF readily cancelled the order that had paved the way for Dhamoon to attend an intensive course at the Advanced Staff College in Bangladesh in December 2016. The previous Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had cleared Dhamoon’s name for the course in Bangladesh. Raha’s immediate subordinate and would-be successor (then) Air Marshal BS Dhanoa was fully aware of Dhamoon’s impending departure to Bangladesh to attend the course.

3) The Quint has privileged information that Dhamoon and the chief of the Western Air Command, Air Marshal Shirish Deo, were “face to face” on more than one occasion. It is equally true that Deo was present at the very time when the attack was on.

4) The Quint’s sources have unequivocally said that Air Vice Marshal Amit Dev, who presided over the Court of Inquiry (CoI), instituted after a prolonged delay, revealed to a subordinate colleague, one of the principal IAF officers who deposed before the CoI, that the “vice chief (Deo) was regularly calling him up”. It is likely that the calls were made over the secure air force line.

5) The Quint stands by its version of events that unfolded in the counter attack by the Garud and NIA commandos. Deo was present when the counter-attack was underway. Sources questioned ‘why Deo has not, therefore, taken any of the blame for the fiasco.’

6) Eyewitnesses at the airbase and NIA’s inquiries later revealed that National Security Guard (NSG) Lieutenant Colonel Niranjan EK, who unfortunately died when a grenade concealed in the clothing of one of the dead terrorists went off, followed instructions by Deo to pull out a GPS device.

7) National Security Adviser Ajit Doval took a meeting attended by the three service chiefs sometime after the then Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh first spoke (giving a strange version of the events that led to his so called capture by the terrorists) on 1 January 2017 to the electronic media which had by then started putting out the initial reports of the attack on the airbase.

When the CoI asked Dhamoon why he didn’t inform Western Air Command about terrorists having infiltrated the airbase, he responded by saying that the news of attack was all over TV news channels which other superior officers would also have watched.

Besides, there is evidence to show that around noon of 1 January 2016, one of the terrorists used the mobile phone of the jeweller Rajesh Sharma (“captured” along with Salwinder Singh and the SP’s cook Madan Gopal) to inform the Pakistan-based handler that they had been able to sneak into the airbase from a point other than the predesignated one. The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) had intercepted that call.

Nobody in the IAF or the higher national security establishment had any clue about the attack till Salwinder Singh gave his “version” of his “capture” and it was not before 3:30 pm on 1 January 2016 that security measures were activated at the Pathankot airbase.

(This admission season, The Quint got experts from CollegeDekho.com on board to answer all your college-related queries. Send us your questions at eduqueries@thequint.com)

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Published: 24 Jun 2017, 02:11 AM IST

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