Pakistan and drone challenges

By Major General (Retd) Harsha Kakar

The employment of drones to target the Jammu air force station opened eyes of the government on the damage which this simple, available over the counter, low-cost device can inflict.

The drone attack at the Air Force base in Jammu followed the blast outside the residence of Hafiz Saeed; blame for which is placed on Indian intelligence agencies. This attack could be an LeT revenge strike, however, Pakistan ISI would have dictated the nature of damage that could be inflicted, mainly due to its own security concerns.

There are many who claim that the attack on the air force station failed to hit its targets. The attack was possibly not designed to cause major destruction.

There is also a view that the strike was aimed at derailing the government’s political initiative in the Union Territory. This is also unlikely as an attack on a military target would have no link with political initiatives.

Jammu has been on the radar of Pakistan as infiltration routes through the valley are blocked due to the ceasefire. Jammu’s proximity to the border, which India terms as ‘international boundary’ and Pakistan as ‘working boundary,’ the entry point of the valley, ideal terrain for employment of drones, as also a populated city where terrorists or sympathizers can hide, makes it a lucrative destination.

A possibility exists that drones employed in the Jammu attack were launched from within the city. With their continued sighting and troops alert along the IB, local launches are more probable.

The employment of drones by anti-national forces is not new in India. These have been effectively employed by Naxals, though not for offensive roles. Security forces operating against Naxals have been instructed to counter them.

China-Pakistan and Pakistan-Turkey cooperation would have resulted in the transfer of drone technology and drones to Pakistan. These are bound to be exploited by Pakistan employing its terrorist proxies while ensuring that targets remain below levels of cross-border retaliation.

It took an attack on a military base to compel the government to act. The meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with key advisors, discussing upcoming policy guidelines for the employment of drones as also the need for countermeasures, indicates that the government will now move at a fast pace.

The DRDO has announced that it had developed an anti-drone system, ideal for securing important locations, possessing both, soft and hard kill capabilities.

Both these systems need to be trial evaluated immediately and operationalized. A report of December 2020 mentions that the navy has ordered limited numbers of Israeli Smash 2000 anti-drone systems, which can be mounted on guns and rifles.

A counter-drone strike on a lucrative Pakistan military target close to the border is the only way to compel it to halt its misadventures. Drone threats are also emerging along the northern borders, for which emergent countermeasures are needed.

Drone countermeasures, which were not given the importance they deserved, are now in the limelight. While India may consider initial imports of anti-drone systems, it needs to push its own indigenous systems, and speed up their testing and deployment. The threat is here to stay and the faster we adapt to it, the better.

(The writer is an expert in strategic and security affairs. Article courtesy: India News Network)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

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