On Thursday, a team of NSG experts was sent from Delhi to examine the blast site in Ludhiana and defuse any other improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The NSG bomb data analyst reached the site late on Thursday night, losing the chance to analyse in the initial crucial hours.
NSG was raised in 1984 as a federal contingency force, but the decision to set up regional NSG hubs was taken in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
The proposal for the NSG hub in Punjab was first mooted in 2019 by the then chief minister, Amarinder Singh.
“The discussions were held between the Centre and state government on providing land near Amritsar. However, it got delayed first due to the Covid-19 pandemic and later because of the change in political and bureaucratic leadership within the state,” said a senior official. “Punjab was keen to set up the base at Pathankot while the Centre was in favour of land near Amritsar, citing better coordination and movement.”
Singh had repeatedly raised the issue of terrorism and revival of militancy in his meetings with Union home minister Amit Shah and cited intelligence reports that warned of attempts by Pakistan-based groups to revive the Khalistan movement.
Singh resigned in September this year. The administrative changes that followed included appointment of a new director general of police.
“Had the plan been finalised, it would have taken NSG less than an hour to reach Ludhiana from Amritsar,” said another official.
When four terrorists had attacked the airbase in Pathankot in 2016, NSG commandos were flown in from Delhi. An NSG commando was among the seven killed in the exchange of fire with the militants. The militants were killed after several hours of fighting.
According home ministry officials, the hub, once operationalized, will be responsible for the hill region in northern India. It will have about 100 commandos of counterterrorism and counter-hijacking squads of the NSG.
The elite force is also mandated to provide tactical counterterrorism and train the Special Forces of Punjab Police to handle any hostage crisis.
The Mumbai hub of NSG became functional in 2009, followed by those in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The regional hub of NSG in Gujarat was set up in 2018.