Why Pathankot-Gurdaspur belt is vulnerable to terror attacks
‘MADE-IN-PAKISTAN’ Saturday’s episode fits into the pattern of deadly cross-boarder strikes on Gurdaspur-Pathankot-Jammu axis in past 14 years
The terrorist strike on the frontline Indian Air Force base in Pathankot early on Saturday is the second major ‘made-in-Pakistan’ attack to take place in Punjab’s Gurdspur-Pathankot belt in the past six months.
The latest incident is an eerie relay of the modus operandi in the Dinanagar terror episode in Gurdaspur district on July 27 last year. Three Pakistan-origin terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group had crossed over from the international boarder and attacked a local police station that time.
Ten persons, including the Gurdaspur superintendent of police, were killed in the 12-hour-long operation that killed all heavily-armed terrorists who were equipped with two GPS devices and night vision devices with US army marking.
Dinanagar is barely 28km from Pathankot, which is located on the tri-junction of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh and has a big army cantonment and an air base.
Saturday’s episode fits into a pattern of deadly cross-border terror attacks on the Gurdaspur-Pathankot-Jammu axis in the past 14years. In fact, National Highway-44, the main artery that connects Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and runs parallel to the international border, has come to be known as the ‘highway of terror’.
NH-44, THE ‘HIGHWAY OF TERROR’
Though a large portion of the 553-km long Punjab with Pakistan is fenced, there are several gaps in the Gurdspur sector caused by the Ravi river and seasonal rivulets that cut into the international boundary. Gurdaspur has a long, zigzagging river line international border which is easy to infiltrate as compared to the heavily-mined and guarded Line of Control as well as the international border in the adjoining Jammu sector. A dense fog in winter makes border surveillance all the more challenging.
Proximity to Pakistan
As the border terrain is broken and forested, rivulet beds provide ideal cover for terrorists to sneak in and access the busy NH-44 highway that snakes along the border. This enables terrorists to hijack vehicles and mount rapid strikes. In almost all terror attacks, militants used snatched vehicles to attack intended targets, catching security forces off-guard.
The Gurdas-Pathankot-Jammu highway is dotted with a large number of defense installations, including cantonments, air force bases and ammunition dumps. As the only lifeline between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India, the highway witnesses a heavy movement of army convoys and also round-he-year movement of pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi shrine. Most terror attacks so far have been on the army camps and police stations along the highway.
Terror lunch pads
Pakistan-based terror groups are known to use the frontline posts of Pakistan Rangers on the international border as launch pads for terrorists. When the snow blocks the Line of Control (Lo
- C) crossings in Kashmir, they use it as an alternative route to push terrorists into Indian Territory.