The Uri military base attacked by militants on Sunday morning is one of the most important Army garrisons in Kashmir and guards the Line of Control, which is India’s de-facto border with Pakistan.
The base is strategically important from two perspectives: To thwart aggression from Pakistan and to guard against infiltration attempts by militants since armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir in 1989.
The base is close to the border and it is from here that men and materials are supplied to guard the LoC in the region, strategically important since the landing of Indian troops in Kashmir in 1947.
The base acts as the brigade headquarters and houses 12,000-13,000 soldiers at any given point, many of them in transit from their line of duty.
The important base is vulnerable to attack from across the border as it can be approached from the LoC on three sides, one of them as close as six kilometers away from the LoC.
The extremists may have taken advantage of this, sneaking into the camp at 5.30am and using guns and grenades to target soldiers, triggering a fierce gunbattle that raged on for hours.
The base is also located in the plains and is under constant observation from Pakistani army posts higher in the mountains.
A project of the National Hydro Power Corporation also been constructed in the area, mostly underground to prevent damage in case a war breaks out.
Uri – a garrison town with little anti-India sentiment – has been targeted by militants before. A raid in December 2014, also near Uri, had killed eight soldiers and three policemen.
An army official said that the attack was not on the 12 Brigade headquarters but on a rear administrative base close to the brigade.
Rear administrative base is a place where the army units deployed on the LoC “leave their non-operational and other administrative stores behind”.
The official said the Army deploys some personnel on guard to look after the stores. In effect, it means that minimum troops are kept in the rear.
Former GOC 15 Corps in Kashmir, Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ata Hasnain tweeted that the rear forms part of the garrison as maximum troops remain ahead. “Such places very vulnerable (sic),” he said.
What caused more damage in the attack was the fact the base had large strength of troops of units turning over after their tour of duty. They were stationed in tents and temporary shelters which caught fire, and resulted in heavy casualties. Some reports suggested that the troops were moving to peaceful areas after two-and-a-half years of posting on LoC.
(With inputs from Dhrubo Jyoti in Delhi)