Indian security forces have deployed around 1,200 more troops on certain stretches along the India-Pakistan border after intelligence inputs indicated a strong chance of infiltration in the run-up to US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit.
Sources in the Border Security Force said authorities added a second line of defence at certain locations on the border about a week ago because cold and fog may help terrorists slip into the country.
The order comes as the United States and India make unprecedented security arrangements to avoid any terror incident during the three-day visit. Security agencies are taking no chances as militants massacred 36 people in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district in March 2000, during then US President Bill Clinton’s visit.
On Sunday, the US warned Pakistan of consequences if any cross-border incident was traced back to Islamabad.
"Inputs suggest a group of 12-15 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists may cross over at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, led by two LeT operatives Abdullah Shaheen and Taya Rafiq. They are planning to carry out terror strikes before Obama’s visit,” said a security official.
Intelligence agencies also warned another LeT terrorist group may infiltrate through the Poonch sector, the official added. Officials have been regularly receiving such terror inputs ever since Obama was announced as the chief guest for the January 26 parade in November.
Sources said the Republic Day parade – under the terror radar for over 30 years – always functioned under tight security.
“There is total air closure during the parade. No civilian flights are operated. The only planes and choppers in the sky belong to the Air Force for the traditional fly-past. Besides, anti-aircraft guns and snipers at high rises are positioned days before the parade. Agencies are conducting regular anti-sabotage checks along the parade route and identifying all spectators for the parade,” said a security official.
Officials from both countries have met several times in the last few days to hammer out contentious details such as the length of the parade, usually over two hours.
US agencies also insist on Obama using his bullet-proof presidential limousine The Beast, but Indian officials point out the parade’s chief guest and the President always travel together.
"US security officials assured their Indian counterparts they won’t put any condition that alters the traditional Republic Day celebration but certain standard operating procedures cannot be violated. All details will be finalised before the weekend. It is possible that some issues such as the use of The Beast might be sorted out at the political level,” said a security official.
The Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway will also be closed as an earmarked contingency route during Obama’s visit to Agra. The Capital is set to witness a lockdown of sorts in the run-up to January 26, with offices, arterial roads and Metro stations closed for security.
India also politely turned down a US request to have only American snipers deployed on rooftops of buildings overlooking the Rajpath during the parade, PTI reported. The report couldn’t be independently verified.