Why Pathankot-Jammu highway is vulnerable to terror attacks
Monday’s deadly terror attack at Dinanagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district has a striking similarity, both in terrain and tactics, to a string of such strikes along Pathankot-Jammu national highway over the past 13 years. It is in fact, the fifth such incident this year on the highway -- the only link between the rest of India and Jammu and Kashmir.india Updated: Jul 28, 2015 13:12 IST
Monday’s deadly terror attack at Dinanagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district has a striking similarity, both in terrain and tactics, to a string of such strikes along Pathankot-Jammu national highway over the past 13 years – it is in fact, the third such incident this year on the only link between the rest of India and Jammu and Kashmir.Hindustan Times look at what makes the busy highway so prone to cross-border terrorist strikes.
PROXIMITY TO THE BORDER: The National Highway 44 runs almost parallel to the India-Pakistan border, at some stretches as close as five kilometre. This makes it easily accessible for terrorists to launch quick cross-border strikes and escape to Pakistan.
National Highway 44 (Google maps)
HIGH-VALUE TARGETS: The Jammu-Pathankot highway is dotted with several army cantonments and stations and the population along the road is predominantly Hindu.
Most of attacks so far have been on the army camps along the highway. As the only lifeline between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India, the highway witnesses frequent movement of army convoys.
It is also the route taken by hundreds of pilgrims every year, including those going to the high-profile Amarnath shrine in Kashmir.
In the worst attack so far, 31 people including 21 army men and their family members and 10 civilians were killed by three Pakistani terrorists at Kaluchak – midway on the highway – on May 14, 2002.POROUS BORDER: Though a large portion of the international border on the Gurdaspur-Jammu sector has been fenced by India to check cross-border infiltration, it has many gaps due to seasonal rivulets cutting through the border.
File: Indian security personnel patrolling the porous Pathankot-Jammu national highway. (Photo: HT)
At several stretches, it’s virtually a ‘walk in and walk out’ border. As the terrain is jagged and forested, the undulating rivulet beds provide ideal cover and short routes for terrorists to sneak in, get to the highway and snatch vehicles to mount rapid strikes. In almost all of the strikes, terrorists used snatched vehicles to race up and down the highway to hit intended targets, catching security forces off-guard.
LAUNCH PADS: While the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is heavily-mined and guarded by the army, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence is known to use its frontline posts on the international border – which is not mined and thinly manned -- as launch pads for terrorists. It is an alternative and easy route for Pakistani infiltrators to access the highway for mounting attacks and even reach the Kashmir valley.