Gateway to terrorism

Today, India’s border with Pakistan has become a veritable gateway to terrorism. While Pakistani terrorists have infiltrated through the Line of Control (LoC) into Indian territory –they have lately started to enter through the International Border (IB) which highlights a new trend in cross-border terrorism. Despite an electrified fence erected across the border, Pakistan has heightened its proxy war against India through ingress of jihadi terrorists which is evident from recent attacks in the border states of Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

Did the two terrorists, recently captured alive in J&K a few months ago, infiltrate through the IB LoC? While the Border Security Force (BSF) is deployed on the IB, the army secures the LoC in Kashmir. Pakistan's infamous Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has started a search for new routes to infiltrate militants into J&K and also re-activate some of the older ones that were abandoned over time with the progressive decline in terrorism.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data indicates that at least 24 major infiltration routes are active since 2003 along the LoC and IB in J&K. The Poonch district accounts for 10 such routes, followed by Kupwara with four, Samba three, Jammu and Rajouri  two each, and Baramulla, Bandipora and Kathua one each. The major infiltration routes include, Sangiot, Balnoi, Sona Gali, Pathri Gali, Sabjian area, Bhimber Gali, Peeli Pama village, Sobra Gali, Chajal and Yunus Nallah in Poonch; Nowgam area, Tangdher, Nawahar and Keran in Kupwara; Ramgarh, Rajpura and Ballarh post in Samba; Abdulian and Gargrian in Jammu; Tarkundi and Nowshera in Rajouri; Trikanjan in Baramulla; Baktur in Bandipora; and Bobiya in Kathua.

Most of these routes are located along the 776 km LoC in Kashmir where the Indian Army is dominant that has prompted the Pakistan Army/ISI to activate infiltration routes along the IB.  According to SATP data, there was no infiltration related incident along the IB till 09 May 2008, J&K has recorded 28 such illegal entries thereafter. Recently, on 20 March, 2015, a fidayeen group of militants dressed in army fatigues stormed a police station in J&K’s Kathua district, killed seven persons along with three security force personnel, two civilians and two militants while injuring 12 others. On March 28, 2014 terrorists infiltrated through the Hiranagar area, along the IB, to execute an attack.

Pakistani militants sneak across the border and then establish contact with an Indian sympathiser and attempt to merge with the local population. Thereafter, they familiarise themselves with the topography of the area, select a suitable target, plan their attack and importantly, their exit from the area to avoid capture.

The fact that three terrorists have been captured alive, since the high profile Ajmal Kasab in Mumbai, provides overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of the Pakistan hand. Yet, there is no clarity on when and how many infiltrators actually entered the Indian territory. Clearly, these attacks are reminiscent of the 2015, 2014 and 2013 fidayeen terrorist actions in the Samba and Kathua districts of J&K. The recent action at Dinanagar involved a broadly similar modus operandi adopted in the Kathua-Samba area.

In the event of the terrorists infiltrating through the IB, then they could have been inducted to Narowal sector and entered at Alowal. The river Ravi crisscrosses the border thrice within a span of two-three km and offers a shallow stretch, which is narrow in width that makes it easy for terrorists to swim across into the Indian territory.

Indian intelligence estimates that 2,500 terrorists, being trained in 42 camps across the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan, are ready to be launched into J&K, even as border disturbances to cover infiltration attempts escalate. The Pakistan Army is reported to have activated launch pads to infiltrate terrorists from these camps, to boost the waning strength and morale of cadres active in J&K. The terrorists have reportedly taken to hi-tech, and are specially trained to negotiate the electrified border fence, as well as operate modern navigational aids like GPS and communication systems.

Infiltration attempts
Infiltration attempts along the 190 km IB in J&K have evidently witnessed a surge and, in response, on December 15, 2013, the BSF introduced state-of-the-art communication and surveillance systems, backed by bullet-proof bunkers and high-end infrared cameras, along the IB, to arrest cross-border infiltration.

The BSF has identified 19 sensitive and riverine areas and gaps along the IB on the Jammu frontier for installation of the high-end infra-red cameras and surveillance systems. For Pakistani terrorists, the possible reason to target Punjab through Gurdaspur district could be: Considering the last terrorist attack in Punjab took place on January 1, 2002, the security establishment has become complacent over a decade.
Therefore, it is that much more feasible for an adversary to launch a surprise attack and meet with higher chances of success. While Pathankot has to be an obvious choice, infiltrator-terrorists are likely to avoid traditional routes and targets, choose locations which are not well fortified namely civil administration and government offices. In any case, it has to be a rarely used route which is sparsely populated and easy to infiltrate.
Today, the threat of infiltration that promotes cross-border terrorism has not been able to evoke an effective Indian response to deter such hostile actions. Till now, New Delhi’s response to Islamabad, in the context of cross-border terrorism, has swung between “talks” and “no talks”. In reality, border management towards Pakistan largely occurs through the security forces deployed along the border with no clear political direction from New Delhi.

Clearly, this highlights a lack of policy coherence between the political and military leadership which now needs to transform under the Modi government.

(Monappa was with the Corps of Intelligence; Tripathi is Assistant Professor, Christ University, Bengaluru)

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