Why the border?
The International Border has been an infiltration target because of the tighter security along the LoC, as well as its proximity to Hindu-dominated Jammu and Punjab. Though the BSF has built a barbed wire fence along the IB in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and Kathua, Jammu, many nullahs and rivulets flow across the border, providing natural passage to infiltrating terrorists. Prominent among them are the rivers Ravi and Ujh. A thick growth of sarkanda and elephant grass offers natural cover. The IB in Kathua district, which has been repeatedly targeted since 2013, is close to the highway, and offers both soft civilian targets as well as high-value ones including police stations, Army camps and the railway line connecting J&K and Punjab.
Watch: Analysis of Gurdaspur Terror Attack With Praveen Swami
After repeated terror attacks in the border districts of Kathua, Samba and Jammu, the counter-insurgency grid has been strengthened significantly in J&K. There are nakas virtually every kilometre on the highways, and tight vigil at the nullahs. The security clampdown was intensified ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit earlier this month, and remains in place in view of the Amarnath Yatra and Independence Day.
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- J&K: Lull in border firing after nine days
- Punjab again: Second attack in six months
- Gurdaspur attack: I&B ministry asks news channels to desist from live coverage of anti-terror operations
- Gurdaspur attack: High alert along Jammu-Kathua highway, security stepped up
- Gurdaspur encounter ends, all terrorists killed
In the circumstances, Punjab would appear an easier target. The Indian Express reported on Tuesday that data found in the terrorists’ GPS sets showed the attack had been launched from Gharot, close to the Pakistani town of Shakargarh, with the attackers entering India at Bamiyal in Pathankot district.
Widening the arc of the attack into largely peaceful Punjab would stretch the security forces on the borders. It would also boost the morale of Sikh militant groups in Pakistan, and signal a possible resumption of operations. Khalistan Zindabad Force chief Ranjit Singh Neeta, who hails from Simbal Camp near Jammu, is believed to be in Pakistan.