Why India chose JeM’s Balakot training camp in Pakistan for IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighter jets strike

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New Delhi | Updated: Feb 27, 2019 6:12 PM

The Indian government said that it had received intelligence inputs that JeM was plotting more attacks.

SURGICAL STRIKE 2Salute Indian Air Force

IAF destroyed JeM training camp in Balakot, Pakistan: As the news and the official confirmation regarding the preemptive, non-military action came, one question that was doing the rounds was why India chose Balakot as the place to carry out the aerial strike. Balakot is not located across Line Of Control (LOC), rather in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan. On February 15 morning, a day after the Pulwama attack the Cabinet Committee on Security met to decide India’s step against the cross-border terrorism. Following the meeting, the Narendra Modi government took diplomatic steps to send a stern message to Pakistan. However, Islamabad chose confrontational rhetoric over steps to check terrorism that has been growing on its soil. On this very day, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa came up with a proposal for cross-LOC aerial strike. The central government gave its nod.

Why Balakot?

Apart from the February 14 Pulwama attack, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), headed by Masood Azhar, carried out attacks in Parliament in New Delhi in 2001 and at the Pathankot airbase in January 2016. India has asserted that JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades and has its headquarters in Bahawalpur.

Following the fall of Taliban in Afghanistan, JeM relocated its training facility to Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary termed this facility as the “biggest training camp of JeM”. The Indian government said that it had received intelligence inputs that JeM was plotting more attacks. The terror camp in Balakot is located on Jabha hilltop surrounded by thick forest. The central government has said that the location is away from civilian presence and one of the reasons why IAF chose this as target. The terror training camp was run by Maulana Yousuf Azhar alias Ustad Ghouri. Ghouri is the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar. JeM trainers, senior commanders were also there in the terror camp.

Balakot map

BALAKOT MAPImage courtesy: IE

Geographical significance: Balakot is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Mansehra district. According to reports, it is 40 km away from the capital of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Muzaffarabad. It is 200 km from Islamabad and more significantly 63 km away from Abbottabad where the mastermind of 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden was killed by United States special forces in May 2011, as per an IE report.

Strategic significance: It is no longer a secret that Pakistani security establishment firmly backs jihadist project to wage low-cost proxy war against India. Balakot plays a pivotal role in Pakistani security establishment’s jehadi ploy. A large number of madrassas and mosques are located in the area. Indian intelligence has gathered a lot of information which says that the 6-acre training cam has ammunition dumps, firing range as well as gym facility.

Apart from this, terrorists in the Balakot terror camp were given aquatic training. Former officers of Pakistan Army used to come and impart knowledge to terrorists. The JeM chief Azhar visited the camp and gave lectures, according to the report.

Terrorists had to go through an advanced ‘Daura-e-Khaas’ training. Under this training, jehadis were taught how to make and plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as given training on handling weapons, planning field tactics, attack on security forces, suicide bombing, survival tactics in harsh climate, terrain and extreme adverse situations, according to the report.

Targeting Balakot also sends a message to Pakistan Army, ISI and establishment that India, if required, has the capability to go and target facilities deep into the neighbouring country.

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