It was not just Balakot that the Indian agencies had mapped. There were several other targets in Pakistan that had been on the radar of the agencies.
The mapping or codifying of these targets was an exercise first carried out by the Research and Analysis Wing on in 1997. Apart from Balakot and Bahawalpur, the R&AW had codified 28 other terror camps, some of which were closely to military installations in Pakistan.
For the current operation, the agencies picked up the files that had been prepared since 1997. With the addition of technology today, the agencies were able to get clear images of these targets, which also included the terror training facility at Bahawalpur, which incidentally is the home of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, Maulana Masood Azhar. For this operation, all the agencies including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, NTRO, the three services coordinated. An officer said that during the discussions a hit on Bahawalpur too had come up. However that would have required much more planning and India wanted to hit Pakistan quick in response to the Pulwama attack.
Hence it was found that Balakot was a more feasible target. The officer further explains that the files that had been prepared by the R&AW since 1997 were constantly updated. With the advent of technology, the imagery only got better. The official also said that the government wanted to hit these camps hard. A loud message had to be sent out to Pakistan and hence it was decided that the IAF would cross the Line of Control and hit the target. Once the government gave the go-ahead, the IAF said that it was ready to carry out this mission. Even after the Uri attack, the agencies had discussed the possibility of hitting Balakot. However it was decided that they would carry out a surgical strike instead to first test the waters.
For the Jaish-e-Mohammad it is all in the family It was no easy job for us back then explained former Research and Analysis Wing officer, Amar Bhushan. Apart from Balakot, we had codified 30 similar camps, all of which were located near army installations in Pakistan. We had managed to piece together all the information regarding these camps and more importantly we were able to show them on maps. This list was then circulated to agencies across the world and none denied the information. Those were the times, when the problem of terrorism had not hit the European nations as yet. They always felt that it was an internal issue. They would cite their domestic laws and say that they would get involved only if an organisation hurt their domestic security interests says Amar Bhushan.