February 2018 News
57 Days, 400 Truce Violations: Pakistan Leaves Kashmir Reeling26 February 2018
Times of India
Srinagar: The line of control in Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan remains extremely volatile, with ceasefire violations (CFVs) already jumping to over 400 in the first two months of this year. Apart from civilians, Pakistan has lost 23 soldiers in the firing duels, while the tally for India is 16 till now. If this trend continues-and it has shown no signs of ebbing as yet-then 2018 is likely to record the highest number of CFVs along the LoC in 15 years since the ceasefire along the 198-km international border in J&K, the 778-km line of control and the 110-km actual ground position line in Siachen came into force as a confidence-building measure between the two countries on November 26, 2003. The step-up in cross-border hostilities, which saw as many as 860 CFVs along the LoC and another 120 along the international border in 2017, began soon after Indian Para-Special Forces conducted the 'surgical strikes' against terror launch pads in four different locations in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to avenge the killing of 19 Indian soldiers in a suicide attack at the Army camp in Uri in September 2016. As part of its policy to 'pro-actively dominate' the 778-km LoC through punitive fire assaults and guerilla operations, the Indian Army has destroyed several Pak Army posts in areas like Balnoi, Mendhar, Kalal, Keran, Doda, Sarla, Laleali and Banwat over the last four to five months, as reported by TOI earlier. 'The Pak Army posts aiding and abetting infiltration are being targeted. As per assessments, there are almost 400 terrorists in and around launch pads, both south and north of the Pir Panjal range, waiting to infiltrate into J&K,' said an officer. With even 105mm light field guns, heavy 120mm mortars and anti-tank guided missiles being regularly used by both sides over the last few months, the latest bout of heavy shelling took place in and around the Uri sector last week. Though the shelling in Uri has reduced a little now, the Pak Army earlier even used loudspeakers to warn villagers in the area that it was going to open fire to avenge the killings of its soldiers by the Indian Army. 'The warning was probably meant for villagers in PoK to take shelter. But the villagers on our side also fled the area,' said an officer. Army officers say the residents of border villages in Balkote, Silikote, Tilawari, Thajal, Churunda, Hathlanga and Batgra were evacuated to the government school at Uri due to 'the unabated targeting of the local civilian populace by the Pak Army'. Both Army chief General Bipin Rawat and Northern Command chief Lt-Gen Devraj Anbu have stressed that the Pak Army 'is suffering three to four times more casualties' in the heavy exchange of cross-border firings. If India lost 32 soldiers in CFVs, infiltration and other incidents along the LoC in 2017 (another 30 laid down their lives in counter-terrorism operations in the hinterland), Army sources estimate 130-140 Pakistan soldiers were killed in the same year based on radio intercepts, intelligence inputs and other information collated from different sources.