NATIONAL

No let-up in border firing, casualties mount

pocket of peace:A couple go around the Shalimar Garden resplendent in autumn hues, in Srinagar on Sunday.— PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD

pocket of peace:A couple go around the Shalimar Garden resplendent in autumn hues, in Srinagar on Sunday.— PHOTO: NISSAR AHMAD  

Since the surgical strikes by Army in September, 13 security personnel have lost their lives

Gunner Harsit Bhadouria, who was injured in cross-border firing in the Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, has succumbed to his injuries. He is the sixth Army man to be killed in firing this month which shows the increasing intensity of ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Boundary (IB).

Army sources said that there have been over 130 instances of ceasefire violations on the LoC and according to BSF sources, over 180 violations occurred on the IB since the surgical strikes on September 29.

Since the surgical strikes, 13 security personnel have lost their lives. They include 10 Army soldiers along the LoC and three jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) that guards the IB. Due to mortar shelling on civilian areas, there were at least 15 civilian deaths so far, including of three children, since the Uri terror attack on September 18 which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers.

Hinterland quiet

Army sources say that while the hinterland, which was rocked by protests and violence, has been relatively quiet, the border has become very active. The number of incidents and weapons used is reminiscent of the violence in 2014 and of 2002 when the border was active.

More than half the casualties this year on the Army’s side were after the surgical strikes. One officer observed that casualties do happen at this level of escalation. However, the concern has been that the losses are disproportionate. The Army says it is now inflicting “heavy casualties” on the Pakistani Army and its posts.

“We are losing our men, but they are losing only terrorists. The real impact is not on the Pakistani Army. This is now changing,” one officer posted along the LoC said.

The bigger worry is there is no sign of reduction in the hostilities which is likely to push up casualties. “Pakistan shows no sign of reducing the firing. We will respond accordingly,” the officer said.

In 2003, a ceasefire came into force following which the guns largely fell quiet barring a few occasional incidents. Since the surgical strikes, both sides have resorted to firing small arms and heavy mortars like 82mm and 120mm. However, both sides have so far not acknowledged using artillery though its use is suspected.

Pakistan’s claim

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan claimed last week that India had for the first time used artillery in the “current phase of escalation.”

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