There has been a spike in hostilities between India and Pakistan along the International Border, with the first four-and-a-half months of 2018 seeing thrice the number of ceasefire violations that were recorded in 2017. For the past one week, there has been constant exchange of fire between the Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers, leading to casualties and heavy property and security infrastructure damage on both sides.
According to data available with The Indian Express, there were 110 incidents of ceasefire violation by Pakistan in 2017, leading to the death of two BSF personnel and seven injuries. This year, till May 23, the figure has already crossed 300 violations on the International Border in Jammu. As many as five BSF personnel have been killed. In 2017, only 16 ceasefire violations were recorded till May on the Jammu border. That makes figures for the corresponding period this year about 20 times that of last year.
Tuesday night turned out to be among the worst this month when 40 border outposts of the BSF in Arnia, R S Pura and Hiranagar sectors received fire from across the border. “The last time we saw so much aggression from Pakistan was in 2014-15 when almost the entire border was lit up and there were significant casualties on both sides,” a BSF officer said.
In August-September 2014, the BSF engaged with Pakistani forces on the Jammu border for days, firing over 1,000 shells every night, after being given a free hand by the government. By 2015, the two sides were back on the negotiating table and in a two-day meet in Delhi between BSF and Pakistan Rangers, it was decided that the two sides would not answer fire immediately. It was also decided to establish hotlines between the brass of the two forces to sort out small issues among themselves.
“It was very fruitful — 2016 and 2017 were very quiet. Much of the action was on the LoC managed by the Indian Army in these two years. But action appears to be shifting back to Jammu border now; right after farmers have harvested their produce,” said a senior BSF officer. While January saw close to 200 incidents of ceasefire violations in Jammu, things started returning to normal in the subsequent months. However, the situation has changed in the last week.
According to BSF sources, it all started when the BSF fired at an infiltrator on the Jammu border last week, leading to constant exchange of fire. It turned worse when a video of BSF targeting and destroying Pakistani bunkers was leaked to the media and a narrative was built that India had brought Pakistan to its knees. “This has led to Pakistan indulging in more firing,” a BSF officer said.