By Nijeesh N.*
On August 16, 2017, a soldier of the Indian Army identified as Havaldar Narendra Singh Bisht, who was injured in sniper fire from across the Line of Control (LoC) in the Rampur sector of Baramulla District in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), succumbed to injuries at 92 Base Hospital in Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar. Violating the November 2003 cease-fire agreement (CFA), Pakistani Rangers had carried out the sniper attack on August 7, 2017, grievously injuring the soldier.
On August 12, 2017, an Army soldier identified as Naib Subedar Jagram Singh Tomar was killed, while another trooper, Sepoy Mohit Kumar, was injured when Pakistani Rangers resorted to heavy mortar shelling and firing targeting forward defence locations and civilian areas on the LoC in the Mankote area of the Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch District. According to reports, the Indian side retaliated strongly, effectively decimating three Pakistani posts and bunkers along the border, which were engaged in targeting civilian populations in the area. However, no casualty was reported on the Pakistani side.
On the same day, a 40-year-old woman identified as Raqia Bi was killed in firing by the Pakistani Rangers at border villages and Indian posts along the LoC in the Mendhar sector of Poonch District. Several mortar shells also fell in the villages at Gohlad and Sabra Gali but the people remained confined to their houses and narrowly escaped harm. According to reports, the Indian side hit back very strongly and destroyed three Pakistani posts and bunkers and the Pakistan army suffered casualties in the retaliatory action, but exact figures were not available.
On August 8, 2017, an Army trooper identified as Sepoy Pawan Singh Sugra was killed in Pakistani firing from across the LoC in the Mankote area of the Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch District.
These incidents along the LoC and International Border (IB) are rampant. According to official figures, there have been at least 285 incidents of CFA violation reported till August 1 in the current year. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there have been at least another 19 such violations between August 2 and August 27, 2017. Official data further indicates that the Pakistan Army has violated the CFA on at least 2,463 occasions since 2005. There was one violation in 2005, followed by three such violations in 2006, 23 in 2007, 86 in 2008, 35 in 2009, 70 in 2010, 62 in 2011, 114 in 2012, 347 in 2013, 583 in 2014, 405 in 2015, and 449 in 2016.
The ‘unwritten’ CFA between India and Pakistan along the IB, LoC and Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in J&K, virtually came into effect at midnight on November 25, 2003. The Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan, in their weekly telephonic conversation, discussed the modalities of implementation of the earlier proposal and mutually agreed that the ceasefire would be enforced between the two sides along all sectors of the IB, LoC and AGPL. The Agreement held reasonably – though with rising exceptions over time – as long as President Pervez Musharraf remained in power in Pakistan, but disintegrated fairly quickly thereafter. The first CFA violation on record took place on January 19, 2005, when mortars were fired from the Pakistani side across the LoC, targeting an Indian post in the Poonch sector, resulting in injuries to a girl.
CFA violations have, so far, resulted in 50 civilian deaths since November 26, 2003 (official data till June 30, 2017). These included three civilian deaths in the current year. According to SATP data, another four civilians have died between July 1 and August 27, 2017.
The number of fatalities among Security Force (SF) personnel is expectedly higher, as they are the real targets of these violations. The first fatality in Pakistani firing after the CFA took place on November 25, 2007, when a soldier was killed, and another two were injured in two separate firing incidents from the Pakistani side along the LoC in the Poonch Sector. According to official figures, since then, at least 72 soldiers have died (data till July 11, 2017), including five in the current year. These included 48 Army and 24 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. While the Army is on duty along the 770 kilometres long LoC, the BSF patrols the 220 kilometres long International Border. According to SATP data, another 10 SF personnel have died between July 12 and August 27, 2017.
As SAIR has noted earlier, Pakistan has used these incidents of violation to increase volatility along the LoC and IB in order to facilitate infiltration of terrorists into the Indian side, from their launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Indeed, according to official figures, since 2005, there have been at least 4,565 recorded infiltration attempts by Pakistani terrorists (data till June 30, 2017). These included at least 42 such attempts in the current year.
Fire cover provided by Pakistan Army and paramilitary units located across the border is essential to create opportunities for successful infiltration. According to India’s Multi Agency Centre (MAC), around 80 terrorists have successfully infiltrated into J&K this year, till July 31, 2017, from PoK. In 2016, 114 terrorists had infiltrated into the State; 35 in 2015; 65 in 2014; 97 in 2013; 121 in 2012; 52 in 2011; 82 in 2010; 99 in 2009; and 27 in 2008.
Moreover, reports also indicate that around 300 terrorists are waiting in launch pads, mostly in the Neelam Valley of PoK, waiting to infiltrate into the Indian side. Official data, meanwhile, reveals that SFs have succeeded in eliminating 36 terrorists in 2017 (data till July 17) while they were trying to infiltrate from across the border in J&K. In 2016, the SFs had eliminated 37 terrorists during infiltration attempts; in addition to 46 in 2015; 52 in 2014; 38 in 2013; 13 in 2012; 35 in 2011; 112 in 2010; 101 in 2009; and 90 in 2008.
Number of Incidents of CFA Violations*
Total Terrorism-Linked Deaths in Kashmir**
Source: *Government Data, ** SATP, ***Data since November 26, 2003,
****Data till August 1, 2017, *****Data till August 27, 2017.
Despite Pakistan continuous CFA violations by Pakistan since 2005, the trend of declining fatalities in the J&K has only been fitfully affected. The trend was first broken in 2013, when Pakistan drastically increased the number of CFA violations. Broadly, levels of violence in J&K have tended to reduce – with short term variations – despite the rising number of CFA violations by Pakistan.
The Indian response to escalating Pakistani misadventures has tended to follow a hard line, crystallizing around the conviction that the ‘strategic restraint’ that New Delhi had observed over the past decades was no longer useful or acceptable. Thus, in response to the Uri Army camp attack on September 18, 2016, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, the Indian Army executed a ‘surgical strike’ against terrorist launch pads across the LoC in PoK on September 29, 2016, inflicting significant casualties. Unconfirmed reports suggest that at least 38 terrorists and their handlers, as well as two Pakistani soldiers were killed in the strike. No Indian casualty was reported. However, in the 332 days since the ‘surgical strike’, according to partial data compiled by SATP, a total of 53 Indians (30 SFs personnel and 23 civilians) have died as a result of CFA violations by the Pakistan Army, even as India responds to each incident with retaliatory barrages that have caused significant damage and loss of life on the other side. While there is no systematic reportage on casualties on the Pakistani side, a statement by Zaheeruddin Qureshi, the Director General of Pakistan’s Disaster Management Authority, confirmed on June 19, 2017, that at least 832 lives had been lost and over 3,000 persons injured in what was described as India’s ‘unprovoked firing’ (the period over which these losses were sustained was not specified in most reports, though there is an indication that figures are for casualties since the November 2003 CFA).
The escalation of CFA violations continues to cause significant loss of life on both sides, with no measurable strategic purpose served. Nevertheless, with jingoism and aggressive posturing dominating the discourse, both in Islamabad and New Delhi, there is no proximate end in sight to this directionless bloodshed.
* Nijeesh N.
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
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