New Delhi: A spate of heavy shelling and ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces, displacing more than 500 villagers on the Indian side of the border in Kashmir, have led to a dramatic escalation of tensions, according to police and intelligence officials.
According to the centre’s statistics, increased shelling by Pakistan since 14 February has left 19 people dead, of whom 10 are security personnel while nine are civilians. Another 80 people have been injured.
The government’s records also show that Pakistan violated the ceasefire 840 times in 2017, and that since the beginning of this year it has been responsible for 170 violations.
Jammu and Kashmir’s director general of police S.P Vaid said on Friday that due to heavy shelling in the border areas along the state’s Uri sector, “500 villagers had been moved further inland to safety." The army as well as the paramilitary forces have been sheltering the villagers in relief camps as Pakistan continues to engage in heavy mortar shelling.
On-ground intelligence officials said that with the snow melting along the passes in Jammu and Kashmir, the increased shelling was aimed at providing cover to infiltrating militants.
“At the moment the situation has escalated. Pakistan has taken to using loudspeakers to tell people to clear out from the areas. It is currently engaging in psychological warfare and it will never escalate matters to a full-blown artillery battle because our military might is far greater," said a senior intelligence official, who did not wish to be identified.
“A J&K centric acceleration may take place. Such operations have been planned multiple times in the past, wherein we attack a few of their posts. But it must be noted that it will be quid pro quo, with Pakistan also retaliating with equal ferocity," said Lt. Gen (retd.) H.S Panag, a defence expert.
Ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops have increased sharply over the past few years. According to data provided by the Union home ministry, there were a total of 583 cases of ceasefire violations along the International Border (IB) and the LoC in 2014, 405 in 2015, 449 in 2017, and 840 in 2017.
A home ministry official said on condition of anonymity that immediate and effective retaliation by the Indian Army and the Border Security Force personnel is carried out during unprovoked fire and ceasefire violations, along with taking up the matter with Pakistan authorities.
Neither the ministry of external affairs nor the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi commented on the matter.
Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.