New Delhi: Retaliating against ceasefire violations along Jammu and Kashmir’s Line of Control (LoC), the Indian Army on Thursday killed two Pakistani soldiers in the state’s Bhimber Gali sector.

The Pakistan Army on Thursday resorted to shelling, firing of small arms, automatics and mortars in the Bhimber Gali sector along the Line of Control. The government has already recorded 200 ceasefire violations in 2018 alone. The ceasefire violation was initiated at around 8:45am.

“Pakistan had resorted to unprovoked firing and we gunned down two of their soldiers, which was also confirmed by their side. This kind of tit-for-tat has been going on since December. This has become a routine affair now," an Indian Army official said on condition of anonymity.

Persons familiar with the developments, speaking under condition of anonymity, said army troops were being deployed to Jammu and Kashmir “as more reinforcements are urgently required at the moment." However, a former Indian Army officer, who did not wish to be identified, said these could be routine exercises which are conducted by the army. “These skirmishes have been on since 2003 when Pakistan chose to violate the ceasefire," this former officer said.

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, and that the matter is also taken up with Pakistani authorities.

An intelligence official said with the snow melting, not only was it indicative of cover fire being given to nearly 300 terrorists who were waiting to infiltrate into Kashmir, it was also a method to keep the Indian Army psychologically engaged at the LoC.

“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," the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to the centre’s statistics, increased shelling by Pakistan since 14 February has left 19 Indians dead, of whom 10 are security personnel while nine are civilians. Another 80 people have been injured.

A defence expert said even though ceasefire violations had increased since 2003, India’s surgical strike in September 2016 had irked Pakistan, which was now trying to cause frequent Indian casualties on a small scale.

“Since the surgical strike, both sides have stepped up firing. Pakistan targets the Hindu-dominated villages in J&K or tries to create small-scale casualties by striking the Indian Army and we in turn strike their posts and by default, their villages get targeted too. India only has the option of a limited engagement with Pakistan in J&K," said Lt. Gen (retd) H.S Panag.

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 200 violations.

Meanwhile, Indian deputy high commissioner in Islamabad J.P. Singh was summoned by the Pakistan foreign office on Thursday to protest against the cross-border fire, a person aware of the development said.

“The deliberate targeting of civilian populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws. The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation," the Pakistan foreign office said in a statement, on Thursday evening.

Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.

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