SRINAGAR: The border ceasefire between India and Pakistan, which completed 13 years on Saturday, is in tatters as troops of two countries are caught in hostilities along the 720-km long Line of Control (LoC) and 198-km long International Border (IB) in Jammu Kashmir.
The border ceasefire agreement between the two countries came into effect on November 26, 2003. It was seen as a biggest confidence building measure (CBM) and came as a major relief for the border people of J&K, who were the worst affected by cross-border firing and shelling.
After the ceasefire, Indian and Pakistani troops on both sides started de-mining the villages and villagers started cultivating their lands.
The border ceasefire survived intermittent skirmishes between troops of the two countries in last more than a decade.
However, it is now under serious threat as the hostilities between the troops of two countries have witnessed an upward trajectory since September 18 deadly militant attack on an Army base in Uri in North Kashmir in which 19 soldiers were killed and two dozen others injured. All the four attackers belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad were also killed in the retaliatory firing.
Army responded strongly to the militant attack by conducting surgical strikes on militant launch pads across the LoC on the intervening night of September 28 and 29 inflicting heavy casualties on the militants.
Pakistan, however, has denied that Indian Army conducted any surgical strikes in its territory but admitted that two of its soldiers were killed in Indian Army firing at the LoC.
Since the surgical strikes, ceasefire violations have witnessed a surge and Pakistani troops are resorting to firing and mortar shelling on security forces posts and civilian areas along the LoC and IB in J&K on a near daily basis.
The Pakistan’s notorious Border Action Team (BAT) comprising commandos and well trained militants have conducted two cross-LoC raids in Machil sector killing four soldiers, beheading two of them.
According to defence sources, there have been more than 300 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along LoC and IB after the surgical strikes.
They said in the Pakistani troops firing and shelling, 18 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed. “About 70 army men and border guards and 76 civilians have also been injured in the Pakistani firing and shelling.”
“We have also inflicted damages to Pakistani troops by causing heavy casualties to them and damaging dozens of their posts,” they said.
According to defence sources, there have been more than 400 border ceasefire violations this year.
“If the ceasefire violations continue unabated and army and civilians continue to suffer casualties, then there is every likelihood that the ceasefire accord may be under threat and may not hold,” they said.
According to official statistics, Pakistani troops committed more than 550 ceasefire violations along the LoC and IB in 2014. “In these ceasefire violations, 19 people including five security men were killed and over 150 injured.”
It further reveals that there were 253 ceasefire violations along IB and 152 along IB in J&K in 2015. “In these ceasefire violations, 26 people including 16 civilians, four BSF men and six army men were killed. Another 97 people including 71 civilians and 26 security men were also injured in the cross-border firing and shelling last year”.
The situation along the LoC and IB in entire J&K is now grim and border people are living under fear psychosis. The authorities had to close schools in border areas and evacuate some border population after heavy Pakistani shelling early this month.
“We are living under total fear due to uncertainty, which has once again engulfed the borders. We don’t know when the cross-border firing and shelling will begin. We are totally unsafe as we don’t have underground bunkers, where we could take refuge during Pakistani firing and shelling before 2003 border ceasefire accord,” said Abdul Razzaq, a resident of Gurez that witnessed Pakistani troops firing and shelling few days back.
He expressed hope that the border ceasefire would remain in force and troops of both countries would respect the ceasefire.
An army official in Srinagar told Express that there is war-like situation along the frontiers.
“It (war-like situation) is because of the Pakistani troops’ aggression. After our surgical strikes, Pakistani troops are demoralised and are trying to vent out frustration by firing at our posts and civilian areas. However, after our counter-offensive against them at LoC on November 23, their guns have fallen silent and we hope they will respect and uphold the border ceasefire,” he said.
The official, however, said if they again start breaching border ceasefire, Indian troops would continue to give a befitting reply to them.