The Indian government’s surgical strikes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in 2016 were sold by the government as a reset in Indo-Pakistan ties. The action, it claimed, was a warning to Islamabad that New Delhi is willing and able to do more than just issue condemnations. Despite this, almost two years later, the situation on the border does not seem to have improved. According to government data released last week, 2018 has already seen more ceasefire violations along the Line of Control than all of last year.
According to a reply filed by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre in the Rajya Sabha on July 30, there have been 942 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control until July 23. In all of 2017, there had been 860 violations. The international border has been similarly violent, with the minister stating that there had been 490 instances of cross-border firing as of June this year, compared to just 111 last year. The data also suggests an increase in the number of civilians who died because of ceasefire violations and cross-border firing incidents.
Manoj Joshi, a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said that the data reflects the muscular policy followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government. However, he added BJP did not make its goals very clear.
“Till the end of 2015, things were fine between India and Pakistan,” Joshi said. “[Narendra] Modi went to Lahore [in December 2015] and wished [Pakistan Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif on his birthday but after that the relationship took another twist.”
He added: “From 2016, 2017 and 2018, it has been an intense period. Especially after the Burhan Wani killing [in Kashmir, in July 2016], the relationship deteriorated. The previous governments managed the situation well in the sense that they got the violence down. Once the BJP government came in, they had a counter-bombardment policy and it affected people on the border. But what exactly is their goal is not very clear.”
The surgical strikes, which took place in late September 2016, were carried out by teams of the Indian Army who reportedly crossed the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to attack “terror launch pads”. The strikes were a response to a militant attack on an Army camp in Uri, North Kashmir, on September 18, 2016. Army Chief Bipin Rawat claimed that the Army had “sent a message” to the other side. But according to data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, at least 30 security force personnel were killed in 16 incidents that took place after the first five months of the strikes.
Uncertainty and tension in the political situation in Jammu and Kashmir, coupled with a breakdown in ties between New Delhi and Islamabad has meant that the situation has only become more fraught, with families living along the Line of Control and the international border facing the brunt.
The 2018 ceasefire violation count is the highest ever, and it’s still only the tally until July. The year that had seen the second-highest number of ceasefire violations was 2017. The total number of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and international border has seen a steady rise since 2012. In the years before that, there were fewer than 100 a year, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.