2017 Most Bloody for Indian Forces Manning the Pakistan Border: Sitharaman in Parliament

The Army said that around a dozen villages along the LoC in Uri have been targeted by Pakistani shelling since Thursday, forcing many families to flee. Villagers say, the Indian Army is “effectively retaliating” the firing.

New Delhi: As cross-border tensions between India and Pakistan continue to grow at an alarming rate, the latest trends show that the current year won’t be any different.

According to data tabled in the Parliament on Thursday, there were over 1,000 Pakistan-initiated incidents at the border in 2017, the year following India's surgical strikes. The gains from the much publicised surgical strikes in 2016 still remain a matter of debate.

As records suggest, 2017 was also the bloodiest for the security forces manning the border. At 19, the Army and BSF suffered the maximum number of casualties in cross-border firing since 2015.

The year was also the most devastating for civilians. Forty civilians died in terror-related incidents and violence around border areas. Overall, 87 people, including security personnel and civilians, died in such incidents in the Valley in 2017, as compared to 79 the year before.

The number of terrorists killed last year, at 213, was also highest since 2015.

Evidence of the border remaining heated up even in 2018 was clear from the data tabled by the Defence Minister, which showed that 202 ceasefire violations (CFVs) have already been reported from the border areas in the first month of the new year. Sixteen security personnel and civilians have already died in January 2018.

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) which also maintains terror related data in South Asia, a total of 358 people were killed in the valley last year, which was the highest since 2011.

Nirmala Sitharaman attributed the spike in violence in this area to the "nefarious designs of Pakistan."

She added that these nefarious designs were being defeated through “proactive and determined actions” by the Army both along the LoC and hinterland.

Addressing questions on heavy cross-border shelling taking a toll on civilians in the border areas, Sitharaman said, “During ceasefire violations, the inhabitants of border villages which are vulnerable to shelling are shifted to safer locations to prevent any loss of life. All arrangements are made for free boarding, lodging, medicare, water, electricity, food, sanitation and transport to safer places in such cases.”

She also hinted that the option of conducting a September 2016-style surgical strikes was an option that the Army wasn’t shying away from.

“Based on specific and credible inputs about terrorist teams having positioned themselves at launch pads along the Line of Control to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other States, the Indian Army carries out operations to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists as and when required,” Sitharaman declared.