Jammu: A dozen Indians have now lost their lives in heavy cross-border shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) in the last four days.
According to sources posted near the border areas, such intense shelling hasn't been seen in border areas in at least the last one-and-a-half years. Police and health services have sounded a red alert in the area and have moved more than 40,000 people living in border villages to safer areas.
All indicators point towards further escalations in cross-border shelling.
A BSF IG posted in Jammu said that he hadn't seen the present level of 'tensions' on the border for some time, and added that Pakistanis, for last few days, have been firing "continuously and accurately."
"The situation is tense no doubt. They have been firing continuously, accurately. But we have retaliated with equal force and accuracy each time," the BSF's IG, Jammu, Ram Avtar said.
Another senior officer, who did not want to be quoted, claimed that Pakistan had been opening fire from their 120 mm guns more often in the last couple of days, suggesting intentions of upping the ante and causing greater damage on the Indian side.
"Shelling across the border has been escalating over last two days. They have been using their 120 mm gun more often now. Although these guns have a range of 7 kms, they have been aiming their guns at our posts most of the time, clearly aiming to kill our soldiers, but we have given it back to them without suffering many casualties," the senior officer said.
It is a wait and watch game, the officer added. "Pakistanis have created three-tier reinforced bunkers, within which they retreat after firing at us. On our side, we have created a series of sand mounds for protection and to maintain vigilance."
He added that shots fired from the Indian side, unless they were to bring in the 150 mm Bofors guns, were largely ineffective on Pakistani bunkers, given their three-layered protection. The same was the case with Indian side.
"But it is when we are laying down communication lines or repairing the existing lines that their snipers, waiting in lurch, fire at our soldiers," said the officer.
So, is Pakistan really upping the ante and if so, to what end?
"We don't know at the moment, they're doing it perhaps to push in terrorists. No high-level flag meetings have been held in some time also, so there is no formal communication happening," said a source.
Is there a way to de-escalate the situation?
"Whenever we talk to them about these firings during flag meetings, we're told that it is the "non-state actors" who are responsible for these firings. So the situation is that "non-state actors" are pounding mortar at us and firing with automatic weapons, and Pakistan officially claims that either it has no knowledge of these attacks or doesn't control these rogue elements. So there really is no cooperation from their side," said the source.
India has claimed to have killed 12 Pakistani personnel, including 2 army regulars. While Pakistan has claimed to have killed half a dozen Indian soldiers and claims India violated ceasefire violations 110 times in last 18 days.