At least 76 people have died in Indian Kashmir since Jan. 1 in skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops or gun battles involving militants, making the first quarter of 2018 bloodier than the same period last year, according to government figures.
Along the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, at least 13 security personnel and 15 civilians have been killed during frequent battles involving troops from the two countries.
Separately, at least 27 militants have been killed in gunfights in the region along with 15 security personnel and six civilians, according to government officials.
By comparison, 47 people were killed in military skirmishes and battles with militants during the first quarter of 2017, according to the officials.
“Since India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers, they cannot take the escalating situation at border for granted. Dialogue is the only way forward,” Noor Baba, a Srinagar-based political analyst, told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, Pakistan claims at least 24 security personnel and three civilians have been killed on its soil during Indian army attacks since Jan. 1, according to media reports.
In that same time frame, the Kashmir region has witnessed at least 185 violations of the 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since 1947.
The first quarter of 2017 saw only 41 violations, according to the Indian Express.
A New Delhi-based defense analyst who is a retired general blamed Pakistan for violating the ceasefire agreement and called on India to take a hard-line stance.
“The situation at the border is going from bad to worse. Pakistan is a habitual offender of the ceasefire and India must enhance costs and consequences to silence that country,” retired Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi told BenarNews.
Noor said international terror groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda can take advantage of conditions created by the spike in violence in the insurgency-ravaged Himalayan region.
“Such terror groups have the tendency to take advantage of the fragile situation and gain ground in the region. The authorities cannot afford to ignore issues of IS flag-raising during anti-India protests and recent claims of the group to carry out a few attacks in the region,” Noor said.
Photos emerged of IS flags wrapping the bodies of at least two militants killed in Kashmir in 2017. In February, local police for the first time acknowledged a “marginal presence” of the terror group after it claimed an attack that killed a policeman.
But Ajai Sahni, a New Delhi-based security analyst, challenged Noor’s view, saying the group was not likely to grow stronger in the region.
“IS is struggling to survive in Iraq and Syria. The terror group cannot afford to make inroads in Kashmir,” Sahni, executive director of Institute of Conflict Management, told BenarNews.