The year 2016 has been one of the worst in recent times for the Army in terms of casualties in Jammu and Kashmir with major attacks on military installations and heightened tensions along the border with Pakistan.
It began on a bitter note with an attack on the Pathankot Air Force station in the early hours of January 2.
There were major attacks on Army bases in Uri and Nagrota in the latter part of the year, resulting in significant casualties on security forces. There was also a dramatic spike in cross-border firing after the Uri attack. The Army lost 63 personnel in Jammu & Kashmir, almost double that of last year. In 2015, it lost 33 personnel and in 2014, 32.
With increase in infiltration attempts, the number of militants killed has also gone up. Over 140 terrorists were killed. There was also an upward trend in the number of suicide attacks compared with the last two years. The general assessment is that 2016 was less productive for Pakistan and so there was a concerted effort to push in infiltrators and also keep the hinterland active.
Things took a dramatic turn particularly after the killing of Burhan Wani in July which plunged the Kashmir Valley into a spiral of protests and violence. The protests had severely affected the Armys target-specific operations in the hinterland as intelligence gathering and movement were disrupted.
India on its part has toughened its response towards Pakistan. The ceasefire declared by India and Pakistan along the border in 2003 and which brought relative peace came under severe stress this year especially after the Uri terror attack which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers and the resultant surgical strikes carried out by the Army along the Line of Control (LoC).
Both sides resorted to the use of 80mm and 120mm heavy mortars to target posts on the other side, in addition to small arms and machine guns. Each side has also accused the other of employing heavy artillery, though neither side acknowledged having used it themselves.
The multiple attacks on military installations very close to the border have laid bare the gaps in perimeter security in high-threat areas. After the conversation between the Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan over the hotline in mid-November, the border has been largely quiet.
However security forces have reasons to be concerned about the situation in the hinterland. The number of militants in the Valley is estimated to be between 200-300. Army sources said that after Burhan Wanis killing there is a rise in radicalisation among the youth and more locals have joined militant ranks.
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