At least four Pakistani soldiers were killed between Tuesday and Thursday after the Indian Army launched a strong retaliation to ceasefire violations that mark the most significant escalation of tensions along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir this year.

The action comes less than a week after an Indian Army officer and a soldier patrolling the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir were killed in targeted explosions, and a Border Security Force (BSF) assistant commandant was shot dead by Pakistani snipers on the International Border in Jammu.

“At least four regular soldiers of the Pakistan Army were killed in the last 48 hours when the Indian Army retaliated along the LoC,” said a senior officer of the Indian Army, who asked not to be named.

A second official, posted with BSF, too, said the Indian retaliation had led to deaths on the other side, but put the number at five.

“The casualties [on the Pakistan side] were mainly in the Rajouri sector and we have been able to confirm it,” the first officer added.

Earlier in the day, Northern Army commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said Indian forces were “giving a befitting reply to every single ceasefire violation by the neighbouring country”. The officer did not confirm or deny when asked if the retaliation had led to deaths on the Pakistani side.

Lt Gen Singh added that “2018 has been a great year for security forces, more than 250 terrorists were killed, 54 were caught alive, and four surrendered before the security forces”, ostensibly referring to actions in the Kashmir.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah criticised the statement.

“I beg to differ, a great year would be one in which no young man would join militancy, no terrorists would be killed and no security personnel would lose their lives in encounters. The compulsion of killing militants/terrorists shouldn’t be treated as a cause for celebration,”

Officials said Pakistan’s ceasefire violations continued on Thursday and a civilian was injured by mortar shelling along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

The Pakistani side was reported to have engaged in heavy firing in Jhangar, Laam, Pukherni and Peer Badeswar areas of Rajouri district.

At 2,936, the year 2018 recorded the highest number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan troops in the past 15 years along the Indo-Pakistan border, according to official data.

The attacks come even as the Pakistani establishment signalled it was open to peace talks, though people in the Indian defence establishment have seen such attempts as being “hollow”.

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