India-Pakistan: May 2, 2003


With information more accessible than ever before, 21st century populations all over the world are demanding accountability for their military's dead, wounded and missing. Between December 2001 to October 2002, India and Pakistan had up to a million troops along their mutual border as tensions simmered just below the boiling point. "Operation Parakram" (the mobilization of Indian forces in the wake of the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament) was neither discussed or debated in Parliament, which remained a sore point with many Indians. During this period, the Indians suffered 1,847 casualties on their western and northern sectors.

How and why so many soldiers were killed (whether to minefield accidents or while carrying out unspecified tasks) will not be officially revealed, since the Indian military considers that classified information. Not knowing "why" is hard on a casualty's family and can have serious moral implications for future recruiting. It's one thing to lose men during a declared conventional war or terrorist hunt, but detractors point out that the Indian military stationed on the border was on alert for 300 days with no stated purpose and no stated military objective. 

In early January 2003, the Indian Army denied reports that stress and fatigue took their toll on troops during "Operation Parakram". They also denied that the old minefields along the Pakistani border had resulted in large-scale casualties (there were reports that the Pakistanis had also suffered from those mines). In 2002, the Indian Defense Ministry blamed most of accidental blasts on outdated stocks of mines and defective fuses. In many areas of Punjab and the Jammu region, heavy rains had displaced the mines. 

By comparison, during three years of counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir (from January 2000), there were only 982 Indian soldiers killed and 2,507 wounded. During the 1999 Kargil war, there were 481 men killed and 1,151 suffered combat-related wounds. A retired Indian General who recently wrote a book on the Kargil conflict praised the Pakistani troops, noting that their artillery fire was particularly effective and inflicted heavy casualties. While Pakistan initially denied that it's troops were involved, after the hostilities were over they announced 92 gallantry awards for troops fighting in the Kargil. The estimated number of Pakistani dead at Kargil was between 597 and 1,000. - Adam Geibel

Indian and American commandos finished two weeks of field exercises in northeast India. 


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