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HomeDEFENCELandmines - kill even when the war is over

Landmines – kill even when the war is over

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"Landmines are among the most barbaric weapons of war, because they continue to kill and maim innocent people long after the war itself has ended." - Kofi Annan

Landmines kill dozens before starting to count again…

Indian soldiers fought alongside the British both during World War I and World War II.

Around 1.5 million Indian soldiers took part in World War I (July 28, 1914, to Nov 11, 1918) which lasted for 4 years, 3 months, and 14 days. Over 74,000 of them were killed in action and 67,000 others were injured.

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Similarly, during World War II (Sept 1, 1939, to Sept 2, 1945) which lasted 6 years and 1 day, India sent over 2.5 million soldiers to the battlefields in different parts of the world. Many of them never returned back and nearly 87,000 Indian soldiers were killed in action and 34,000 were wounded.

Even after World War II India has faced a number of conflicts and wars including the Indo-Pak War of 1947-1948, the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Indo-Pak War of 1965, the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and the Kargil War of 1999. In addition to this, India has also been involved in several smaller military operations, like Operation Blue Star in 1984 and Operation Pawan (Sri Lanka) in 1987.

The combined total number of Indian casualties in all these conflicts is estimated to be around 12,100 killed and 29,836 wounded.

If we look at the total number of days of war that India fought in each war, conflict or operation we find that India has faced approximately around 300 days of active aggression since World War II.

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  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-1948: October 22, 1947 – December 31, 1948 (70 days)
  • Sino-Indian War of 1962: October 20, 1962 – November 21, 1962 (33 days)
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965: August 5, 1965 – September 23, 1965 (50 days)
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: December 3, 1971 – December 17, 1971 (13 days)
  • Kargil War of 1999: May 3, 1999 – July 26, 1999 (74 days)

The total number of casualties suffered during these wars, conflicts or military operations – without taking into account any ongoing face-offs with China or almost daily skirmishes with Pakistan on the Western front and the breakdown would be roughly around 12,100 killed and 29,836 wounded.

The break-up of the estimated casualties suffered by India in each of the wars and military operations since World War II is as follows:

  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-1948: Indian casualties – around 1,500 killed and 3,500 wounded.
  • Sino-Indian War of 1962: Indian casualties – around 1,383 killed and 1,047 wounded.
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965: Indian casualties – around 3,000 killed and 8,000 wounded.
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: Indian casualties – around 3,500 killed and 10,000 wounded.
  • Operation Blue Star (1984): Indian casualties – around 500 killed and 1,000 wounded.
  • Operation Pawan (1987): Indian casualties – around 1,200 killed and 3,800 wounded.
  • Kargil War (1999): Indian casualties – around 527 killed and 1,363 wounded.
  • India-Pakistan Standoff (2001-2002)- around 1,000 killed and 3,000 wounded.
  • India-Pakistan Border Skirmishes (2014-2015) – around 70 were killed and 150 wounded.
  • India-China Border Standoff (2020): – 20 Indian soldiers killed and 76 injured.

(Please note: these are not the exact numbers but rough estimates)

One person is killed by a landmine every 15 minutes. About 70 people are killed by a landmine every day. 26,000 people a year become landmine victims. Over one million people all over the world have been killed or maimed by landmines.

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Landmines are killers

Landmines have been used in various military operations around the world. It’s difficult to define the operation or war where the maximum number of landmines were used. The magnitude of the problem is that landmines are hard to detect. Even otherwise, it would cost around $50-$100 billion to remove all existing mines, hence the issue really is — where is this amount going to come from? 

Some of the conflicts in which landmines have been widely used include:

Vietnam War – it saw the extensive use of landmines by both the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, as well as by the United States military.

Korean War – saw the use of millions of landmines by both the North and South Korean forces.

Iran-Iraq War – saw the use of millions of landmines by both Iran and Iraq.

Afghanistan War –the war which began in 2001 saw widespread use of landmines by various factions, including the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Gulf War-  Iraqi forces laid thousands of landmines in Kuwait, which caused many casualties among both military personnel and civilians.

Mozambican Civil War (1977 to 1992)- saw extensive use of landmines by both the government forces and the rebels.

Cambodian Civil War– the war saw the use of millions of landmines by various factions, including the Khmer Rouge from 1967 to 1975.

These are just a few examples of conflicts where landmines have been widely used. The war in which they were supposed to be used, may has ended but they are still active – ready to kill anyone who accidentally steps on them

Landmines buried 6 inches (15 centimetres) below the earth or simply laid on the ground remain active for more than 50 years and continue to kill or injure civilians, and destroy livelihoods in more than 60 countries and territories.  

Also Read: Autonomous weapons and the future wars

There are generally two different categories of landmines – anti-personnel landmines and anti-tank landmines. The anti-personnel landmines are designed to injure or kill a person, while the anti-tank landmine goes off when tanks or vehicles pass over them or near them.

Landmines were first created during World War I. The earliest mines were anti-tank mines, but later anti-personnel mines were developed to prevent the enemy from removing or reusing the anti-tank mines.

The 1960s saw the proliferation in the use of landmines by armies all over the world. The U.S. dropped thousands of mines by plane during its nine-year bombing campaign in Laos.

According to an estimate, there are around 110 million anti-personnel mines dug up below the ground and stockpiles of another 250 million across the world today. About 5 to 10 million mines are produced each year.

Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Egypt and Laos – are some of the most landmine-affected countries in the world. So are Bosnia, Croatia, Georgia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan where mines continue to be a serious problem.

China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam, happen to be among the 11 countries producing anti-personnel mines.

Also Read: When Karachi burned and India won the 1971 war

Detection and removal of antipersonnel landmines is a serious problem with political, economic, environmental and humanitarian dimensions. This is why it is next to impossible, to even dream of a world free of anti-personnel landmines.

Here are some facts that reflect the seriousness of the problem:

  • There are about 110 million landmines dug in the ground right now and an equal number waiting to be planted  
  • Mines cost between $3 and $30, but the cost of removing them is $300 to $1000.
  • The cost of removing all existing mines would be $50- to $ 100 billion.
  • Every year more than 4,200 people including 42% children are killed or injured due to landmines and ERWs in post-conflict situations around the world
  • Mines kill or maim more than 5,000 people annually.
  • Mine and explosive remnants of war casualties occur in every region of the world, causing an estimated 15,000 – 20,000 injuries each year.
  • One deminer is killed and two injured for every 5000 successfully removed mines.
  • About 85 per cent of reported landmine casualties are men, mostly soldiers, 
  • Mines create millions of refugees or internally displaced people
  • The areas most affected by landmines include Egypt (23 million, mostly in border regions); Angola (9-15 million); Iran (16 million); Afghanistan (about 10 million); Iraq (10 million); China (10 million); Cambodia (up to 10 million); Mozambique (about 2 million); Bosnia (2-3 million); Croatia (2 million); Somalia (up to 2 million in the North); Eritrea (1 million); and Sudan (1 million).
  • Egypt, Angola, and Iran account for more than 85 per cent of the total number of mine-related casualties in the world each year.
  • Until recently, about 100 000 mines were being removed, and about two million more were planted each year.
  • If demining efforts remain about the same as they are now, and no new mines are laid, it will still take 1100 years to get rid of all the world’s active landmines.
  • For the military, mine detection rates of 80% are accepted since all the military needs are a quick breach in a minefield.
  • The most common injury associated with landmines is the loss of one or more limbs. In the United States, the rate of amputation is 1 for every 22 000 people. In Angola, it is 30 for every 10 000.
  • In many of the most affected areas of the world, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Landmines are planted in fields, forests, around wells, water sources, and hydroelectric installations, making these unusable, or usable only at great risk. Both Afghanistan and Cambodia could double their agricultural production if landmines were eliminated.

These are some of the reasons factors behind the widespread use of mines all over the world.

“Landmines are perfect soldiers – ever courageous, never sleep, never miss,” says Paul Jefferson a humanitarian mine remover.  

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


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