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Published by: Luptonga on Jan 09, 2013
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India’s interest compromised in Siachen
ByPrakash Chandra Katochon
October 24, 2012The Indian government is acting against the interests of the country by surreptitiously agreeing to a dealwith Pakistan according to which it will withdraw troops from Siachen Glacier, the command of whichgives India immense strategic advantages.India is committing a strategic blunder by quietly agreeing to Pakistan’s demand for withdrawing fromSaltoro Ridge in Siachen glacier. The Indian public and Parliament have been kept in the dark. A backroomdeal has been concluded through questionable intermediaries with close ties to Pakistan.Since November 2011, militaries of both India and Pakistan have held several rounds of talks to boostconfidence-building measures. These meetings were held in Dubai (20-21 November 2011), Bangkok (23-25 February 2012) and Lahore (23-25 September 2012). Additionally, working group meetings took placein Chiang Mai (21 April 2012) and Palo Alto (30-31 July 2012). In the Track 2 round held in Lahore inSeptember 2012, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to demilitarise Siachen despite the gravereservations of some members of the Indian delegation. The members who expressed reservationsinclude a former ambassador, a former intelligence officer and two former officers from the Army andthe Navy.The decision to demilitarise, or rather withdraw from Siachen has been taken arbitrarily at the highestpolitical level disregarding strong objections by successive army chiefs including the current chief,General Bikram Singh. He has even made a statement to the media opposing demilitarisation of theglacier. The agreement mainly includes setting up a joint commission to delineate the line beyond NJ9842, the map coordinate south of the incompletely demarcated disputed territory; joint authentication opresent ground positions; determination of places for redeployment; disengagement and demilitarisationin a mutually acceptable time frame, and cooperative monitoring of activities to ensure transparency. Theagreement states that reoccupation cannot be done speedily. This is absurd as it negates India’s abilityto use helicopters for a lightning occupation. This gives Pakistan a huge advantage because the westernflanks and glacial valleys of the Saltoro ridge are controlled by Pakistan. They do not have snow duringsummer and can be reached under cover of darkness and on foot in bad weather. The provision for technical surveillance is a red herring because of the tough terrain and extreme weather. It is important toremember that because of these conditions even the US with all its technical resources was surprised byIndia’s nuclear tests of 1998.The Indian Government briefed the Lahore Track 2 team to keep in mind the Army’s stand that further talks would only be taken up after positions of both sides were authenticated on ground. The Indian Army’s concerns have clearly been ignored. The strategic importance of the Saltoro Ridge, especially inrelation to Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Areas, Shaksgam and Wakhan Corridor has been systematicallyobfuscated by a Government that retains far too much of power over electronic and print media. TheGovernment has carried out a massive public relations exercise using gullible television channels totransmit the message that Siachen has no strategic significance. At one point, one so-called expertclaimed that India holds the Karakoram Pass, which is a blatant lie. National dailies have refused topublish articles highlighting the enormous strategic disadvantage of withdrawing from Siachen. Similarly,this issue has not been debated on national television. There are rumours that the media is muffling anydiscussion on Siachen on the instructions of the Government.The selection of Indian delegates who visited Lahore was incongruous. None of them had served in
Siachen, not even the six army officers who were part of the delegation. The negotiating team did notbother to visit the conflict zone despite months of parleys with Pakistani officials at beautiful locations.Two former military officers in the delegation are infamous for their political connections. It is rumoredthat the Air Force four star officer is to be rewarded with an ambassadorship or governorship while theone star army officer is to be given another bag of carrots for towing the official line.It is surmised that the Government is aiming for a Nobel Peace Prize to recover the legitimacy that it haslost after a succession of scandals. The Indian military has been castrated and is not allowed to state itsviews. Veterans who oppose demilitarisation are denied media forums. It is inconceivable that any other major power would shut its military out of the decision-making and discourse the way India is doing at themoment.Jehangir Karamat, the former army chief heading the Pakistani delegation, understands the strategicsignificance of Saltoro unlike his Indian counterparts. Under his leadership, Pakistan has grabbed thestrategic opportunity to attain all its key goals. The Atlantic Council of Canada that acted as the peacebroker has promptly put out the news on the net. Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani strategic analyst who headsthe South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the US, has close relations his Canadian counterparts.More worryingly, he has close ties with the Pakistani military and is said to be a trusted advisor to bothGenaral Kayani and General Musharraf. Indians have long distrusted the Atlantic Council, which isperceived to be in bed with the Pakistani military and which has never really concluded its cold war loveaffair with Pakistan. It is incredible that India should agree to the Atlantic Council as a mediator as it isunlikely to be a disinterested party and, as per the old adage, Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.The Line of Control between India and Pakistan was originally drawn on a 1:250,000 map with a thicksketch pen without military advice. This has left an ambiguity as to the location of any given point on thisline to the tune of about a hundred metres. Furthermore, the line does not follow ridge lines creating asource of constant and persisting hostility and acrimony. The same thick pen may be used once again inSiachen to devastating effect. A withdrawal from Siachen would facilitate further Pakistani incursions intoKashmir and put Ladadh, the Buddhist part of the state, under threat.Gen Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president and army chief, mentions in his autobiography InThe line of Fire, that he was planning to put a battalion on Saltoro Ridge. Indian officers preempted hismove. Since 1984, Pakistan has been trying to control Siachen. Pakistan invaded India in 1999 to controlKargil and cut off Siachen. Pakistan is attempting to eradicate its strategic disadvantage through bothmilitary and non military measures. People in Shia dominated Baltistan, the place close to Siachen Glacier,are being forcibly converted to Sunni Islam. The Pakistani state often sponsors Shia massacres. Theidea is to create a strong base for Pakistani troops to advance from when they make their next move.If India withdraws from Siachen, the new defense line will need additional troops. The new number will bemany times the number of troops holding Siachen presently and the costs to the exchequer will increaseexponentially. The joint agreement innocuously says in Annexure II, “Small-scale intrusions are neither significant nor sustainable”. This is absurd. Small scale intrusions can easily take place undetected inareas devoid of snow during summer months. They can then be staging posts for infiltration. The Indianarmy lost the flower of its youth in 1999 when Pakistani troops intruded to take the heights in Kargil.With no defense line in Siachen, Ladakh will be open to infiltration. Irregulars and members of the Talibanwill be able to cross into territory that belongs to India, while Pakistan will deny culpability for ‘non-state-actors’. General Musharraf once declared that there would be many more Kargils in the future.Withdrawing from Siachen will make the general’s declaration a reality.The public and the parliament have the right to ask the government why the Siachen issue has not beendebated publicly and in the parliament. What exactly has Pakistan done to earn Indian trust? Has the anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir been dismantled? Has anyprogress been made in punishing the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks? Has theGovernment forgotten that Pakistan has repeatedly double crossed us? During a visit by a delegationfrom Pakistan to discuss confidence building measures, why was the Pakistan Army breaching theceasefire? Why is Pakistan arming and stoking insurgencies in India? Why is the Pakistani intelligencetrying to revive terrorism in Punjab? Why do American think tanks repeatedly state that Pakistan is the
most dangerous place in the world? What does India gain from giving away Siachen?
This article was first published inFair Observer.
(Photo Courtesy:anupkumarchaturvedi.com)
Related Links:
 Amazing that Pakistan should say India is ‘hostage to history’!India, Pak vow to move ahead on path built on trustHistory hijacked by perverse politics of bogus secularism‘India should focus on China economy, not military prowess’

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