View Full Version : Siachin Confict

03-30-2008, 08:58 AM

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Background

In this author’s book “ India ’s Defence Policies and Strategic Thought. A Comparative Analysis.” .former President Nixon of the United States was quoted to highlight how India had in its policies been indifferent to adhering to the balance of power concept and how India was inclined to marginalize its far flung peripheries.

“The pages of history are littered with the ruins of countries that were indifferent to erosion of the balance of power. Losses on the periphery where a country’s interests appear marginal, never seem to merit a response or warrant a confrontation with the enemy. But small losses add up. Expansionist powers thrive on picking up loose geopolitical change. When it comes, it usually takes place under the worst possible circumstances for those on the defensive.”

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, oblivious to the crucial strategic significance of Aksai Chin (North Ladakh) gifted it away to China. India rues till today this Himalayan blunder in strategic terms. Nehru hid the fact of the Chinese annexation of Indian territory for nearly eight years. He later justified the loss by terming Aksai Chin as a desolate area where not a blade of grass grew.

Half a century later, not learning from the Aksai Chin strategic blunder, the present government seems set to repeat history. Going by the utterances of his National Security Adviser, India seems set to gift away Siachen to Pakistan on the plea that the Prime Minister wants to make the area as “mountains of peace.”

Today, Siachen too is being strategically marginalized and compromised again for political reasons. At issue is whether Indian Prime Minister can marginalize strategic peripheries for political gains or mileage?

Siachen, like Aksai-chin is not Indian “loose geo-strategic change” which any Indian Prime Minister can put in a political juke-box.

The strange thing about the Siachen debate, currently underway, is that the Indian Army has not requested or advised that it cannot continue with the commitments of Siachen Sector defence. The debate emerged in the media, it seems with inspired inputs from the establishment, that the defence of Siachen is a costly affair and hence needs demilitarization. That this inspired reporting has linkages with the Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan cannot be denied; the strategic costs are immaterial.

Given the current international geostrategic environment and alignments, what could be the solution?

Further, would it be another strategic blunder for India like Aksai Chin and Tibet?

05-01-2011, 05:17 AM
The Siachen Conflict, sometimes referred to as the Siachen War, is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. The conflict began in 1984 with India's successful Operation Meghdoot during which it wrested control of the Siachen Glacier from Pakistan and forced the Pakistanis to retreat west of the Saltoro Ridge. India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres (43 mi) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately west of the Saltoro Ridge.[2][3] According to TIME magazine, India gained more than 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) of territory because of its military operations in Siachen.[4]




05-02-2011, 09:16 AM
The Siachen conflict certainly fits a 'Small War' label, although I find it hard to think of anywhere so inhospitable to contemporary human settlement, let alone a war and I've been in the Dolomites where in WW1 there was a gruelling, bloody conflict.

Thankfully there has been a ceasefire since 2005 (from Wikipedia), although a political settlement is far off I would say. I do recall newsreel from each side beforehand making an occasional appearance here, invariably of artillery duels.

It is only when you read up on India's military position and appreciate the geography along its northern borders why it is so sensitive to what happens. The IISS Military Balance shows numerous specialist para-military forces and ten mountain infantry divisions.

Now we tend to forget the shock to India when China (PRC) in 1962 launched an offensive and the response by others - the UK considered offering a nuclear "umbrella" to India. Background reading on conflict:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Indian_War

05-03-2011, 01:43 PM
Actually, India did not wrest the Siachen.

It was unoccupied.

Pakistan Govt was granting passes for Mountaineering Expeditions in this area and thus defacto attempting to establish that this area was under Pakistan, which was a incorrect premise of Pakistan.

The then Army Commander, Northern Command, after getting Govt permission, ordered occupation of the Siachen Glacier with 5 KUAMAON.


There is an opinion that is bandied that The Siachen Glacier has no significant strategic value.

The map would indicate that there is. More so, these days where Pakistan has ceded the Shaksgam Valley.

Shaksgam Valley is bounded by the Kun Lun Mountains to the north, and by the Karakoram peaks to the south, including Broad Peak, K2 and Gasherbrum. On the southeast it is adjacent to the highest battlefield in the world in the Siachen Glacier region.


It is worth considering as to why China wanted Shaksgam Valley and why Pakistan ceded it from all points of view, including strategic.

If India had not held Siachen, it would have been a free run for both Pakistan or China or both in collusion to roll down to Leh.

Presently India holds all of the glacier and commands the top of all three passes. Pakistan formerly controled Gyong La at 35-10-29N 77-04-15E that overlooks the Gyong (tributary of the Shyok) and Nubra River Vallies and India's access to Leh District.

The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh's idea of making Siachen a 'zone of peace' and withdraw troops is misplaced, unless it follows the principle, 'peace at all costs'.

That this idea of Siachen being a 'zone of peace' is flawed and dangerous is because once the Indian troops are withdrawn to Leh, the three stage acclimatisation will be essential if the Siachen has to be reoccupied in case Pakistan rushes in to occupy. And Pakistan is known to renegade with impunity all treaties and understandings (the latest being Osama not being in Pakistan). It maybe known access from the Pakistani side is relatively easier.

There is also no guarantee that Siachen is not ceded by Pakistan to China to make a continuous landmass from Chinese Occupied Aksai Chin to the Shaksgam Valley and then virtually opening up Leh and beyond.

04-23-2012, 04:32 AM
Is the Pakistan Army brave enough to make peace?

Sometime in the early morning hours of April 7th, a massive avalanche completely wiped out the Pakistan Army’s battalion headquarters (BHQ) at Ghyari......

However despite all this, the route to India’s positions in the middle of the Saltoro range is much more tortured than its Pakistani counterpart and it costs far more in terms of lives and money – that is until April 7th 2012. With Ghyari gone, the Pakistani logistical advantage in the middle of the Saltoro range is gone.

The most critical supply commodity is of course, kerosene. Without kerosene the soldiers will not have water to drink, heat to cook food and keep themselves warm. In normal circumstances, without water, food and warmth, morale collapses and the mental strength of the soldiers fails. As if that is not enough at such low temperatures, metal tends to contract, and lubricants tend to become ineffective. Even high quality weapons unless heated on a kerosene stove become cold-locked – their metal parts shrunk into dimensions beyond the tolerances laid out by the manufacturers. If you have an artillery piece on the glaciers, you have to heat it with a kerosene stove and fire it a few times regularly just to make sure it stays operational.....

If the Indian Army was feeling particularly bloody minded, it would simply start shelling the Pakistani positions at this time. The smarter Pakistanis on the ridge line would surrender or abandon their posts. The stupider ones would attempt to return fire on India’s positions and exhaust what little fuel there remains at their disposal – and then die of thirst, hunger and frost bite. As the actual ground position line (AGPL) has never been officially demarcated, the IAF would be within its rights to launch air raids across it. These acts by the Indian Army would force the Pakistani Army into a very public surrender. After the Abbotabad raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistani Army’s position in Pakistani society is quite precarious. Another public failure like this and the Pakistan Army would be torn to shreds by its Jihadis and ultra-nationalistic chums.....

Then there is the harder path, the braver path – chosen by Sri Manmohan Singh himself. Despite all the insults that the Pakistan Army has heaped on him – despite the fact that COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kayani ignored Sri.Singh’s request to send the head of the ISI to New Delhi after the 26/11 attacks – Sri. Singh has found a Buddha like grace in his heart and offered the Pakistani Army an olive branch. A lesser man than him would have simply asked the boys on the glacier to start the music and had the Bofors belch fire on Pakistani positions – but Sri. Singh has offered to help Pakistan cope with the Ghyari situation. India has the HAA reserves and the Cheetah helicopters that Pakistan vitally needs to keep its army men on the ridge from dying. This is an act of immense compassion that can only come from someone steeped in the deepest traditions of Dharma. Only one sufficiently brave to see an adversary as a human being is capable of such an act of kindness. This offer underscores India’s commitment to peace in the region and beyond.

Will the Pakistani Army be brave enough to accept his offer?


04-23-2012, 05:16 AM
Not about Siachen

Before the euphoria for demilitarization of Siachen grips the country with visions of a peace prize and another ‘landmark’ agreement before the next general elections in 2014 eggs us to draw another foolish line on the map, there is need for serious strategic introspection – ‘paid’ media hollering to ignore military advice notwithstanding. Major fallouts of hurried demilitarization of Siachen are as under:

• Widening the China-Pakistan handshake (collusive threat) to include Gilgit-Baltistan (reportedly being leased out by Pakistan to China for 50 years), Shaksgam Valley (already ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963), Saltoro-Siachen region (that Pakistan may reoccupy through “Kashmiri Freedom Fighters” or cede to China), own Sub Sector North (SSN) east of Siachen with Chinese sitting on the northern slopes of the Karakoram Pass if not on top of it already, and Aksai Chin already under Chinese occupation.

• SSN and Eastern Ladakh will become focused objectives of Chinese strategic acupuncture. Defence potential of SSN will be totally degraded with western flank exposed and KK Pass to north, which India stopped patrolling years back for fear of annoying the dragon. We continue to remain thin in Eastern Ladakh against Chinese threat via Aksai Chin – heightened more now with possibility of two front war.

• Our next line of defence will perforce base on Ladakh Range with possibility of Leh coming within enemy artillery range.

• Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges will be targeted for terrorism by ISI nurtured groups while Pakistan will say they are ‘out of control’. ISI has been nurturing Shia terrorist outfits with an eye on Ladakh since late 1990s.


04-23-2012, 05:39 AM

The roots of the conflict over Siachen lie in the non-demarcations on the western side of the map beyond a grid point known as NJ 9842. Hostilities between India and Pakistan over ownership of the Glacier date back to the first Indo-Pak war of 1948, over the territorial dispute of Jammu & Kashmir. A Cease-Fire Line (CFL) was established as a result of the 1949 Indo-Pak agreement that concluded the war in Jammu & Kashmir. The CFL ran along the international Indo-Pak border and then north and northeast until map grid-point NJ 9842, located near the Shyok River at the base of the Saltoro mountain range. Because no Indian or Pakistani troops were present in the geographically inhospitable northeastern areas beyond NJ 9842, the CFL was not delineated as far as the Chinese border. Both sides agreed, in vague language, that the CFL extends to the terminal point, NJ 9842, and "thence north to the Glaciers".

India's 'North' lies along the ridgeline North (yellow line) and Pakistan's 'North' goes North East (red line)!

04-23-2012, 06:06 AM
The version from Pakistan

The fight for Siachen
By Javed Hussain (a retired Brigadier of the SSG)
Published in The Express Tribune(a Pakistani newspaper): April 22, 2012

On April 13, 1984 a small force of the Indian Army occupied the Bilafond La pass. Four days later, another small force occupied the Sia La pass. Both passes, the former at over 18,000 ft and the latter at over 20,000 ft are located in the Saltoro Range and serve as the gateway to the Siachen Glacier. The Indians had moved fast after receiving intelligence that the Pakistan Army was planning to occupy them. The first Pakistani reaction to the occupation of the passes came on April 24/25, 1984 when a small force attempted to get to the Bilafond La in an uphill assault but was thwarted by the difficult glaciated terrain and adverse weather conditions.......

In early April 1987, another attempt was made by the Pakistan Army to gain a foothold on the Saltoro ridgeline. A small force consisting of about a dozen SSG commandos, using ropes and ladders, went up a vertical cliff and occupied a position at over 21,000 ft that dominated the Indian positions at Bilafond La. They named it Quaid post. The Indian Army made several attempts to evict the commandos but each time they were repulsed with heavy casualties. On June 25, 1987, they succeeded in taking the post as the commandos had run out of ammunition and could not be resupplied as the base supporting them came under fire. With the only foothold on the ridgeline lost, the Pakistan Army launched a major attack in September 1987 to get to Bilafond La. The attack was repulsed. In March 1989, another attempt was made, this time in the Chumik glacier, three kilometres east of Giari (recently hit by an avalanche). At over 19,000 ft, the place chosen is the most difficult to scale in the Saltoro Range for either side. In a daring operation the peak was occupied by two men, an officer and a non-commissioned officer, slung from a helicopter on a rope, turn by turn. The two thwarted all Indian efforts to get to the top for 36 hours after which they were reinforced by a handful of soldiers dropped in similar fashion. But in May 1989 when the Indians succeeded in neutralising the supply base supporting the soldiers on the peak, the post was vacated.

In November 1992, yet another attempt was made to get to the ridgeline by means of a major attack. Launched in haste, the attack ended in failure. As a consequence, the general officer commanding was sacked. Most of the casualties suffered by Pakistani troops in combat were in the two major attacks (September 1987, November 1992).

The Indians have rarely embarked on a major offensive venture. They have left this to the Pakistanis who have obliged them at least twice . The loss of Quaid post and withdrawal from the Chumik glacier post ....

The dispute revolves round the extension of the Line of Control (LOC) beyond a point on the Saltoro Range known by its map reference as NJ 9820420. The demarcated LOC ends at this point —“thence north to the glaciers” is what the Karachi agreement of 1949 states about the extension. According to the Indians, this meant that the LoC should extend northwards along the Saltoro Range up to Sia Kangri.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s stand is that beyond NJ 9820420, the LOC should extend eastward up to the Karakoram pass. Extending the LOC northwards would give the entire Siachen Glacier-Saltoro area to India, while extending it eastward would give it to Pakistan.

Worthy of note is that the Pakistan Brigadier states that Northward (as was in the Agreement on the Cease Fire Line) would mean Siachen and Soltoro is India's.

Going East instead of North would mean it is Pakistan's!

04-23-2012, 09:41 AM
Taken from an email from Hamid Hussain, who contributes to SWC / SWJ indirectly:
I died in pure white snow
Icy hands
Icy toes
Frozen tear decorated my cheeks,
Like crystal clear beads
Always cold
Always alone

Pure White Death by Raven (1)

On April 06, 2012, a serac (large block of ice) wiped out the battalion headquarters of 6th Northern Light Infantry (NLI) at Gayari in Siachin. Instantly, bustling battalion headquarters became the grave of 138 soldiers and civilians attached to 6th NLI; all buried under several feet of snow. Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel Tanvir ul Hassan, Major Zaka-ul-Haq (possibly second-in-command) and Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) Captain Haleemullah Jan were among the casualties. The grave of pure white snow abolished all worldly distinctions of religion, ethnicity, economic and social differences. Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and soldiers went to eternal sleep along with clerks, barbers, washer men and sweepers. Some were born in the mountains of Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu, Gizar and Astore while others in towns and villages scattered all over the country; Peshawar, Chakwal, Bahawalpur, Nawabshah and Larkana. (2) The collective grave of pure white snow became the final resting place of all these sons of the soil from all over the country. Gayari has now become a hallowed ground for NLI and Pakistan.

Among the soldiers buried under the snow, some had come out without a scratch from the killing fields of Waziristan to find their final resting place in the snowy mountains of Siachin. We will never know what the last thoughts of these brave men were. May be someone was holding in his hand the letter from his mother or wife or clutching to the picture of his smiling son or daughter. May be a silent prayer or flashback of memories of their loved ones before the spark of life left the mortal bodies.

In 1984, India sent its soldiers to the God forsaken mass of ice and snow of Siachin making it the highest altitude battlefield. Battlefield is probably a misnomer. In the last three decades, both sides have fired very little weapons at each other, but lost countless men to harsh weather and terrain that tests limits of human endurance. In the last three decades, both India and Pakistan have spent billions of rupees to maintain their respective small garrisons. Terrain rather than adversary’s bullets have taken a heavy toll with thousands dead and disabled from frost bites and snow blindness. Pakistan has deployed three battalions and India seven battalions on Siachin. According to one report, India spends Rs. 30 billion and Pakistan Rs. 5.4 billion every year to maintain their respective garrisons. Pakistan looses about one hundred while India one hundred and eighty soldiers every year to the forbidding terrain. (3) What is the real meaning of this exercise? A small piece of heart is ripped off from an Indian or Pakistani mother every day. Their sobs are drowned in the noise of patriotism and their tears are covered by the national flags but that does not diminish the pain.

Siachin has become a haunted place for both countries and souls of brave soldiers whose bodies were never recovered now roam that land. We hope that the collective sacrifice of these 138 soldiers and countless others ignite the spark of humanity on both sides. May the courageous among the both nations see the absurdity of this exercise and work towards demilitarization of Siachin. The death toll of eight thousand Indian and Pakistani soldiers so far claimed by the forbidding terrain is way too much. Hopefully, many more lives of young and brave soldiers of both countries can be saved. This will be the true tribute to the sacrifice of the soldiers of their respective countries. We hope that sooner rather than later, Siachin is demilitarized and a monument commemorating the sacrifices of soldiers of India and Pakistan is erected.

“The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours;
they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.”

‘ The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak’ by Archibald MacLeish


1- Pure White, Snow Poem http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/pure-white#ixzz1rY9lsG7M

2- http://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-week_view&id=2017#wv_link2017

3- http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-13803-Over-8000-Indo-Pak-soldiers-killed-in-Siachen

05-07-2012, 04:24 AM
In 1984, India sent its soldiers to the God forsaken mass of ice and snow of Siachin making it the highest altitude battlefield.

Good reasons to send soldiers to 'the God forsaken mass of ice and snow.

BTW, there is a Waiting List amongst officers and men of the Indian Army who want a tenure in these 'God forsaken mass of ice and snow'.

If India demilitarises this area and then Pakistan surreptitiously occupies the same (as they did in Kargil inspite of a delineated Line of Control signed by both the countries), then there is no hope in hell for the Indian Army to regain the same.

If Pakistan occupies it then there would be a continuous stretch of landmass from the Shaksgam (which Pakistan ceded to China) -Siachen- Aksai Chin. As it is China has troops and influence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Freedom is expensive, but every pain and sorrow is worth the joy to be a free people of a democracy that has never seen any interruption by non political players.

Bill Moore
05-07-2012, 05:34 AM
Posted by Ray,

If Pakistan occupies it then there would be a continuous stretch of landmass from the Shaksgam (which Pakistan ceded to China) -Siachen- Aksai Chin. As it is China has troops and influence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

What type of troops? For what purpose? This is an interesting statement, I haven't heard this before, but understand China and Pakistan are close partners, and that Ray as you know that is largely due to India (and enemy of my enemy is my friend type of thing).

On a related note, what role do you think China will play in Afghanistan after U.S. forces leave? What has been their historic role in Afghanistan if any?

05-07-2012, 06:03 AM
Posted by Ray,

What type of troops? For what purpose? This is an interesting statement, I haven't heard this before, but understand China and Pakistan are close partners, and that Ray as you know that is largely due to India (and enemy of my enemy is my friend type of thing).

On a related note, what role do you think China will play in Afghanistan after U.S. forces leave? What has been their historic role in Afghanistan if any?

Are you asking about Chinese in POK?

The Chinese claim they are Engineers who are helping Pakistan with their projects. However, many long tunnels have been spotted in the area.


It was first reported in the New York Times.

China has an interest in the Central Asia Republics. It is said that she has plans to build railway links to these countries and to Afghanistan and also Iran.

India has built the Chahbahar port in Iran and has linked it to the road made by India in Western Afghanistan (zaranj-delaram ).

There are reports in the Pakistani media that Iran is opening up the Indian made port Chahbahar for NATO supplies. http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2012/05/06/iran-opens-chabahar-port-for-nato-supply/zaranj-delaram/

It is a bit surprising that Iran will allow transit of NATO supplies to Iran, but if read in context with the link below, it makes some sense.

India Set To Be Bigger Player In Afghanistan NATO Transport?
The U.S. military might rely on India as a way of getting equipment in and out of Afghanistan if Pakistan doesn't cooperate, a senior military official has said. The official, Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Panter, deputy commandant for installations and logistics, testified at a Congressional hearing on Thursday and was asked about the U.S.'s plans if Pakistan doesn't soon start to allow U.S. and NATO supplies to again transit that country

And India is to build a rail link between Iran and Afghanistan.

Therefore, there are too many fingers in the pie to really be able to know how too many cooks can spoil the broth!:D

05-08-2012, 04:19 AM
India welcomes Pakistan's call to demilitarize Siachen glacier

Hyderabad/Chandigarh, Apr 19 : Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's call for both nations to demilitarize the world's highest battlefield at the Siachen glacier on their international border........

Meanwhile, former Indian army official, Lieutenant-General (retd) P.N. Hoon, echoing similar sentiments said that Siachen notched more soldier casualties due to its environment than due to actual combat.

"Our troops that have been there have been through hell, much more than the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army (has suffered) because of the avalanche, so have we. The casualties out of 100, they will be 70 casualties, which are for bad weather, high altitude and avalanches, and only 30, which are for (combat). We are spending also. We are spending 6-7 crores a day. Have we become such rich nations today?" Lieutenant-General (retd) Hoon told the media in Chandigarh.

Pakistan's army chief had earlier on Wednesday made a call for the demilitarisation of the world's highest battlefield after touring the site of an avalanche that buried 129 Pakistani soldiers near the border with India.

Noting that withdrawal of troops from Siachen is necessary to improve 'atmosphere', he said 'the issue' needs to be resolved by Pakistan and India.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a standoff on Siachen since 1984


05-08-2012, 04:24 AM
Why quitting Siachen will be disastrous

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi

In 1984, having received hard intelligence that the Pakistani army was about to secure the area, the Indian army, in a preemptive move, occupied the Saltoro Ridge, which constitutes the watershed and runs parallel to the length of the Siachen Glacier on its western side. It has been called the Actual Ground Position Line since. The Pakistani army made many attempts to throw us back, but all such attacks were repulsed. Having failed militarily, Pakistan decided negotiations were a more pragmatic option....

The important myths and realities are discussed below.

First, the contention that Siachen and Saltoro have no strategic value is wrong. If Saltoro had not been occupied by our troops, Pakistan from the west and China from the east would have long since linked up, with the strategic Karakoram Pass under their complete control. The illegal ceding away of the Shaksgam Valley by Pakistan to China has completed the encirclement of this crucial area. It is only our occupation of Saltoro that has driven a wedge between the two. By controlling Saltoro, we have also retained the option of negotiating with China over Shaksgam valley at the appropriate time.

Second, the Pakistani stance that since India is the aggressor, it should vacate the area, is a travesty of truth, as what our troops did in April 1984 was to occupyour own areas; no border or line was crossed as the entire area, not having been delineated, belongs to India.

Third, it is stated that unnecessary casualties are being incurred on account of the treacherous terrain and climate. This is no longer the case with us, as the Indian army has learnt its lessons.

Fourth, an additional reason stated is that Rs5 crore is being spent every day on our troops there. While the figure may be disputed, should sovereignty be measured in this manner?....

We seem to have fallen for the Pakistani ploy of looking at Siachen as a separate issue, unrelated to the LoC, when de facto it is an extension of the LoC. Pakistan’s compulsion on the issue must not translate into a sellout by India, for it will be an unmitigated disaster if it happens.

The most important point we have to keep in mind is that while it suits Pakistan to get our troops to vacate the commanding heights of the Saltoro Ridge, we would lose them permanently if we do so, as regaining them would be militarily extremely difficult. Despite this, if there is a compulsion to resolve the issue, then the first action must be to delineate the AGPL, before any shifting of troops takes place. Pakistan has so far refused to accept this, perhaps with an ulterior motive of occupying it at some future date!

Pakistan has been proposing that both sides should withdraw to positions that existed prior to the occupation of the Saltoro Ridge, but this must not be accepted as our troops will take longer to return to their positions, should this become necessary, on account of the difficult terrain on our side. There is also a need to work out a detailed joint mechanism to ensure that the terms of the resolution are strictly adhered to.

The writer is a former vice chief, Indian Army


06-02-2012, 07:01 PM
Pakistan's glacier disaster: fallout yet to be felt

For the Pakistan Army, the high costs have to be borne and are worth it. The Army accords the highest priority to the civilian relatives of the soldiers posted in this area. As these people are essential to the morale in the armed forces, the Pakistan Army spares no effort to keep them happy.

The 6 NLI (Northern Light Infantry) of the Pakistani Army has many Shias from the Gilgit-Baltistan region and it played a key role in the Kargil War. Yet, despite everything that the NLI did in Kargil, the Pakistani Army sought to deny the involvement of this unit in the war. In order to support the fiction that Kargil was the work of Kashmiri separatists, the Pakistan Army initially refused to accept the bodies of dead NLI soldiers from India.

Quite naturally, there was great anger in the region and the Pakistan Army backpedalled. It converted the NLI into a regular infantry unit and awarded its war dead proper recognition by conferring posthumous gallantry awards and other honors. Because of this history, today, until the bodies of the buried NLI soldiers are found and returned with honour to the families, the animosity and latent hostility towards the Pakistan Army in the region will remain.

Usually, after a natural disaster in Pakistan, international donors pour in aid money. These funds are deftly sucked up by corrupt Army men and politicians. Unfortunately for Ghyari, there are no international donors. The only funds -- when provided -- are likely to come from the emergency funds in the Pakistani treasury. This is as bad an option, as Pakistan constantly risks defaulting on its international debt obligations. Digging into the civilian budget to respect General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s vow of recovering every body will make the politicians very unhappy and could lead to internal fights. The financial costs aren’t quite as acceptable to the civilians.

As the realisation that Pakistan spends a much higher fraction of its GDP on the Saltoro war than India slowly sinks into the public mind, a cascading blame-game will begin. At present, the Pakistan Army may come across as a more caring and sensitive entity than its civilian counterparts, but deeper questions about the exact nature of accountability in the country are likely to surface in the internal debate. Given the terrible state of the economy, it is only natural for the civilian leadership to ask whether or not to incur the costs of rebuilding the capacity lost at Ghyari -- and such a question will be the veritable red rag for the bruised Pakistan Army.

A bruised Pakistan Army ego may seek to redeem itself by resorting to intimidation and putting the civilian politicians in their place with a coup or pull another utterly unnecessary Kargil-style stunt on the Saltoro range. Either way this plays out, given the state of the Pakistani economy, it is difficult to a see a future where the Ghyari disaster does not exacerbate civil-military tensions in Pakistan and adversely affect the peace process with India.

New Delhi’s initiatives on Siachen should take Ghyari-related developments into account.