Pakistan, India hold talks on Siachen

May 29, 2011

Of  the many issues dividing India and Pakistan, resolving the conflict in Siachen has always been seen as potential game-changer. Compared to the big intractables like Kashmir and what India calls the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, the Siachen conflict is easier to solve. 

But the conflict is also a big enough cause of tension that its resolution would give real momentum to the peace process revived by India and Pakistan this year. An agreement on Siachen, moreover, would allow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make a long-awaited visit to Pakistan, giving him something of substance to announce during his trip.

For those reasons, the talks on Siachen starting on Monday between the defence secretaries of India and Pakistan have an importance beyond the conflict itself. No one is expecting an early resolution of the war which erupted in the Karakoram mountains above the Siachen glacier in 1984, and which has been both literally and figuratively frozen since a late 2003 cease-fire.  But the talks will help gauge how quickly India and Pakistan will move on what is for now a very slow but steady peace process.

The war over Siachen was one that neither India nor Pakistan meant to fight for so long. Lying in the undemarcated mountains and glaciers beyond the Line of Control (LoC), the ceasefire line which divides the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and ends at grid reference NJ9842, the Siachen region has no real strategic value.

But after the Indian army occupied the ridgeline above the Siachen glacier in 1984 — for what was meant to be only a summer stay of a few months — Pakistani troops hauled themselves up the mountains to fight them. That began years of fighting as soldiers from both sides spread out across the mountains, often above 18,000 feet, seeking to occupy the high positions on the world’s highest battlefield. 

India won control of most of the higher positions, and both countries had pretty much fought themselves to a stalemate by the late 1980s  - when they began their first serious talks to resolve the dispute. At issue was not whether India and Pakistan should withdraw – both wanted to bring their troops down from mountains so inhospitable that far more died from the impact of the environment than from fighting. But India insisted that having fought and won control of the higher positions, it wanted these recorded on a map. Pakistan refused to give India that acknowledgement. Diplomatic solutions were kicked around over the years – the most promising being that India and Pakistan would sign an agreement on a withdrawal, and the Indian positions would then be recorded on separate annex. 

That remains more or less where things stand today - with an agreement in principle to withdraw, awaiting the diplomatic form of words that would allow India to have its positions recorded, without Pakistan being required to acknowledge the legitimacy of those positions.  But if it were that simple, an agreement would have been reached years ago.  That this has not happened explains a lot about why Siachen is such an important dispute – so much so that in 2010 The Hindu newspaper reported it been a deal-breaker in attempts last year to get India-Pakistan peace talks up and running.

The deadlock is sometimes attributed to strains between the Indian army and the government on a withdrawal from Siachen. The army has told the government that if it wants its troops to withdraw, it must not expect them to go back up again if Pakistani soldiers move into the vacated positions – there is nothing harder than fighting in high mountains when the enemy occupies the higher positions.

But the reasons for the conflict dragging on for so long run deeper than that. Pakistan has always seen the Indian occupation of the mountains above Siachen in April 1984 as an act of Indian aggression – a breach of the 1972 Simla agreement under which both countries promised they would not try to change the Line of Control by force.  As the country usually presented as the trouble-maker in the region, Pakistan could point to Siachen and argue – with some but not total justification - that in this case, it was the aggrieved party.

Many years later, in 1999, Pakistan responded to that perceived aggression by occupying the mountains above the town of Kargil on the Line of Control, allowing it to train its artillery on the road used by India to bring supplies from Kashmir to Siachen. The idea of closing the supply routes to Siachen – rather than fighting hopeless battles with Indian troops on the mountains themselves - had been around since the 1980s. Yet by the time Pakistani troops occupied the mountains above Kargil, it was already too late in the day.

The Kargil war, coming only a year after India and Pakistan had announced they had tested nuclear weapons, so alarmed the world that the Pakistan army was forced into a humiliating withdrawal. Yet to this day, from the point of view of the Pakistan army, any deal on Siachen which legitimised the Indian positions while leaving it looking like the guilty party on Kargil would be nearly impossible to stomach.

From the point of view of the Indian army, however,  Pakistan’s occupation of the mountains above Kargil was an act of perfidy – breaching understandings about respecting the Line of Control. In the brief and intense conflict over Kargil — the first India-Pakistan conflict to be broadcast through television footage into middle-class living rooms across India – Indian soldiers were remembered for extreme acts of heroism.  As Pakistan had learned in Siachen, the Indian troops were fighting near impossible battles to dislodge the enemy for higher positions.

Since the Kargil conflict, the Indian army has been much more rigorous about posting troops throughout the year all the way along the Line of Control. They now form an unbroken chain with its soldiers in the Siachen region, stationed on what is known as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). 

As a result, for geographical, logistical and emotional reasons, it has become very difficult to end the Siachen conflict in isolation. It needs to be part of a broader de-escalation on the Line of Control – or at least that part of it which snakes between Ladakh on the Indian side and Baltistan on the Pakistani side towards point NJ9842, and beyond it, Siachen.

Siachen is not, as sometimes argued, the “low-hanging fruit” of the India-Pakistan peace process. That does not mean that India and Pakistan will not, sooner or later, find a way to bring their troops back down from Siachen. It does mean, however, that when they do, it will be far more significant than the absurdity of fighting over the Siachen region itself would suggest.  It will be a catalyst for further peace-making and also a reflection of how far they have come.

Comments

Ganesh: “Ilyas Kashmiri was a “bad terrorist” according to Pakistan. He had declared war against the Pakistani state. The PA and ISI are probably rejoicing in his death. It isn’t very much comfort to India. ”

Ilyas Kashmiri was a former commando in Pakistani army. He is a product of the Jihadi system that Pakistan developed. He had deep connections with the rogue wings of the army and the ISI. Without their help, he couldn’t have survived for this long and launch his operations. He seems to have turned against the others in the military who are siding with the US and not Pakistan itself. He might have worked with others who made a grand plan to take over Pakistan’s power center. And those elements are still at large. He was killed in South Waziristan, when Pak army did a shadow boxing and declared that all terrorists have been cleared. That must tell something. Whether these terrorists die or not, India will still be in danger so long as Pak army considers India as its number one enemy no matter what happens.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

GAnesh:”Indians are still children of a lesser god in Western eyes”.

Honestly, we ourselves don’t give a damn if few thousand Americans are killed by terrorists and probably say they deserved what they sowed all along.
My point is No body how powerful he is, will not take our countries interests to heart. We have to fight our own battles and build capacities (you were right on that). I hope it is not in our nature to expect somebody to look and work for our interests and when bush claimed war on terror, it was specifically meant for terror groups targeting America and not India (nor any country for that matter). I have no love for Americans too (which are source of much of the trouble which some pakistanis rightly point out) but blaming them alone wont do.

1.The idea to counter terrorism (counter-terrorism warfare) is to first built a robust spy network in pakistan. Incidentally this is how American forces have recently achieved success not because of change of heart from the pakistani army. But due to their effective spy network so much so that Raymond Davis had to be pursued by pakistani ISI and send him home for a price.

2.The cultural and racial factors (being people of same origin) makes it easier for us to push overt and covert spies inside pakistan and they can be easily adaptable.

3.With rapidly growing economy, we can infact afford such large spy networks inside pakistan. And even though we spend billions of dollars on defence it would not match with the robust intelligence network that is the crux of solving low intensity warfares.

4.With loose national integrity, weak and crumbling institutions and an economy in terminal decline, Pakistan’s national identity is lower than ever before where the people claim first as muslims and next as pakistanis.It is possible to bribe some high officials and gain invaluable insider information. Infact there is a still alive and strong lobby in pakistan which want to befriend India and these officials will leak us important information that concerns even them. Just like they leaked the information on Musharaff’s assasination plan which RAW incidentally alert Mushharaff.I really believe there must be atlest one pakistani who is not a delusionist even under extremely poisonous anti-india propaganda machine who can tip us in case Pakistani establisment is considering pressing nuclear button.

5. It is dangerous for us to be divorced on the discourse of pakistani nation which is still our immediate military threat. Indeed pakistanis has scored a near perpetual victory by tying us into nuclear mutual Assured destruction and we have to do everything to come out of this state of nuclear straitjacketing. When pakistani establishment was gleeful about how it tied us to this nuclear parable of no winners, we tried to come out using cold start doctrine and they came out using short range nuclear missiles to target our army. The next step for us naturally is to use unmanned combat vehicles (ground and air forces), decoys and high electromagnetic pulse weapon systems to disable their communications. Until we can bankrupt them we should continue to arm ourselves (keeping in mind on how much we can afford. It is a calculated arms race) which pakistan will at some point of time cannot afford at all to match, even with the help of aid provided west or arms donating china.

6.The idea is to tie her carefully in an arms race and not let grow its economy (knowing fully well that recent economic performances had not led to change in attitude in pakistan 2003-2008).

7.As long as pakistan’s growth is majorly domestic oriented involving masses and its trade dominated by India, we are unlikely to see a change in pakistan’s strategic calculus.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive
 

“My point is No body how powerful he is, will not take our countries interests to heart”

it should be -My point is No body, how powerful he is, will take our countries interests to heart. sorry for this gram mistake.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive
 

Netizen,
I am a regular reader of Dawn by somehow missed this ingenious article that you pointed out.
http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/04/the-wide n ing-gulf.html”
If this article is anything to go by the moment of reckoning for pakistan is near.

It seems pakistan is on real inflection point this time around. It will go this way or that way (getting better joining the world or failing miserably never to return back in the same form). In fact I forecasted before that for pakistan, this would be a defining decade where in we would be cooling our heels after summer in 2021 and be seeing a changed south asia and completely proselyted pakistan (again this way or that way).
I think the lazy liberals of pakistan are atlast making last stand to the terrorists and radicalisation that has seeped in their country deeply. Its case of fear and curiosity mixed on my part to see this transition happening!

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive
 

Why doesn’t anyone talk about the influence of Saudi and UAE money and intelligence activities in Pakistan? Can anyone shed light into this? After OBL’s death a Saudi diplomat was killed. But everyone seems to be quiet about the Saudi role in Pakistan. Why?

Posted by soham | Report as abusive
 

sensiblepatriot said:

> Honestly, we ourselves don’t give a damn if few thousand Americans are killed by terrorists and probably say they deserved what they sowed all along.

I don’t believe so. The US got worldwide sympathy after 9/11. It was not seen as an attack on just the US. This is what enabled the “coalition of the willing” to join the US in its invasion of Afghanistan, and they had the support of other countries too. It’s true that the US undermined support for its own cause later on with the unjustified Iraq misadventure, but if they had initially targetted Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as they should have done, (1) they would have got the continued support of the whole world, and (2) the roots of the terrorist menace would have been finished off by now.

The US (and indeed every Western country) exhibits the arrogant attitude that everyone else should empathise when they are victims of terrorism, but they don’t extend the same level of empathy to countries that are even greater victims of the same terrorism, like India. They have the chutzpah to suggest that India should respond to terrorism by sacrificinf is own interests, i.e., by reducing its footprint in Afghanistan to placate Pakistani paranoia and settling the Kashmir dispute through talks. Would they have accepted advice to reduce their support to Israel? After all, that was the reason for the 9/11 attack (the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions hadn’t yet happened then).

No, there *is* a “lesser god” syndrome, and it is upto us Indians to keep rubbing it in the faces of Westerners at every opportunity. They cannot be allowed to get away with their double-standards. This is not a return to the patronising “White man’s burden” philosophy. Islamic jihadist terror is the enemy of the entire free world, so an attack on any country by any jihadist terrorist group anywhere must be treated as an attack on all countries and the entire world must respond accordingly. There can be no second-class victims of terror. Indians have to speak up whenever they see evidence of their victimhood being denied or belittled.

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive
 

As evidence of Western double-standards, has anyone noticed that attacks on Western citizens are carried out by “terrorists”, but attacks on Indians are by “militants”? Why the squeamishness about labelling them terrorists? Do we need to become Caucasian before our attackers can be promoted from militants to terrorists?

Regards,
Ganesh Prasad

Posted by prasadgc | Report as abusive
 

Ganesh: “As evidence of Western double-standards, has anyone noticed that attacks on Western citizens are carried out by “terrorists”, but attacks on Indians are by “militants”?”

If six Americans did not die in the Mumbai attacks, or if attempts were not planned on the Danish cartoonist, we would never have known about David Coleman Headley or Tawahur Rana. Countries like Canada have been quite hostile to India and have supported or given refuge to militants that harmed India. Pakistan, to them is a very strategic asset. If they burn the neighborhood it hardly matters to them. That is how it went for a long time. There is still a lot of old residue in the Pentagon and British military academies that like and prefer Pakistan no matter how degenerative that country has become. I get designated as an old fart by a Canadian here. But little do these people realize that strategic global outlook is very difficult to change and transcends over generations, regime changes and principles.

India has to build its own defensive methods. We do not have shrewd leaders. The last one was Vallabhai Patel. But for him, India would have fallen apart long ago. I’d like someone like Chidambaram to be a PM. He is someone who can take India to a position of strength in many aspects. But the Congress clan will not allow for that. We only seem to be interested in parading figure heads and award seeking celebrities. These people appear desirable in the eyes of the Westerners. There is a total dearth of a leader who can look around, ahead and lead the country forward. India has to seek its own course and deal with other countries from a position of strength. Based on what has happened to Pakistan, the US or any Western power is not to be trusted or relied upon. We can do business with them and work with them. We must never depend on them.

If Pakistan does not want to give up “militants”, then we will need to work on giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

sensible patriot talking non-sense:
“The next step for us naturally is to use unmanned combat vehicles (ground and air forces), decoys and high electromagnetic pulse weapon systems to disable their communications. Until we can bankrupt them we should continue to arm ourselves (keeping in mind on how much we can afford. It is a calculated arms race) which pakistan will at some point of time cannot afford at all to match, even with the help of aid provided west or arms donating china.

6.The idea is to tie her carefully in an arms race and not let grow its economy (knowing fully well that recent economic performances had not led to change in attitude in pakistan 2003-2008).”

-Good luck with that, lets see if you can feed your poor in the slums before you build that fantasy spy network in Pakistan or build those unmanned combat vehicles. BTW it was India which went nuclear first and then when Pakistan detonated nuclear bombs now you guys are moaning again.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive
 

Ganesh:”I don’t believe so. The US got worldwide sympathy after 9/11. It was not seen as an attack on just the US. This is what enabled the “coalition of the willing” to join the US in its invasion of Afghanistan”.

Unfortunately, I have a different take on this Ganesh.
1.It is indeed true that US got worldwide support in weeks after 9/11 and I was an enthusiastic supporter then. But much water has flown down the river since and with time we have started to realize the american priorities in war on terror. Ask any Indian whether he is concerned about killings of Americans in Iraq he would be likely to say NO. His many concerns are about terrorism emanating from pakistan. My Opinion of American war on terror is in the context of present day realities.
Perhaps I should have written “Honestly, we ourselves don’t give a damn “NOW” if few thousand Americans are killed by terrorists and probably say they deserved what they sowed all along.”
2.Countries like Russia which knows US better than any other country remained aloof to these operations even when their own interests coincided with War on Terror.Russia would have realized that devoid of any oil, afghanistan would not be such priority for America but for its strategic location. And just as Russia had forseen America started the build up of Missile defence bases and moved NATO even closer to russia.
3.Perhaps in a sense, it was our immaturity then that we believed America was coming to root out all the terrorists including those who troubled India. We must acknowledge our failed and fatal policy based on American actions.
4.Comparing the policies of India and China here, China in 2001 had realized quite early that this so called “war on terror” is an American operation to hit the terrorists who are targeting American interests.
Well it took 10 years for us to realize that when some American policy makers went as far as to profess a solution that solving Kashmir in favour of pakistan would end terrorism!
5.whatever our policy be on 9/11, now its time for us to show America our support but with riders. These should include support to America only if their interests coincide with ours.
6.If the Americans go their own way, without sharing intellegence of David headley or giving him access to us, then no point in sharing intelligence with them. we can only make sure that Americans too lose something if they could not see every terrorist as a threat to humanity. And even if Americans share intelligence but not let India pressure pakistan due to their concerns over war in Afghnistan, it means we got a bad deal out of them and a case of bad apples for us.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive
 

Umairpk:”sensible patriot talking non-sense”.
The idea that hot piece of small metal flying out of a barrel and hitting a soldier would have looked nonsense in early 12th century, isn’t it?

1.Its not discernable for me what nonsense I have talked about, but I was saying about Arms race beween India and Pakistan. Neither this is new nor is happening for the first time between us. Only the odds are heavily against pakistan this time. Isn’t this the reason why it is hopelessly depending on only the nuclear aspect of the war.

2.The revolution in military affairs had brought before us new operational tactics of waging a war, where operational aspects of war be delegated to unmanned drones and vehicles to reduce human casualities, And directing human energies to focus on planning the course of events in a war . Is it so diffiult for you to understand the evolution of future wars?

3.I believe there are still some sane people left in pakistan who are arming short range nuclear missiles rather than long range ones. It means pakistan is more willing to fight on borders even to use short range nuclear warheads to hit Indian army and to counter this the Army has been trying to invest money,men and build institutions to create technology for future conflicts.

4.Pakistan, rather than showing brinkmanship of arming long range warheads and there by lowering nuclear threshold and threatening to take out India for every little tussle between us, its possible use of SRBM and its counter strategy by army makes complete sense.

5.To counter Indian Army’s strategy of unmanned (i would say limited manned) warfare, pakistan too need to invest billions to invent or buy such technology. Here’s the catch! Which means at the end of the day, “its the economy stupid!”, which comes to play and India wants to play war of attrition of material resources, is it so difficult to understand?

4.It seems to me that Pakistani military generals are in cahoot with Indian Strategists as they exactly play along the way Indian strategists wanted. To thier glee, Pakistani establishment has fallen into the trap of arms race with India and with few resources left after funding the military, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve your growth rate vis-a-vis India. So, Although you were trying hard to match us in the short term it becomes close to impossible to match us in medium or long term. They need their economy to grow as fast as India to atleast pretend to themselves that they are serious match to India. One wonders why their focus is not on their economy which if corrected can invest the profits into defence to match India.
This is not a forum to discuss war and neither I am a war mongerer but I tried to clrify my position and answer your diatribes, and Army always thinks of scenarios to counter its enemy militarily and not wait for diplomatic breakthroughs.

5.Regarding poverty its a decades long process to alleviate it and the speed of change (poverty reduction) is what matters, who do you think is performing better and its not like feediing them everday and voila problem solved. We have to create institutions deliver goods build their capacities and if one is not entirely blind the civil activism these days in India on accountability would provide much needed knowledge on the subject. Again the activism in pakistan against Army for the first time is one case of optimism for us.

6.Yes India did conduct its nuclear device first, first in south Asia not in the world. Got the Idea, We did to counter china not you, we do not need nuclear assets to frighten you, for that we have enough conventional weaponry. Its bad case to argue that Pakistan would not acquire nukes because we dont have them. It might still have acquired them and the reason that all of us know is to escape punishment from India (or any country for that matter ,akin to north korea) for their belligerent activities against India. So the case of Pakistan aquiring nuclear assets in response to India was case of intellectual bankruptsy and most Indians here pointed out that we dont give a damn about your nukes unless you stop cross border terrorism and blackmailing us when we resort to punishment for your activities.

Posted by sensiblepatriot | Report as abusive
 

Talking about slums in India? STOP begging. When you are not planning next terrorist attack, pakis are all over the world whipping up the begging bowl vigorously :-)

Posted by netizen | Report as abusive
 

-Good luck with that, lets see if you can feed your poor in the slums before you build that fantasy spy network in Pakistan or build those unmanned combat vehicles. BTW it was India which went nuclear first and then when Pakistan detonated nuclear bombs now you guys are moaning again. – Umairpk

Given recent economic stats, I’d say he’s on the money.

India has actually been eradicating poverty and increasing defence expenditure at the same time. Their HDI is the highest its ever been (and increasing), fiscal and trade deficits are down, debts are coming under control (finally), all while India is increasing its power projection abilities and non-military capabilities (intelligence, information warfare, diplomacy, etc.). I’d say that’s a pretty good track record.

Pakistan on the other hand just gave 150 billion rupees for the military and nothing for education, health care, development, etc. I’d say sensiblepatriot is right on the money. This is playing out exactly like the USA-Soviet Union. How ironic since Pakistan helped bring down the Soviets.

And it’s only going to get worse for Pakistanis. Once the West leaves and the aid money dries up (or becomes far more targetted), the fattened military is not going to suddenly call it a day. They’ve gotten used to spending an extra $1-2 billion USD per year. They’ll want Pakistanis to make up for that shortfall. And knowing Pakistan, the politicians will cave in. They’ll cut even more from development and social services budgets. And Pakistan will keep descending towards the same fate at the Soviet Union.

Moreover, these cuts aren’t proportional. The government cuts first in the most restive regions. Despite what they say in the press, they cut in Balochistan, NWFP, Sindh before they cut in Punjab. Guess where the people are most pissed off? And the less they get from the national government, the less they’ll feel that they owe allegiance to Pakistan. Not spending on national development is a recipe for national disunity and eventually, possibly even the demise of the state.

Just calling it like it is.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive
 

Umairpk: “BTW it was India which went nuclear first and then when Pakistan detonated nuclear bombs now you guys are moaning again”

India detonated the bomb to prod Pakistan and confirm that it had the bombs. And Pakistan took the bait. Prior to that it was always rumors and no one knew for sure how far Pakistan’s nuclear bomb development had progressed. And according to the rumor mill, Pakistan had enriched Uranium, but did not possess the complete technology for putting together a bomb. So China, the all weather friend, gave the full blue print and some material to go with it. There was a fear that the bombs might not go off when India prodded Pakistan by exploding the bombs. And it was all anxiety in Pakistan since no one knew if Chinese technology put together in a hurry would work or not. It worked and Pakistan faced sanctions. India took the sanctions but could survive. India also had to test out some of the weapons simulations in the bargain and got it all done. This was to tell the Chinese that we can face them if the need arises. So China hurried in to help its proxy, Pakistan. And now again rumor mills are wondering why Pakistan is building more nukes beyond its need. May be another prodding might happen to confirm some of the speculations. Hope it is not in the form of a conflict.

Posted by KPSingh | Report as abusive
 

Umairpk: “BTW it was India which went nuclear first and then when Pakistan detonated nuclear bombs now you guys are moaning again”

OH PLEASSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE … Don’t Flatter yourself, pakistani!

India Doesnt need to do nuclear tests to deter pakistan.

1962 India and China went to war.
1964 China conducts its first Nuclear test.
1974 India conducts its First Nuclear test.

India’s Intelligence, RAW, was formed initially to counter China, not Pakistan.. another one of your ‘paranoia’.

We did that to Deter China, not Pakistan.. pleaseeeee as i said earlier, Dont flatter yourself.

Pakistan has always been like this. You think anything India does, it does to scare pakistan… Just because you get scared easy, doesnt mean India meant to do it.

Please keep your 1965 era thinking and paranoia to yourself, I hope you arent passing on this nonsense to your future generations, because they will be wandering into a whole world of pain due to their flawed ideology and mistaught history.

Posted by rob29 | Report as abusive
 

how could people defend this sort of terrorism by indians , they have done this so many times, cross border terrorism in this region is started by india only. they did this in 1965, 1971 and siachen , balochistan etc

Posted by dany101 | Report as abusive
 

how could people defend this sort of terrorism by indians , they have done this so many times, cross border terrorism in this region is started by india only. they did this in 1965, 1971 and siachen , balochistan etc

Posted by dany101 | Report as abusive
 

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