“On Siachen, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) T. C. A. Raghavan” — who has also served as the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan — “reported that the Indian army has drawn a line with its political leadership. It has told the government of India that withdrawal was tantamount to ceding the area to Pakistan due to the difficulty of retaking it should Pakistan occupy it,” wrote the New Delhi embassy in September 2008. – File Photo (Thumbnail illustration by Hasaan Haider/Dawn.com)

KARACHI: The Indian army, and not just the civilian government, has played a role in the ongoing deadlock with Pakistan over the Siachen dispute, according to American and Indian assessments contained in confidential US diplomatic cables.

“On Siachen, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) T. C. A. Raghavan” — who has also served as the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan — “reported that the Indian army has drawn a line with its political leadership. It has told the government of India that withdrawal was tantamount to ceding the area to Pakistan due to the difficulty of retaking it should Pakistan occupy it,” wrote the New Delhi embassy in September 2008.

While talks held on Siachen this week between the two countries’ defence secretaries may have been inconclusive for a variety of reasons, cables reveal that the Indian army has historically had a role to play, calling into question commonly held perceptions that India's foreign policy lies firmly in the hands of its civilian government.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is described as having to fight intense domestic pressure, and not just from political hardliners. “Were any deal to crystallise, PM Singh would need buy-in from the army and the BJP to avoid handing himself a political firestorm,” noted a 2006 cable in anticipation of talks on Siachen scheduled for May that year.

In a section titled “First Obstacle: Managing the Military”, the cable described how “Army Chief J. J. Singh appears on the front page of the Indian Express seemingly fortnightly to tell readers the army cannot support a withdrawal from Siachen”.

Although the report acknowledged that “Given India’s high degree of civilian control over the armed forces, it is improbable that Gen Singh could repeatedly make such statements without Ministry of Defence civilians giving at least tacit approval”, it concluded that “Whether or not this is the case, a Siachen deal is improbable while his — and the army’s — opposition continues to circulate publicly. …

“The army says the Siachen presence costs 3,000 crore rupees per year ($670m), which is a small sum when compared to the entire Indian defence budget.”

The cable also noted that Gen Singh’s position on the issue “is reflected in the Foreign Ministry as well”: India would not make a deal on demilitarisation without Pakistan signing a map laying out Indian and Pakistani troop positions before withdrawal. The primary purpose of this would be to justify action if Pakistan reneged on the withdrawal agreement.

Any deal, the cable implied, could only come after a go-ahead from the army: “The most telling signpost indicating the GOI is preparing the country for [a deal] would be Gen Singh publicly adopting a neutral (or supportive) position on a Siachen deal to signal in advance that the army is on board, and that the GOI no longer needs to point to army concerns to explain why a deal is not possible.”

This pressure is seen as holding back Prime Minister Singh, who is described as being in favour of a deal — former National Security Adviser M. K. Narayan tells American officials in May 2005 that “the PM had instructed all his subordinates that ‘we need to accept Musharraf’s bona fides, even on Siachen’ … With this guidance in mind, the Ministry of Defence has been instructed ‘to take as flexible a position as possible’”.

A comment written in November 2006 sums up the American view of the matter. “India has repeatedly come ‘very close’ to an agreement on the Siachen issue in 1989, and again (less so) in 1993.

“Each time the prime minister of the day was forced to back out by India’s defence establishment, the Congress Party hardline, and opposition leaders. The Indian army is resistant to giving up this territory under any condition for a variety of reasons — strategic advantage over China, internal army corruption, distrust of Pakistan, and a desire to keep hold of advantageous territory that thousands of Indian soldiers have died protecting.”

Noting that then Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri had recently claimed he expected an agreement on Siachen, the New Delhi embassy added that his statements “go against longstanding conventional wisdom in India that an agreement on Siachen is unlikely anytime soon because the Indian army and the hardline in the Congress Party would not be able to trust Pakistan enough to withdraw, regardless of how much Pakistan is willing to concede”.

America’s own opinion of Siachen is that “this remote region lacks military strategic relevance”. Despite this, cables over the years dating as far back as 2004 describe the issue as an “intractable” one unlikely to be resolved.

According to at least one Pakistani government official, Prime Minister Singh had admitted to this pressure in talks with Gen Musharraf.

In an October 2006 meeting at the Islamabad embassy, then MFA Director General (India) Jalil Jilani “said that he had absolutely no hope of a Siachen solution in the near term, even though Islamabad and New Delhi have already sketched the outlines of a deal.

“Jilani pointed to strong opposition to a Siachen resolution amongst the Indian military and defence establishment as the barrier to a resolution, a hurdle that PM Manmohan Singh had raised in his Havana meeting with President Musharraf in mid-September. Singh had told Musharraf that his military advisers are apprehensive that Pakistan would re-occupy the heights — including Indian posts — were the sides to withdraw from their current lines.”

Cables referenced: WikiLeaks # 168776, 86738, 64523, 83679, 28301, 32755

All cables are available on Dawn.Com


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Comments (33) Closed




sri
Jun 02, 2011 04:04pm
Jilani pointed to strong opposition to a Siachen resolution amongst the Indian military and defence establishment as the barrier to a resolution, a hurdle that PM Manmohan Singh had raised in his Havana meeting with President Musharraf in mid-September. Singh had told Musharraf that his military advisers are apprehensive that Pakistan would re-occupy the heights — including Indian posts — were the sides to withdraw from their current lines.” exactly why any sane person would trust pak army after kargil?
krishna
Jun 02, 2011 04:54pm
" cables reveal that the Indian army has historically had a role to play, calling into question commonly held perceptions that India’s foreign policy lies firmly in the hands of its civilian government. " It still very much is. And the issue at hand is not of foreign policy, its much more of a Stategic discussion of Military Positions. And given the Kargil Misadventure, the Army has more than enough reasons to be suspicious.
zaman khan
Jun 02, 2011 05:29pm
Then what is the point in having parleys on Siachin and wasting the time. World must know it was India which occupied the territory in1984. Compared to Indian 300 crore rupees Pakistan is spending very less.So let it be as it is.
Dave
Jun 02, 2011 06:19pm
History tought us that Pakistanis can not be trusted. Mumbai, Kargil, 1965, 1947 are good good examples.
Livingston
Jun 02, 2011 07:43pm
No matter what will be the outcome, India will always been seen as the occupier of Siachen
raj
Jun 02, 2011 08:12pm
Just a correction to what Zaman Khan said, India spends 3,000 crores. In India we guys know how much the army spends but in Pakistan I doubt you guys have any accountability.
Rita
Jun 02, 2011 08:41pm
No-one now trusts Pakistan.
Anshul
Jun 02, 2011 09:56pm
Budgets of indian defence is not comparable to pakistan even on the easiest terrain owing to vast use of costly technology.so if only to reduce cost india has to step down,india has to step down on whole of its borders.
ashok
Jun 02, 2011 10:44pm
Mr Zaman so pls tell your leaders in pakistan,not to have this discussion in future.even if the cost is 30000 crore (leave alone 3000 crore) we will be able to sustain it as we do not depend on american aid to run our country. ashok
Indus Darya
Jun 03, 2011 02:14am
India's reluctance is understandable as the pakistani state has no credibility. How about a no-war pact with India to build a basis for peace in the region.
Gurpreet
Jun 03, 2011 02:56am
Zaman, you are right, "Let it be as it is", Pakistan keeps it's potion of Kashmir, and India keeps it's portion of kashmir and the Siachin. We don't need to keep fighting directly/indirectly, which as of now looks perpetual. Instead, we live with the areas that we have and focus on other bigger issues both contries face.
Khurram
Jun 03, 2011 03:18am
Agreed! Let the Indians spend all their money.
Pervez Roshan
Jun 03, 2011 04:15am
Well when will the country stop countering questions with untruthfulness answers and rather find solutions.
Np
Jun 03, 2011 04:30am
How can Pakistan be ever trusted after Kargil and Mumbai?
Naveen
Jun 03, 2011 04:54am
It's the Pakistani govt. that wants demilitarization of Siachin. India didn't propose it. So Pakistanis are cry babies here not Indians. Besides, if Pakistan is so interested in Siachin, why it does not agree to signing the map??
Naveen
Jun 03, 2011 04:57am
What I don't understand that why Pakistanis always think that things work similar in India. Indian army is under civilian control. We never had and never will have any overthrow of civilian govts. by military. Please don't start thinking that what happens in Pakistan will inevitably happen in India too. India is a different country than Pakistan.
Rahul
Jun 03, 2011 05:17am
What's wrong with the civilian government listening to its army? It does not mean that they do not have control over the army. Even in the other big democracy, USA, the civilian government is not repealing the don't ask don't tell policy without taking its army on board. A failed democracy like you will never understand this.
mack
Jun 03, 2011 06:02am
Remember the pakistan currency's value is half of Indian rupees. So Indian 300 crores is equivalent to 573 crore Paki rupees.
binu
Jun 03, 2011 07:17am
so what is the point.. Indian government should trust and make decision based on pakistan's and its military's point of view or what.. What is wrong with Inidan government consulting its military before taking stategic decision..
Sandeepan
Jun 03, 2011 08:46am
Zaman, I think the point here is that trust is fine, but what is the recourse one have should it break. So Indian army is asking for demarcating and signing off on Actual Line of Control before vacating the posts. This is a fact. So trust or no trust I think the stance of Indian Army is objective.
Kailash
Jun 03, 2011 10:21am
There is no problem to giving the Siachin. But India can't trust Pakistan. Every issue will be solved but pakistan have to take some possitive steps, so India could trust him.
Sumit
Jun 03, 2011 10:52am
We have it and we spend it.... And i blv that Siachen is worth 3000Cr we r spending... Why dont Indian and pak maintain status quo and move ahead. There is no sulution to the pending issues. Lets do the business 2gathr. More the economy of Ind & Pak is interlinked more it wl b btr.
Saqi
Jun 03, 2011 03:05pm
I am sorry to see my Indian fans getting carried over with their patriotic remarks. All this cable shows is that Indian military aggression and pak military aggression have resulted in a situation which has resulted in loss of precious lives. Occupying a non-inhabitated territory just shows the silliness and justification by zealous patriots gives the militaries more reason to waste lives and money.
SAM
Jun 03, 2011 03:06pm
@all indians refering to Kargil and 1965: how about not trusting indian government, indians and indian military because of Kashamir and Siachen? You think we went in in 1965 and for Kargil, but we did come out, you're still to leave either Siachen or Kashmir. UN resolutions? reminds of you anything? remember Nehru?
Dhanku
Jun 03, 2011 03:59pm
Hurdle, certainly for Pakistan, but looking at it from Indian perspective then these are genuine objections raised by the Indian Army. Can Pakistan be trusted after what it did in Kargil - or whats the guarantee they wont sell it off to China.
Bobby
Jun 03, 2011 04:42pm
Are you serious? Do you actually expect that any government will take a decision of this nature without consulting the mulitary? Consultation is a part of the democratic decision making process. Such a process may not throw up a decision that is to the liking of one country. So what is wrong if the civilian government takes such a decision based on sound professional advice? The indian military advise is well reasoned. The civilian governments decision to follow that advise is justified.
tadaham
Jun 03, 2011 04:53pm
Given that Pak Army is not in control of its country. There is all reasons to be vigilant.
Kaleem
Jun 03, 2011 04:54pm
What happened first Kargil or the Siachen or Mukti Bahini? Who should trust who?
Uncle Sid
Jun 03, 2011 05:14pm
The Mukti Bahini happened first. Here's how it happened. The East Pakistanis rightfully won the election. The West Pakistanis decided to kill them rather than let them form a government that was rightfully theirs. This led to a civil war of Pakistan's own making. It was quite late in the game and long after the Mukti Bahini was formed that India got involved, in large part to prevent the refugee crisis that was developing in India as the result of Pakistan's actions. The fact that you and many Pakistanis blame India for this huge travesty (of Pakistan's own making) against the democratic process internal to Pakistan is evidence of the degree to which denial and delusion dominate the discourse in Pakistan of Pakistani history. What is quite fascinating about the articles appearing in Dawn over the past month is that, for a change, many writers are being very honest about Pakistan's problems. This is an important first step in the direction of solving the many problems facing Pakistan and, as a consequence of being its neighbour, India. I urge you to join these straight-thinking people and let go of all this denial and delusion.
manoj
Jun 03, 2011 05:35pm
well look it differently. what i think is if India and Pakistan comes together then we can overtake china in term of progress. thousands of crore will be saved from both side. no country want that as all of them feel insecure. America too....way we want to get protection from our own people. we have everything to be super power. so plz dont fight just love life.
Rajesh
Jun 04, 2011 10:45am
Please add China to the list of occupiers of Kashmir. The territory quietly gifted by Pakistan to China in the name of friendship.
Emory
Jun 06, 2011 11:31pm
What are the "questions" and "untruthfulness" that you are accusing here? Please elucidate and be more cogent in your comments. The point here is about Siachen. If it is such a waste piece of land with no value and importance then why is pakistan raking up a non-issue?
Riaz king..
Jun 08, 2011 05:51pm
yah u are write dear,we have to care for our borders and dignity,so we both countries need peace,but there should be bilateral policy between countries