THERE is little reason why a Pakistani tragedy in Siachen should prompt the Indian government to seek a settlement on the icy heights — unless wiser counsel prevails. A ‘comprehensive settlement’ was pledged in the 1989 joint statement signed by the then Pakistani and Indian defence secretaries on June 17 as a result of back-channel diplomacy when Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi were prime ministers. The agreement, which a senior Pakistan Foreign Office official recently asked India to honour, has remained a piece of paper for more than two decades. It is unlikely to be translated into an international treaty because the security establishments of both countries have frustrated attempts by their civilian leaderships to end the conflict on the world’s highest battlefield. At the moment, Indian generals think their troops are in a strategically advantageous position. A pullback to the 1984 positions, before fighting began in Siachen, would in their opinion deprive the Indian army of the operational advantage it enjoys at present. If there is a pullback, the Indian side insists, the existing positions must be marked on maps and ground.

Pakistan’s position is simpler: let the two sides withdraw to the 1984 positions and pledge to turn the glacier into a demilitarised zone. There are reasons to believe that many Indian governments wanted to clinch an agreement on Siachen but were frustrated by their defence establishment. Essentially, it is for the Manmohan Singh government to put its foot down and end a conflict in which more men have died from harsh climatic conditions than in actual combat. A Siachen settlement will have a positive effect on the overall relationship between Pakistan and India and quicken the pace of normalisation.

More From This Section

Too much for too little

THERE is no deadlock, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan had told the country regarding talks with the outlawed TTP....

The name of the game

WHAT’S in a name? A lot, it turns out, at least in the case of a proscribed organisation that wants to participate...

Roles reversed

THE story has been repeated ad nauseam over the decades, but is still a favourite with many Pakistanis who bemoan...

Life without dignity

CAN a family survive with dignity on the minimum wage of an unskilled worker, asked the Supreme Court on Monday in...

Comments are closed.

Comments (8)

Fahad Hashmi
April 17, 2012 1:59 pm
it just seems to be ego-effort for both countries to deploy armed forces at such high altitude; logically there is no reason to keep soldiers there, in extremely tough living conditions. both countries should think to remove their forces and engage them in place where actually they should be.
April 17, 2012 3:04 pm
I don't know about others but at least pakistan and india can not solve all such issues by mutual cooperation.
April 18, 2012 2:51 am
Dawn Editorial states "Pakistan’s position is simpler: let the two sides withdraw to the 1984 positions and pledge to turn the glacier into a demilitarized zone." If this statement is true, why Pakistan is unwilling to agree and mark existing positions on maps and ground?
April 17, 2012 9:59 pm
Peace ? But at what terms ? Indian would never draw back from siachen. Its at the tri junction of Indo Pak and China. Pakistan will never stop attempting to recapture it. At the end the glacier would melt altogether and rivers from it gone.
Afzal Mahmood
April 17, 2012 11:44 am
Oh its so bad and horrible. Let there be a bit of sense on both sides and may spend, what they spend on icy land, on things essential for peace rather than for a prepetual war like situation which yields no results
April 17, 2012 10:16 pm
Pakistan's demand that India retreat to the pre-1984 position is in accordance with the maps underlying the founding of the states of India and Pakistan. Indian occupation of Siachen in a nocturnal clandestine operation is a violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty and a violated country must not 'compensate' the usurper. Demanding a compensation is outright bullying.
April 17, 2012 2:03 pm
Everybody admits that India has a tactical advantage today and by withdrawing to pre 1984 positions they will lose it. If that is so how is this a just proposal? I know we will stop loss of young lives here, but there needs to b a quid pro quo. What can Pakistan do to compensate?
nirmal maunder
April 17, 2012 8:30 pm
Realistically speaking,U cant get at the table what u have lost in the field.
Explore: Indian elections 2014
Explore: Indian elections 2014
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
Front Page