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Siachen dispute


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TO no one’s surprise, the talks between the Pakistani and Indian secretaries of defence on the Siachen dispute have concluded without any forward movement. The boilerplate joint statement promising to “make serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts for seeking an amicable resolution of Siachen” offers little consolation because those are precisely the kind of efforts that are missing from the equation. Since the tragedy in Gayari in April, the madness of the Siachen conflict has been fully exposed — yet again. But so has the stubbornness on both sides. The fact that the Indian Army has blocked a return to the pre-Siachen conflict status of that uninhabitable region is by now recognised by one and all. The first step towards ending the senseless conflict — although a ceasefire for much of the last decade has meant at least the direct fighting has ended — must therefore be taken by the Indian side. However, as Ahmed Mukhtar hinted after he left the defence portfolio, the overall fault lies on both sides. There is so much mistrust between the old military adversaries — exemplified by the recklessness that was Kargil in 1999 — that to convince one side that the other will abide by a written agreement and will not try to take advantage of a withdrawal is simply too difficult.

However, try both sides must. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may have been weakened by scandals at home but it is known that he cherishes the idea of normalising relations with Pakistan. There is still a narrow window of opportunity for Mr Singh to visit Pakistan later this year and perhaps solidify the gains in the Pak-India relationship that 2012 has offered. While it is difficult for a political leadership to overcome its army high command in even the most democratic dispensations of the world — the Obama administration’s struggles with its military on the way forward in Afghanistan being one example; the Siachen veto wielded by the Indian Army being another — ultimately statesmanship is about grasping the nettle. The blood and treasure lost over Siachen hurts India and Pakistan and neither side has anything more to gain than bragging rights, satisfying military egos to take uncalled-for risks. India should lead the way.

Over here in Pakistan, the focus on Siachen should not detract from other areas where potential gains are being frittered away.

A markedly improved visa regime between the two countries had only to be signed by the Pakistani side last month but somehow that didn’t happen. Similarly, movement on trade is being gummed up with new objections and concerns. Pakistani policymakers need to get their act together soon.

Comments (15) Closed

jaria Jun 13, 2012 04:17pm
i agree
P1845 Jun 13, 2012 02:16pm
Well said. I could not have articulated it better.
Sudhakar Jun 13, 2012 11:02am
I think Pakistan should show big heart here and sign (on paper) within the auspices of an international forum and agree to internationally accepted demarcation of Siachen. Then that will automatically solve this dispute. After all Pakistanis are known for their big hearts. Don't you think so?
Guest Jun 13, 2012 06:22am
"The fact that the Indian Army has blocked a return to the pre-Siachen conflict status of that uninhabitable region is by now recognised by one and all. " Actually is Pakistan's intransigence on establishing a verification regime. Pakistan's duplicity is now well known and it is only to be expected that no one is going to deal without a "trust and verify" regime. Time for Pakistan's position to change..
M. Asghar Jun 13, 2012 09:47am
It is clear that the Siachen dispute can be resolved only in the context of solution of the Kashmir problem.
Nish Jun 13, 2012 05:39am
In numerous articles and blogs published in Dawn, I have read that the author always say India should lead the way or should have big heart or magnanimous. Why? Why not pakistan be the one leading the way and have a big heart? Why you want India to be the one more understanding and not your own country Pakistan?
gulshan Jun 13, 2012 04:51am
"Pakistani policymakers need to get their act together soon." This, the last sentence of the article, sums it up.
Asif Ali Jun 13, 2012 04:37am
After all, both powers don't deserve the status of being dost....?
Sup Jun 13, 2012 07:11pm
Even that wont help.......history is a very interesting subject but it also lays foundation and teaches a lesson for future !
Srini Jun 14, 2012 02:00pm
Imran, I think you have no clue about Indians. We are always ready to talk about anything...We normally try to accomodate if someone wants to talk to us. Doesn't mean that we will change our stands. Only when there is a aggression on the part of the other party, we will cancel the talk. Otherwise, invite us for talks and we will be there to restate our position.
Mumtaz Ali Daghonivi Jun 13, 2012 12:13pm
Both should come forward to solve this matter..Pakistan can play a vital role but Indian also show ........
Imran Jun 13, 2012 02:04pm
If things were not as bad on the Indian side, there would be no Indian delegation in Islamabad.Fact.
Kes Jun 13, 2012 07:09am
India has already invested heavily in providing material comforts to its troops at Siachen. On Indian side, things are no longer as bad as they were 15 years ago. Why withdraw and risk another Kargil? Similarly, the Indian economy is not exactly suffering because of not doing business with Pakistan. On all points, status-quo serves us just fine. Thank you!
MKB Jun 13, 2012 07:39am
Indian are in the higher ridges, settled and adjusted well. With their foot print on the higher ridges, India can command and control any activities surrounding the glassier, they can swiftly repulse any advisory, have control over the sources of sweet water reserve, can spoiled any attempt from China. So why on earth, with out any actual demarcation of position, written acceptance of Indian position by Pakistan, India would vacate Siachen? Any laymen can understand this. True, it is wasteful to keep a military on such altitude, uninhabited area. But can any one deny the importance of Siachen? If it is so unimportant, why Pakistan is crying foul? They have tried their best to dislodge Indian, but failed. They accepted ceasefire after prolong try & understood that it is not possible to dislodge India forcefully.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand Jun 13, 2012 09:15am
Sir A very pragmatic and realistic editorial. I have been of the view for long time, though it is hardly of any value in diplomatic arena and with the people in the corridors of power, this Siachen dispute is never going to be resolved in isolation. It will, whenever it happens, be a part of solution of a much bigger package, that may include sir creek, something to make LOC as an international border and deciding the case of 26/11. But in the meantime, continuing with the current positive attitudes, something productive will surely come out in the near future. One issue, which you have also pointed out, makes one wonder as to why Pakistan started having second thoughts about not signing for making the visa liberal pact at the last moment.despite having negotiated this issue successfully. Any comments in this regard. Thanks BNA