Demilitarizing Siachen?

Sumaira Nasir Durrani
Demilitarization from Siachen sector seems a bit sentimental statement. Its not the first time when Army has lost its Tigers for the sake of their mother land. This is a tradition of Army to be a Ghazi or a Shaheed. A person joins armed force with an aim of Shahadat. These chosen men are born and trained for “do or die”.
Now-a-days incident in Giyari sector Siachen is under discussion. Most of the people are suggesting Siachen, as a “Peace Park” instead of a war zone, because it costs so many human lives, economical burden, and environmental apprehension.
If we go through the history we will find not even a single event in which India has shown flexibility to resolve any issue or taken a single back step from any issue related to Pakistan. Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen, and Water disputes are some prominent and well known issues between both the countries. Some new issues are also devastating the situation like constructions of Indian dams over Pakistan’s water. All main issues are still pending and will remain because issues need sincerity from both sides to resolve.
India is now preparing to become an overseer as a regional power. As India is enhancing its Army by increasing and modernizing its arms and ammunition (conventional and nuclear), equipping Air force, by purchasing fighter aircraft from European countries and equipped its Navy with nuclear Submarine acquired from Russia. Recently India has tested Agni V ballistic missile with a range of 5000 Km. In the response Pakistan tested Hatf IV Shaheen 1A intermediate range ballistic missile. It shows that both countries are going parallel in competition of arms race to equalize balance of power.
Indian Cold Start Doctrine clearly shows its ambitions towards its neighbouing countries. Both Pakistan and India are not supporting CTBT and FMCT as their non-proliferation policies have been designed by their particular security issues and threat perceptions. This year India is going to increase its total military spending by thirteen percent, which might be increased as for India, growing military ties between Pakistan and China is a ’cause of worry’ according to Indian Defence Minister AK Antony, “India is raising an offensive corps and taking other steps to gear up its preparedness along China border to meet the challenges”.
Whereas Siachen is concerned it is an important strategic place. By launching of Operation Meghdoot in April 1984, most of the area was occupied by Indian forces. India controls about two third of glacier besides commanding two of the three passes, Bilafond La and Sia La are, two key northern passes in the Saltoro Range.
India also holds the tactical advantage of high ground as compared to Pakistan. Indian army has also constructed 230 km long oil pipe line to provide fuel to their troops in Siachen. China is another important factor for India not to demilitarize Siachen, since 1962 disputes between India and China are still unresolved even though both have enhanced economic ties. Most importantly recapturing the control of the same area for India would not possible if once India demilitarized the occupied area.
In this situation would India agree to demilitarize a strategic location like Siachen? And how can Pakistan withdraw its troops from Siachen in the presence of India? While for Pakistan Siachen is just not a glacier it is an economical imperative, a fresh source of water, a way to China and most of all an important, legal part of Pakistan. The presence of India in Siachen Glacier also vulnerable to Karakorum Highway, which is a lifeline road linking Pakistan to China at Khunjerab Pass.
Currently both states are expressing their interest in the favour to demilitarize Siachen for a “Peace Park” but no further development has been observed from any side. After the avalanche incident, Pakistan did not let its posts vacant for a single day. Till now troops from both sides are maintaining their positions as before. Most recently Indian Defence minister A K Antony expressed a realistic approach during the debate on defence matters in Rajya Sabha that “nobody should expect dramatic results from the defence secretary-level Siachen talks (which are going to be held in Pakistan in the second week of June). We are standing firmly on our position in Siachen where we were”.
Notion of “Peace Park” seems too soothing to ears but its far away from the reality. Both countries will wait and seek for first step taken by other; but no one will exemplify their urgency to seize the opportunity and will stand firmly to their stances.
According to an Indian journalist, Indian Air Chief Marshall PV Naik said a year ago that “India wants the situation on ground; a presence on the Saltoro ridge and its control of the Siachen glacier to be recognized first. If both sides have to vacate the position, the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) needs to be marked and I would say, internationally approved”.
Indian illegal presence in the Siachen glacier is one of the main barriers to resolve Indo-Pak multiple issues. Recognizing India’s legal status in Siachen is some thing out of the consideration of Pakistan. Siachen has been a part of Pakistan since independence in 1947; consequently, India should depart from the occupied area without any claim.
Pakistan undoubtedly has lion hearted soldiers who are not afraid to die for their country. But their lives are valued for the country and we cannot let our soldiers die by natural disasters because of an illegitimate occupation of India for no reason.
All pending issues should be discussed by their priorities like water dispute, Kashmir issue which already have cost many lives and many others’ future is at risk. Pakistan has taken a forward step towards peace so now India should exemplify the maturity to resolve the issues between India and Pakistan which are for sure to be initiated by India, and only resolvable by sincere negotiations, not by war.

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