Siachen Glacier : The Highest battleground on Earth

Ray

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Op Meghdoot was conceptualised by Lt Gen Chibber, who was the Northern Army Commander at that time.

Lt Gen Hoon was the 15 Corps Commander.
 

Daredevil

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The Coldest War

A neutral perspective into Siachen issue. Also talks about the conditions of Army in Siachen from both sides of the border.
 

Ray

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Which clot hoisted the national flag upside down in the above photo with the while helmet over the rifle?

Even the photographer is a clot to have not pointed out the error and then having corrected it, taken the photo.
 

Flint

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Which clot hoisted the national flag upside down in the above photo with the while helmet over the rifle?

Even the photographer is a clot to have not pointed out the error and then having corrected it, taken the photo.
Thanks Sir. Didn't notice that.
 

Ray

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There are some interesting details is Maroof's article.
Worth a read.
Salute.co.in

The LoC terminates at NJ 9842. Pakistan insists that it must go thereafter northeastwards and therefore the Siachin glacier must lie in Pakistani territory. India says that the line north of the LoC must follow a geographical feature, ie, the Soltoro ridge. And so the Siachin glacier falls within Indian territory.


However, the origins of the dispute lie in a cartographic controversy. In the 1970’s and the 80’s several international maps had begun to depict the Siachin Glacier as part of Pakistan. This included the National Geographic Society’s Atlas of the World, University of Chicago’s A Historical Atlas of South Asia and The Times Atlas of the World, published in London. All of these showed the CFL/LoC clearly extending from NJ 9842 in a northeasterly direction right up to the Karakoram Pass and onto the Chinese border. This, until then, not even the Pakistani maps had done! And when in 1985, Pakistan published the official Atlas of Pakistan – the first such publication in Pakistan – that removed the Giligit Agency from the status of a disputed territory, as it had been hitherto always shown. This gave it an entirely separate standing. It left only Baltistan’s status (on whose eastern edge, Pakistan claims, stands the Siachen glacier) as a disputed territory, untouched. But some Indian writers cannot be absolved of the responsibility of adding to this confusion, either. Two books by Indian authors- The Fourth Round: Indo-Pak War in 1984 by Ravi Rikhye (map facing page 68) and Lt. Gen. KP Candeth’s : The Western Front: Indo-Pakistan War in 1971 – had maps, that only strengthened Pakistan’s claim.


But source of this cartographic encroachment is said to be some maps that were initially produced by the US Defence Mapping Agency, which depicted the LoC running from the vicinity of NJ 9842 northeast to the Karakoram Pass, in the 1970’s and the 80’s.


The best explanation for this error by America’s map makers appears to lie in the possible “translation” of Air Defence Information Zone markings, which provides zoning boundaries for air controllers in civil/military aviation. This gave an extension of the LoC from NJ 9842 to the Karakoram Pass. These have become an article of faith for the Pakistanis. However, there can be several ADIZ’s that could pass through one country, and these.
 

A.V.

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Interview with Captain Bana Singh
February 23. 2007



Claude: Tell us where are you born, when did you join the Army?

BS: I am born in 1949 in Kadyal district of Jammu province. My father
was a farmer though many of my uncles had joined the Army. My
father used to tell me that Army life is a very prestigious one. He also
wanted me to join the Army because a farmer’s life is very harsh.
Personally I always wanted to do something for my country.

Q: Before being posted on Siachen glacier, did you practice mountain
climbing?

BS: I was trained with my battalion at the High Altitude Warfare
School in Gulmarg. Though the altitude is not as high as in the Siachen
area, we learnt mountain warfare, how to climb, how to fight in the
snows, how to move on a glacier.
The mountain training is imparted to formations from all over India,
but more particularly to the Mountain Brigade, specially established by
the Government of India to look after the Siachen glacier. It was also
for us an opportunity to acclimatize at a relative high altitude.
Then we moved to the base camp No 1 camp on the glacier which is
located at 18,000 feet. It takes 7 days to be fully acclimatized, during
this period we went to the base camp during the day and came back
the next day.

Q: When you got posted on the Siachen in April 1987, was the Quaid
Post already occupied by the Pakistanis?

BS: Yes, they had occupied it earlier. Around that time, the Pakistanis
started firing on our patrols and helicopters from the post.
My Commanding Officer (CO) decided to send a patrol to find out the
position of the Pakistanis and how many of them were manning the
post.
On May 29, a patrol of 8 J&K Light Infantry (8 JAK LI) was sent for a
reconnaissance of the possible approaches to the Quaid Post. The
patrol leader was Lt. Rajiv Pande. He had 12 men with him.
Unfortunately, they were sighted by the Pakistanis commandos. Ten of
them, including Rajiv Pande were killed. Three only survived.

Q: Why this post was called the ‘Quaid’ Post

BS: This is the name of Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan.
This is the most important and highest post in the area. From the top
you can see 80 km around. You can see the entire Saltoro range and
all the other posts which have to be supplied by choppers. If you
control this post, you can prevent the supply of all these posts. That is
why it had such an importance for Pakistan (and why they named it
after Jinnah). [After they started firing] my CO had to prepare a secret
plan to recapture the post.

Q: How did the Pakistanis capture the Post?

BS: I do not know. It must have been captured long ago. The
Pakistanis started occupying the glacier in 1984. When I arrived in
1987, it was already occupied.

Q: When was a second patrol sent?

BS: It was in June. It was not a patrol. It was troops for fighting
purpose, to capture the Post.

Q: How was the approach route to reach the Post at 21,000?

BS: There was a 90° climb on a distance of 1,500 km and ice walls. Lt
Pande had managed to fix ropes, but due to heavy snow fall, the rope
had got completely lost, they had to fix them again.
In the meantime, to divert the attention of the Pakistanis, Indian
troops had been firing at the Post.

Q: Tell us about your operation, it was the third attempt?

BS: A total of 62 people participated in the final operation. Two
officers, 3 JCO and 57 jawans were selected. The operation was
conducted in three phases on June 23, June 25 and June 26, 1987.
A first platoon was sent on 23rd but unfortunately they had to come
back. Two soldiers were killed.
The second platoon with 10 jawans made an attempt on June 25. At
that time due to some communication gap with us, the mission had to
be aborted.
The next day, on 26th, I got the green light to go ahead.

Q: Tell us now about your assault? Could the Pakistani Commandos
see you?

BS: Though it was day time, because of the heavy snowing we could
not say if it was day or night.
The Pakistanis must have been knowing that something was going on
because our troops were firing at them from the base camp (to divert
their attention).
When we reached the top, there was a single bunker. We had been
trained for such a fight. I threw a grenade inside and closed the door.
At the end, a total of six Pakistanis were killed. We brought back their
bodies which were later handed over to the Pakistanis authorities
during a flag meeting in Kargil.
Some must have escaped towards the Pakistani side, perhaps over the
cliff. I think that I have bayoneted three or four persons, I don’t
remember now.

A: Were you cold or tired?

BS: In these conditions, when you face death, you do not feel cold,
you don’t feel fear. You don’t think that you are going to die.
I must tell you, a strange thing happened one day before the assault. I
was feeling depressed when I heard the voice of Guru Gobind Singh
who said: “I was only testing you”. My depression disappeared. It is
the first (and last) time that I had such an experience.

Q: When silence fell back on the Post, what happened?

BS: All the officers started congratulate me through wireless: “You
have done very well, Bana, congratulations”.

Q: Three months later there was a major Pakistani attack on the
Bilafond; they had apparently been very upset to lose the Jinnah Post.
Did you participate in the defense of Bilafond?

BS: Yes, it was in September. I did not participate because I was not
posted in this area. But about 1000 Pakistani men must have died.
General Musharraf was then the Brigade Commander [of the Special
Security Group]. He had himself planned the operation.

Q: Do you receive threats from the Pakistani side.

BS: Sometimes I have received, but I have two PSOs protecting me.

Q: But you are stronger than your own PSOs.

BS: Yes, in any case I am not worried about my life (laughing)

Q: I understand that you had a good offer from the Punjab
Government?

BS: The Punjab Government has a deep respect for the Indian Army.
They have offered me Rs 25 lakhs, a monthly allowance of Rs 15,000
and a 25 acre plot if I accept to move to Punjab. But I refused.

Q: Why?

BS: Because I consider myself a State subject of Jammu and Kashmir.
My own State gives me Rs 160/month only as an allowance for having
won the Param Vir Chakra, the highest bravery award. It is the way we
are treated in Jammu and Kashmir.
 

Tamil

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Salute the Brave Soldiers of India in S&G Area:Laie_60A::Laie_22::Laie_79::d_good_luck::india:
 

Ray

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But theh MMS after the Havana Meet of the NAM wanted to donate Siachen to Pakistan!
 

WaleedGilani

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The Siachen Glacier is a mighty river of ice that brings forth many descriptions. Some authors characterize this place as the 'roof the world', and yet others call it the 'third pole'. Both descriptions are quite apt, the glacier is at least 15,000 feet above sea level, and peaks lining the glacier rise comfortably to over 23,000 feet. Biting winds routinely sweep through the region. Temperatures here frequently drop to –40°C. The glacier highlights nature's dual personality - majestic beauty and sheer brutality. This region is home to some of the least explored parts of the Himalayan mountain range. Most people would be hard put to explain a mountaineer's desire to venture into this frigid and unforgiving land, so it is perhaps even more difficult to explain why a battle rages there.

For the past 19 years, the Indian Army has been engaged in a frigid battle to protect the region from Pakistan's territorial aggression and keep it free of interference. The Indian Army's presence on the Siachen is frequently viewed from under the rubric of national security, all manner of explanations are extended and all sorts of significance are attached to this task. Although experts have written several books on the topic of the Siachen Glacier conflict, reading them is difficult even for the most seasoned observers. The result is a vague public understanding of the issues underlying the Siachen Glacier conflict. The Bharat Rakshak Forum offered a unique opportunity to discuss the issue of 'Manning the Siachen Glacier' on a recent thread. Several forum members weighed in with their views on the topic. With great enthusiasm, the utility and futility of the Siachen Glacier conflict were hotly debated. The result was a thread regarded by several forum members as one of the best discussions on the BR Forum[1].

In this article, we will try to sketch out the salient features of that discussion. Every attempt is made to source a view to a particular participant in the discussion. We have taken the liberty of assuming that the members are who they claim to be and no effort is being made to ascertain their true profession and/or identity. We have attempted to minimize redundancy by posting select views. Readers can get in touch with the members by contacting them on the forum. However, we cannot guarantee a response. We dedicate this article to those brave men and women of the Indian Army who have scaled the 'roof of the world' to guard India's soaring borders.

Quartered in snow,

Silent to remain,

When the bugle calls,

They shall rise and march again.[2]

A brief history of the conflict

Pavan Nair initiated his discussion with the comment that:

"Gen Hoon then commanding 15 Corps says in his book published in 2000 that Khardung La and Leh would have been threatened had we not done so (i.e. taken the glacier). Gen Chibber-the then Army Commander says that Pakistan would have occupied Saltoro (a ridge west of the glacier) in the summer of '84 - for which we now know they had the plans."

The forum member Bishwa clarified that the Indian Army's move into the region was not without provocation,

"India did not initially occupy the ridgeline. It dropped troops on the 2 passes initially to block entry to the glacier from POK side which was legitimate. It tried to send troops to a third – Gyong La- by foot but failed. The race to move up vertically on the ridgelines started when the PA was not able to dislodge the Indian Army and tried to jockey for position IMHO. They lost out is their problem."

Citing excerpts from books by Gen. Chibber of the Indian Army and Gen. Jahan Dad Khan of the Pakistan Army, Bishwa categorically dismissed any suggestion that the Indian troops had illegally occupied the area.

"1. The first party to occupy Bilafond La (pass) with military force was Pakistan in 1983: This is from the book by Gen Jahan Dad Khan then commander 10 Corps - "Pakistan Leadership Challenges"

When the SSG company got across Bilafond Pass (in 1983), the helicopter pilot reported an Indian location one thousand yards ahead in the Siachen Area. After seeing our helicopter, the Indian troops, comprising Ladakh Scouts, left their location in a great hurry abandoning all their rations and tentage. The SSG Company stayed in this area for ten days but was ordered to withdraw in the first week of September 1983 as it had started snowing and the company did not have equipment for survival in the winter season under thirty to forty feet of snow, which is the normal snow range. I believe the scout who warned the Indian location of the approaching SSGs was awarded an Ashok Chakra.

2. From The Indian point of view this triggered action: This is what Lt. Gen M.L. Chibber who was Army Commander North has to say on this incident,

The problem precipitated on 21st August 1983 when a protest note from Northern Sector Commander of Pakistan was handed over to his counterpart in Kargil stating that Line of Control joins with the Karakoram Pass, also that all the area West of this extended line belongs to Pakistan. When Army Headquarters saw this and also got information that Pakistan troops had occupied Bilafond Pass, they ordered Northern Command to prevent the occupation of the Glacier area by Pakistan during the mountaineering season in 1984.

3. The fact of the matter is in 1984 the Pakistanis lost out due to poor intelligence: This is what Lt. Gen Jahan Dad Khan, Corp Commander 10th Corps, has to say on the matter

The withdrawal of the SSG company was followed by many meetings in the GHQ to decide our plan of action for the summer of 1984 when the Indians were bound to come in greater numbers. Also taken into consideration was the fact that whoever succeeded in occupying the passes first would be able to hold them, as it was impossible to dislodge them from these positions due to the terrain and the conditions. As Corps Commander, I gave the following assessment to the GHQ:

Next year (1984), India is most likely to pre-empt the occupation of the main passes of Baltoro Ridge with two-battalion strength for occupation and a third battalion as reserve. It would need another brigade to provide them with logistic support. Maximum helicopter force will have to be utilized for logistic support. Their air force will be available for air cover and airdrop of supplies/equipment. We will need a brigade group with a battalion plus to occupy these passes and the rest of the force to provide relief and logistic support. We would also need maximum porter force to carry supplies and ammunition from Goma to the glacier position. All our helicopters force, both Alouette and Puma, will have to be mobilized for recce and logistic cover. The PAF has to stand-by to provide air cover. I had also cautioned GHQ that this operation will be very costly in logistic support. Our Military Intelligence must be alerted to keep us informed of all enemy movements beyond Leh to forestall their occupation of the glacier area.

A meeting was held in December 1983, in the GHQ Operation Room under the chairmanship of President General Zia ul Haq. After listening to the 10 Corps Plan, the COAS thought that the operation on both sides would be on a limited scale, involving not more than a brigade on the Indian side and a battalion on Pakistan's side. The COAS had obviously underestimated the quantum of force required by both sides. He had also under-estimated the logistic problem of this operation as presented to him by the logistic staff of the GHQ. In this meeting, it was decided to incorporate the PAF in this operation and Ma. Gen. Pir Dad Khan (Commander of the Northern Areas) was given the task of pre-empting occupation of the passes, reaching there not before May 1984, as weather conditions before that period would not allow the use of helicopters and the PAF. This decision was to be approved by Defence Coordination Committee (DCC) attended by Chairman Joint Staffs Committee and all service chiefs. So preparatory work was started on the procurement of high altitude equipment and clothing, improvement of roads and tracks, recruitment of porters etc. All these preparations were to be completed by April 1984.

I handed over command of the 10 Corps to Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar Khan on 31st March 1984 after completing my tenure of four years. I gave him a detailed briefing about this operational plan and particularly stressed the importance of Intelligence keeping a watch on Indian moves beyond Leh. However, I learned later that when our troops approached the Baltoro Ridge passes during the third week of May 1984, the Indians were already in occupation of Gyong Pass in the south, strategically important because it could interfere with the enemy's line of logistic support. As it was impossible to dislodge the Indians, we had no option but to occupy the next highest feature opposite them. This was a great setback for Pakistan, although all plans, including the timing of troop movement, had been laid down at the highest level. We had obviously failed to appreciate the timing of the Indian move and our intelligence agencies had failed to detect the movement of a brigade-size force in this area. It was learnt that the Indians had moved up their troops from Leh in the second half of April 1984.

After the occupation of these positions by both sides, opposite each other, the border became active. Both sides started inducting heavy weapons, including artillery guns, rocket launchers, and anti-aircraft missiles. Fire duels, patrol clashes, and engagement of helicopters through anti-aircraft guns became a daily affair. Both sides also brought up more troops to counter each other. Since then, there has been no substantial change in the relative position of both sides. It was in the winter of 1984 that the Pakistani troops first experienced operating at that altitude. But the troops were provided high altitude equipment and there was no abnormal loss of life due to weather conditions. Pakistan was also able to induce French Lama Helicopters to make up for our disadvantage vis-à-vis the Indians.

4. Now what were the Ladakh Scouts doing there? Well, this is what Lt Gen ML Chibber has to say,

In 1978, when I was DMO we got information about a foreign expedition from the Pakistan side visiting the Siachen Glacier. The Line of Control terminates at NJ 9842. The Glaciers are not demarcated. We sent a patrol next year and it was confirmed that Japanese expeditions had visited the Siachen Glacier. So routine patrolling started."

This should give the readers a real background of what happened in 1983-1984. It will show that India did not act unilaterally."

This closed the discussion on the matter of 'who started this war' on the Siachen Glacier. After this, the discussion focused on other aspects of Pavan Nair's first post.

Image 1: Map of the Siachen Glacier Conflict Zone
 

WaleedGilani

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Pavan Nair had asserted that the Pakistani threat might have been misread; he posed the following questions,

"The issue is that was there ever a real threat to Leh or Khardung La? Could this threat have been avoided by keeping a strong reserve in the Nubra Valley rather than occupying punishing heights (of the Saltoro Range)? Have we not made our point that the line runs along Saltoro and not to Karakoram Pass from NJ9842? Should not the military take up this issue with the political leadership and arrange a honourable pull out from Saltoro?"

Here Pavan Nair highlighted a common motif presented in discussions on the Siachen Glacier conflict; i.e. what is the exact strategic significance of the glacier? Moreover, could it be handled differently?

In a reply to this, participants Praneet N, Y I Patel, and Ray responded with the following points;

1) Keeping the Pakistanis off Siachen is critical to maintaining the security of the Nubra Valley. If the Pakistanis were to somehow secure the village of Dzingrulma at the snout of the glacier, they would be able to put the entire Nubra Valley within artillery range.

2) Holding the Saltoro Ridge on the west of the Siachen Glacier opens up the possibility of interdicting any Pakistani moves towards the Indian town of Chalunkha. The town of Chalunkha has very little depth due to its geography on the Indian side; the loss of Chalunkha would impose immense costs on the main lines of communication in the region.

3) By deflecting the threat to Chalunkha and Dzingrulma, we protect key passes (the Khardung Pass and the Saser Pass) in the region and close the gap that existed between the Shyok and Nubra rivers. This is essential to preserving the security of Leh and other key military positions along the Northern end of the Line of Actual Control with China.

In another post, Y I Patel added another aspect to the strategic significance of Siachen:

"The Saltoro Ridge, simply put, acts as the wedge that keeps India's door to Central Asia open. It may be pertinent to note here that during Mughal times Surat and Bharuch were among India's richest cities, thanks to the trade between India and Arabia. The prosperity was further boosted by commerce resulting from the Silk Route paths that passed over the Himalayas and connected China and Central Asia to the Middle East via India. The glory of Bharuch port is but a memory, but geographical verities remain constant with time. It is still shorter, for example, to get to Urmuqi (the capital of Chinese Xinjiang province) from Kandla rather than Hong Kong."

"There are Buddha statues in Mongolia, even in Siberia. They bear witness to the Indian cultural values that were transmitted to the remote reaches of Central Asia by Indian traders and monks. The geography remains the same, and those ancient routes can now be transformed to interstate highways and broad gauge railways."

"It is in my appreciation of the importance of Saser and Karakoram passes. I do not see them as letting China in; I see them as letting India out to China and through it to the other countries of Central Asia. That thought may have been too "visionary" just a few months ago, but if Nathu La will see traders plying their wares to Tibet again, can Karakoram La be far behind? This, ultimately, is what India's young sons are shedding blood in Siachen for. ....But portraying the Battle for Karakoram as a senseless or petty struggle does grave injustice to the brave young Indians who have paid in their blood to keep this door open."

The poster Ray appreciated the originality of Y I Patel's thesis, and its relevance:

"Pakistan could link up POK to China - that was their original intention. That is why they extended the line from NJ9842.

While I (Ray) was inward looking, he (Y I Patel) is outward looking and aggressively fresh. I looked at Karakorum as China connecting to it. Y I Patel looked at it better – (as) our gateway into China!"

However, Pavan Nair was not convinced by these arguments; in a short note, he subsequently opined that:

"The very basis of the operation was flawed in a strategic as well as a legal sense. Whatever threat to national security was perceived-rightly or wrongly- could have been countered by means other than the physical occupation of ground."

He continued, saying:

"The Eastern most stretch of the border was not demarcated after the Karachi Agreement of 1949 after a point called NJ9842 since it was inhospitable and uninhabited. The language used and now famous is that from NJ9842- the line would run 'thence North to the glaciers'. The Glaciers in question are the Siachen which feeds the Nubra River, the Rimo which feeds the Shyok River and the Baltoro which lies further to the North of Siachen."

"The Pakistani stand since the 1962 Chinese aggression was that the line extended North East from NJ9842 to the Karokorum Pass. They produced maps to prove it and encouraged mountaineering expeditions in the area, which prompted us to do the same-a perfectly correct reaction. It was a case of cartographic aggression and should have been dealt with as such. The approaches to Khardungla and Leh via the Nubra and Shyok Valleys were held by India as was the approach to the Karakoram Pass. Even if Pakistan had occupied Saltoro-there would have been no tactical or strategic advantage and they would have literally been left high and dry."

In this way, Pavan Nair lays out the basic geography of the Siachen region. He points out the most important part of the Siachen Glacier conflict that escapes many who write about it i.e. the physical battleground is not the glacier itself, but a high ridgeline that dominates the western approaches to the glacier, the Saltoro Ridge. These approaches lie through four passes, the Sia La, the Bilafond La, the Gyong La, and the Chulung La (see map). Control of the towering peaks of the Saltoro Ridge is vital to preserving control over the Siachen Glacier, and as always holding this high ground proves enormously costly. Pavan Nair's basic point appeared to be that a Pakistani military campaign through the Shyok – Nubra gap would have to entail crossing this very adverse terrain. This negates the possibility of an incursion.

Y I Patel did not agree with Pavan Nair's comments, suggesting:

"Technology never remains static, and Gen Bhagat (who was responsible for delineating the LoC in 1948-49) erred primarily in assuming that since the glaciers were humanly uninhabitable, they would pose a similar obstacle to military occupation. He would not have dreamt that a handicapped person would attempt to climb Everest either, but an attempt was made this year, and technology may yet permit such a person to conquer Everest! By leaving the glaciers un-demarcated, Gen Bhagat's team not only failed to foresee the impact of modern medical research and mountaineering equipment on high altitude warfare, he also grossly disregarded the possibilities of plainly foreseeable advances in weaponry such as induction of artillery guns with extended ranges and with greater traverse capabilities!"

Ray, also rebutted Pavan Nair with an example from the Kargil War of 1999,

"The area Pt. 5299 to Bhimbat LC as also the Mashkoh area was supposed to be 'glaciated' and none could traverse the same and hence (it was left) unoccupied (by the Indian Army). The Pakistanis 'did a Kargil' and now it is choc-a-bloc full of troops!"

Other participants also offered similar views and highlighted the general lack of trust in Pakistan. Surya eloquently stated these as follows:

"I simply do not trust Musharraf. An Indian Special Forces officer once said to me – If you want to find out how Musharraf thinks, ask us. He will do anything to gain the advantage."

For his part, Pavan Nair was not deterred by the lukewarm reception of his premise. He acknowledged the objections of the other participants, but insisted that cost of India staying up on the Saltoro Ridge was unacceptable,

"Members should think of the thousands who have been wounded and have been 'boarded out' from the army with a measly disability pension. No sir! It is not worth holding an inch or even thousands of square kilometers of strategically useless terrain when the purpose can be served by moving into a position of strength below."

To bring down the cost, he offered a de-escalation proposal.

The Proposal

Pavan Nair proposed that India engage in what he termed, a 'Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal'. He suggested that a token force be maintained as observers on the glacier itself and that the de-inducted force be converted into a reactive reserve to be located in the Shyok and Nubra Valleys. This proposal set the stage for the real debate. On its face, the withdrawal was highlighted as a sign of defeat; however, Pavan Nair argued that this unconventional thinking could work to India's advantage.
 

WaleedGilani

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The Counter-Punch

Having examined the pros and cons of Indian unilateral withdrawal, Rudra Singha, asserted that:

"Perhaps a mutual pullout can be organized when Kashmir peace moves fructify",

Though the idea to link Siachen with a resolution of conflict imposed by Pakistan in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was never fully accepted or debated, the idea of a mutual pullout as opposed to an Indian unilateral pullout found much support. Almost uniformly, participants felt that a 'Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal' will be interpreted in Pakistan, as an 'Indian Defeat' and that would surely bring adverse consequences for India.

Forum member Shiv was somewhat more open to the idea but with caveats:

"Knowing Pakistan I am sure that there will be two definite responses to a unilateral strategic withdrawal from Siachen.

1) Militarily I guess that Pakistan will do what t can and occupy some areas at least in a token fashion to show victory and progress in their war against the infidels.

2) Politically - the leader of Pakistan if we do a withdrawal - whether it is Musharraf, or Gen. Aziz or anyone will automatically claim that the "Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal" is a lame excuse and that Pakistan's policies are paying off, and that India is getting "tired" and that a few more years of jihad will get them Kashmir. This is the premise on which the military in Pakistan keeps links with Islamists and keeps a grip on Pakistan.

So my opinion of a unilateral withdrawal by India is that the idea is good if it is backed by a "big danda" (an element of coercion aimed at the Pakistanis)"

The sub-issues of the 'mutual pullout' were;

· Whether a mutual pullout is indeed feasible, and if so, what shape is it likely to take?

· Whether the pullout is sustainable – can a few limited posts on the glacier actually defend it?

· What are the costs and benefits of not being physically present on the Saltoro Ridge?

Is a Mutual Pullout Possible?

On the issue of the feasibility of a mutual pullout, most participants expressed cautious enthusiasm keeping in mind treacherous Pakistani intentions. Pavan Nair himself felt it would very easy to do this.

Sunil S opined that irrespective of whether it is a unilateral or a mutual withdrawal, there were inherent risks in the proposal:

"Should Pakistan move onto a peak after an India has withdrawn from there, they could subsequently claim that they had "conquered the Siachen Glacier". The Indian army would then incur high costs in bringing them down. Given that the Pakistani Army is desperately looking for a victory against India to bolster its image back home, it will be tempting for them to pursue this path."

Other participants (Jagan and Bishwa) pointed out that in technical discussions between the Indian and Pakistani Government, a possible withdrawal zone was discussed. This zone would put all Indian forces back to Dzingrulma and all Pakistani forces to Goma (See map). Most participants concluded, after looking at the map, that such a proposal was (prima facie) acceptable.

The forum member Bishwa pulled out paragraphs from Gen. M. L. Chibber's book that highlights that the positions held in the Saltoro Ridge by Indian Army were acquired sequentially, and in a manner that provided maximum overlapping coverage to each other. Undoing such a defensive line appeared to be a formidable proposition. In the later part of the thread much discussion centered on the positions of some of the posts on the Indian and Pakistani sides. Given that Indian and Pakistani armies refer to each other's posts on the ridge by different names, correlating the posts with names proved quite challenging.

Several participants such as Ashutosh, Bishwa, and Jagan spent a lot of time seeking out maps of the region. A very impressive write up of a journey to the Siachen Glacier was found in an account of the ROSE expedition of the Indian Mountaineering Federation [3]. The veteran Indian mountaineer Harish Kapadia led this expedition. Another account of a journey to the Saltoro Ridge was found in the Outside Magazine [4]. These maps and accounts helped increase the general understanding of the difficult topography of the region.

Is the Pullout Sustainable?

Pavan Nair opined that holding the glacier after withdrawing from the Saltoro Ridge could be feasible in the days of modern technology.

"The Glacier should continue to be occupied by us by keeping a few observation posts and blocking positions. We have an existing infrastructure and can block the approaches using surveillance devices. In fact, we may also continue to occupy the Southern part of the ridgeline where a road is now under construction-if so required. This would entail a much smaller force at considerably lower expense in terms of casualties and cost."

Pavan Nair also discussed the possibility of using close air support and satellite based surveillance to minimize the need for human presence on the Saltoro Ridge. Among the others, however, there were equally grave doubts about the ability to hold the glacier once the posts on the Saltoro Ridge had been vacated.

Ray noted that:

"If we moved into to block the Pakistanis at the Snout [flat and wide] as suggested, without heights, to my mind, the hasty defenses that would have to be taken would not have the defensive potential desired. Also reacting in the High Altitude Area [to take up defenses at the Snout] has attendant problems like acclimatization etc and it cannot be perceived to be in the same light as in lower hills and plains. Likewise, without road communications, it would be slow…. in fact, very slow since helicopters or even aircraft carry very low payloads [if operating from High Altitude air bases]. Moving in artillery too, which is essential, would be immense problem."

Ray countered that the idea of reactive force was ineffective;

"In the High Altitude, there is no question of 'rushing in' troops to stop any enemy. .... It is worse in the Siachen since apart from the rarefied atmosphere, the terrain obtained in the Siachen [moraine, ice walls, crevices etc] negates any movement. As far as 'Blocking Positions' go, there is no such thing for the Infantry. It is in armor warfare… Similarly the atmosphere played a significant role in making the PGMs (laser guided bombs) ineffective during the Kargil war."

Y I Patel also added;

"Our current deployment is really no different – a few observation posts to keep an eye on Pakistani movements. In fact, our posts on the heights of Bilafond La and northwards do nothing more than that. The real fighting is done by their calling on arty to prevent any Pakistan movements up the slope. Please let us not judge the current fighting by the accounts of Subedar Bana Singh's exploits (refer Operation Meghdoot). Thanks to men like him, we are now in a position to maintain a minimal presence in actual "posts" Indirect records such as Republic day award lists point out that the overwhelming majority of units deployed to Siachen are logistics and engineering units."

Sunil S further elaborated on the constraints of using technology by stating;

"The performance of PGMs in Kargil was patchy. It is difficult to use PGMs in mountains, and accuracy matters a lot. Even if we use a PGM I see little chance of doing away with a ground based spotter team to illuminate the target. You have to have feet on the ground."

"Satellite surveillance is in its infancy in our part of the world, it is notoriously inaccurate in mountain terrain. Given that even an average mountain can have inclines at 80 degrees, the 1-meter resolution actually compresses feature about 4-5 times the size. This renders the image useless. A polar orbit satellite can be over a location for a very short period, it is possible to predict the period that the satellite will be over the spot and to cover movement in that region over that period. I remain skeptical if even the most advanced western satellite technology can really maintain round-the-clock surveillance on the region."

"As far as ground based sensors go, the complexity of the task of putting up surveillance equipment on the Saltoro Ridge (~ 22000 feet) will be comparable to that task under taken by M.S Kohli's team when placing SNAP-19C powered sensors on Nandakot and Nandadevi in 1962."

Y I Patel felt that;

"If the authors (of an article linked by Pavan Nair) could spot the glaciers from the Nubra valley, then someone sitting on the glaciers could, in turn, spot anyone coming up Nubra valley. By occupying the snout of the glacier, Pakistanis can interdict the lines of communication (LC) running up Nubra Valley. Without the logistics, the posts on either side of the Nubra Valley would become unsustainable. Likewise, Saser La would suffer the fate of Dras, with Pakistanis occupying commanding positions and indulging in turkey shoots."

Sunil S also discussed the paradox at hand and the difficulties it imposed;

"'Good tactics' says "higher is better" - 'good logistics' says "higher is harder to re-supply" thus the only way to beat this paradox is to use the higher altitude and suppress the enemies supply routes asymmetrically (otherwise the enemy will return the favor). If you look at the battlefield, you will notice that our supply lines have to go across the vast expanse of the Siachen Glacier, by comparison the Pakistanis have roads all the way up to the mouth of the much smaller Bilafond, Kondus, and Gyong glaciers. (The lack of) Depth appears to be a serious issue (on the Indian side)."

What are the costs and benefits of not being physically present on the Saltoro Ridge?

Pavan Nair suggested that there would be many positive effects of not occupying the Saltoro Ridge. By minimizing its posture on the Saltoro Ridge, India would reduce its expenditure in men and materiel and Pakistan would have to follow the suit. This move of statesmanship would gain India much goodwill in the international arena, and thus put pressure on Pakistan to behave. This would lead to winding down of the crisis and effectively the threat posed from that region (if it ever existed) would subside.

Y I Patel disagreed with that notion;

"There is no reasonable basis to believe that abandoning Siachen on moral grounds will engender a whit of international goodwill; as far as Pakistan goes, it will only be seen as an act of weakness that should be exploited by raising rather than lowering the ante on other issues."

"Remember, even in 1999, Chalunka and other vital Indian positions were shelled because of Pakistani infiltrators observing and directing arty fire. By handing them Saltoro heights on a platter, we invite much worse treatment. We will not be saving any lives, sir. We will be losing them by the hundreds."

Sunil S and Bishwa pointed out that the infrastructure on the ridge has been painstakingly built up. Currently the Indian army has the ability to support upwards of a brigade on the ridge at about a hundred or so posts. Inclement weather ensures that these posts have to be occupied if they are to remain viable. Abandoning them would necessitate a higher cost and time to rebuild in response to a Pakistani aggression. This had pretty much rounded out the discussion. There were a number of important detours, including a discussion of the living conditions of the soldiers on the Saltoro Ridge. The participants also discussed several big name operations that took place on the glacier.

Quite a few notes were exchanged on mountaineering and altitude sickness and the effects of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, and High Altitude Cerebral Edema. Participants Shiv, Ehsmang, Daulat, and many others contributed volumes to these discussions. It was at this point in the thread that forum member Daulat put forth a very interesting question. Daulat noted that given that the Indian Army was holding the heights, things were exceedingly nasty for the Pakistani Army soldiers manning posts under the Indian Army's positions. So, by an extension of Pavan Nair's logic, would the Pakistani Army withdraw from the ridge? Our next section discusses this aspect of the debate.

What are the consequences of a Pakistani withdrawal from their positions on the Saltoro Ridge?

In response to Daulat's query, Sunil S wrote the following:

"The unilateral Pakistani withdrawal from the Saltoro Ridge will be seen as yet another glorious failure of the army of Pakistan...It is possible that factions within the Pakistani army will attempt to dump blame on each other through a public washing of some serious dirty linen. This will erode the standing of the Pakistan Army (PA) in society.

Since the PA bills itself as the sole agency of governance in Pakistan, all the public angst about its style of governance will find an easy route for _expression in the protests over the withdrawal. All the negativism about Pakistani administrative affairs will find a neat little focal point. Therefore, an atmosphere of systematic confrontation between the army and the people (similar to the one that emerged after the defeat of 1971) will build up.

The result of such a confrontation is unpredictable. The Musharraf government is already quite weak, and its grip on power will weaken, as every political faction will vie for public attention to replace Gen. Musharraf. There will most likely be a revolt of some kind within the Pakistan Army, and trouble of the kind that Liaquat Ali Khan faced is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. The Islamists will make a major bid for power, but as with every other time, the US will subvert the process and place its own proxy in power. General Musharraf will be replaced by "General Whatzizname… you know... the one who wants to bring democracy to Pakistan."[5]

In terms of international stature, given the current mess that Pakistan is in, the 'unilateral strategic withdrawal' will create enormous amounts of diplomatic and political room for Pakistan to maneuver in. Pakistan's allies in the American media will conflate the Pakistani withdrawal from the region with a material reduction in the tensions along the LoC (which it has nothing to do it).

Islamists and other more conservative elements of Pakistani society will attribute this failure to American pressure. As a result, there are likely to be repercussions on US interests in the region. The Islamists will also conflate the Saltoro issue with the Kashmir issue and insist that Musharraf has betrayed a 'Cause of Islam'. The Islamists will find concordant views among several elements of the Pakistan Army.

There will actually be a major improvement in military spending as far as the Pakistan Army goes. The money freed up from the Saltoro venture will end up being spent on improving the conventional posture elsewhere along the border. It is possible that some of the money saved from the Saltoro conflict will go into the pockets of the Pakistani people, but most of it will go into a process of conventional armament. Quite possibly towards the purchase of more advanced weapons from the US or France or UK - lollipops for "good behaviour".

Conclusion

In this thread on BR, we were able to revisit held notions about the Siachen Glacier. In the case of most participants, their views on Siachen were considerably expanded by Pavan Nair's bold initiative to propose and defend the idea of an Indian unilateral withdrawal. Because of this discussion, we are now able to clearly see the main strategic motivations for the Siachen Glacier conflict. We are also better placed to understand the human cost of this war. A lot of knowledge was also gleaned by a careful examination of maps found on the Internet. This has improved the quality of understanding of the terrain in the region.

Ultimately, the consensus was that Siachen continued to represent significant strategic value to India, and that withdrawal from Saltoro Ridge runs the risk of undoing years of labor, with no confidence that the move would result in a lasting peace. The notion of a unilateral withdrawal was shown to be deleterious to Indian security in their implications. The costs of a presence on the Ridge were shown to be greatly out weighed by the strategic value of denial, and the costs imposed on the enemy. The authors would like to take this opportunity to thank all the participants of the thread for contributing to the discussion. For us, the thread was a treasure trove of information and views about the conflict, and we hope other readers feel similarly.
 

IBRIS

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Could u post some links with those articles. thanks
 

Ray

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Notwithstanding what others and I may have commented on the BR, this is article by Brig Subash Kapila, who was my instructor at Staff College, will assist all to understand the issues.

INDIA : GOVERNMENT SET TO REPEAT STRATEGIC BLUNDER OF AKSAI CHIN IN SIACHEN?

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Background

In this authors book India s Defence Policies and Strategic Thought. A Comparative Analysis. .former President Nixon of the United States was quoted to highlight how India had in its policies been indifferent to adhering to the balance of power concept and how India was inclined to marginalize its far flung peripheries.

The pages of history are littered with the ruins of countries that were indifferent to erosion of the balance of power. Losses on the periphery where a countrys interests appear marginal, never seem to merit a response or warrant a confrontation with the enemy. But small losses add up. Expansionist powers thrive on picking up loose geopolitical change. When it comes, it usually takes place under the worst possible circumstances for those on the defensive.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, oblivious to the crucial strategic significance of Aksai Chin (North Ladakh) gifted it away to China. India rues till today this Himalayan blunder in strategic terms. Nehru hid the fact of the Chinese annexation of Indian territory for nearly eight years. He later justified the loss by terming Aksai Chin as a desolate area where not a blade of grass grew.

Half a century later, not learning from the Aksai Chin strategic blunder, the present government seems set to repeat history. Going by the utterances of his National Security Adviser, India seems set to gift away Siachen to Pakistan on the plea that the Prime Minister (MMS) wants to make the area as mountains of peace.

Today, Siachen too is being strategically marginalized and compromised again for political reasons. At issue is whether Indian Prime Minister can marginalize strategic peripheries for political gains or mileage?

Siachen, like Aksai-chin is not Indian loose geo-strategic change which any Indian Prime Minister can put in a political juke-box.

The strange thing about the Siachen debate, currently underway, is that the Indian Army has not requested or advised that it cannot continue with the commitments of Siachen Sector defence. The debate emerged in the media, it seems with inspired inputs from the establishment, that the defence of Siachen is a costly affair and hence needs demilitarization. That this inspired reporting has linkages with the Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan cannot be denied; the strategic costs are immaterial.

The subject has a long history and debate between India and Pakistan , and it would take a whole book to do justice. However for the benefit of the readers of this website, the issue is being addressed by throwing light on some salient factors as under:

* Strategic Significance of Siachen Sector
* India s Sell-out to Pakistan on Siachen.
* Can Pakistan be Trusted on De-militarisation of Siachen?
* India s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry Strangely Silent on Siachen Issue..
* Indian Army Has Serious Objections to Political Compromise on Siachen.
* Pakistan s Questionable Position or Not Formally Authenticating AGPL on Maps.
* India Has No Strategic Compulsions to Justify a Climb-down on Siachen.
* United States Pressure on India to Climb-down in Favour of Pakistan .

Strategic Significance of Siachen Sector

In civilian minds, the common misperception is that Siachen Sector, only comprises of Siachen Glacier and that de-militarisation of the Siachen Glacior should be no big deal. It is not so.

What is at stake in the de-militarisation of the Siachen Sector is that Pakistan wants India to give up the entire Saltoro Ridge, a long ridge extending nearly 120 KM (on which runs the AGPL) from the border of India with Pak ceded Chinese territory in the North to Indias Kargil Sector (East)

The strategic significance of Saltoro Ridge and the Siachen Glacier can be said to be as under for India :

* India has strategic and terrain domination over Pakistan s so-called Northern Areas (J & K territory merged into Pakistan ) and Pakistan-ceded Kashmir territory to China .
* Blocks routes of ingress to the vital Ladakh Sector.
* It provides a strategic wedge to prevent further Pakistan-China geographical link-up
* Acts as a strategic pressure point against Pakistan s military adventurism against the Kargil Sector.
* Indira-Col the Northern most part of Siachen directly overlooks Chinese occupation that was illegally ceded by Pakistan to China. Having a foot on the ground here is the only way for India to legitimately and effectively dispute Chinese illegal presence here. (Input received from a reader as feedback on this paper.)

With such strategic significance, any statement de-emphasising Siachens strategic significance is both puerile and sterile.

If Siachens strategic significance is being de-emphasised on grounds of financial costs, logistic challenges or hazards to life and limb, then why not de-emphasise equally difficult regions on India s other frontiers?

India s borders define its nation hood and its sovereignty. Their defence and integrity cannot become debates on a cost-benefit ratio. Further, the costs of re-deployment and de-militarisation would outweigh the costs of maintaining present positions as all the defensive and logistic infrastructure in-situ will have to be destroyed. on pull back of troops.

India s Sell-Out to Pakistan on Siachen :

Going by media reports and statements of the National Security Advisor. Mr. M.K Narayanan, India is virtually on a sellout to Pakistan on Siachen.

India right from the First Round of Siachen Talks has maintained that no Indian re-deployment of troops in Siachen or the de-militarisation will take place, unless the following conditions are met:

* Pakistan agrees to de-lineate the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen Sector.
* The AGPL de-lineation would then be authenticated on maps, to be signed by senior military officers of India and Pakistan .
* AGPL authenticated maps to be then exchanged by both countries.
* Pakistan would cease cartographic aggression and project the AGPL in all its maps, like the LAC is done up to NJ-9842, i.e. AGPL becomes the extension of the LAC from NJ-9842, northwards , to the border with Pak-ceded Chinese territory.
* Thereafter, formation of ground rules for both sides for the area to be de-militarised..
* Then only as a last and final step, both sides will discuss redeployment and de-militarisation of this sector.

The above position has consistently been maintained by India . Pakistan in August 1989 (Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto talks) tried to give a spin that agreement for redeployment had been reached, in Islamabad . The next day, India s Foreign Ministry, through its spokesperson. Aftab Seth, categorically contradicted the Pakistan assertion.

India s former Foreign Secretary Late Shree J N Dixit (then Ambassador to Pakistan and lately India s National Security Advisor) had reflected on the above in his book on Pakistan . Anatomy of a Flawed Inheritance as follows as to why talks could not make progress.

The meeting between military commanders of India and Pakistan on the issue of Siachen took place as scheduled in August. While mechanical and operational aspects of the arrangements for mutual withdrawal or redeployment of troops were more or less finalized.

First, while agreeing that troops would be redeployed at mutually agreed points, they refused to confirm cartographically the points from which their troops would be withdrawn."

"Second, they said withdrawal would be subject to India generally agreeing that the line of control or notional line determining jurisdiction of each country, should be drawn tangentially north-eastwards to the Karakoram range, from the northernmost grid reference point clearly identified in the maps, NJ9842."

"The objective was clear. They (Pakistan) not only wanted India to vacate its strategically secure position on Siachen, making the area a no mans land but also wished to lay claim to several thousand square miles of Indian territory South and South-Westwards from Karakoram ranges to establish future legal claims on the area. One had come to an Impasse

Shockingly for the nation, and to its surprise, the Indian media carried reports attributable to the National Security Adviser (part of points) on Siachen as follows:

* Pakistan can now sign the Siachen Agreement without authenticating by the military commanders, the AGPL on maps.
* The AGPL positions would be attached as an Annexure to the agreement (presumably again without formal authentication)
* India is not laying down any conditions

The above seems to be the consequence of the secret parleys between the Indian National Security Advisor and Pakistan PM Shaukat Aziz in Dubai recently.

This strategic climb-down from India s well articulated and established position smacks of a possible sell-out It seems that the PMO has by passed or ignored the recommendations of India s other policy making organs of the Government.

Can Pakistan Be Trusted on De-militarisation of Siachen?

India must first come to a definitive conclusion that Pakistan can be trusted with the de-militarisation of Siachen. The very fact that Pakistan is unwilling to formally authenticate the AGPL in the proposed agreement, betrays Pakistan s intentions.

The Pakistan Army and its COAS, General Musharraf cannot and should not be trusted by the Indian political leadership. General Musharrafs credibility is plagued by his dismal record as follows:

* Masterminded the Kargil misadventure. Kargil Sectors major stretch had stood virtually demilitarized till 1999 when Pakistani troops occupied formidable heights in Indian territory to cut off Ladakh. Indian Army had to re-capture these heights at great cost and now held throughout the year. as the consequence.
* Repudiated the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Accord, the latters man thrust was on nuclear CBMs.
* Terrorism and proxy war against India continues unabated, despite his repeated assurances.

India s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry Strangely Silent on Siachen Issue:

This issue should have been the natural preserve of both these vital ministries. One cannot but help coming to the conclusion that they have been asked to keep clear of the subject and let the PMO handle.

Indian Army Has Serious Objections to Political Compromise on Siachen

If India is accepting Pakistan s conditions that it will not authenticate formally the AGPL in Siachen on maps to be attached to any agreement and if India accepts the Annexure bit, it is a sad day for the Indian Army.. The dominating heights on Saltoro Ridge was captured by the Indian Army at a great personal cost. A military pull-back from Saltoro Ridge on political grounds and the possible re-occupation by Pakistani forces of positions vacated by India, thereafter, would be the ultimate irony.

India , like in the past, would be repeating the mistake of selling away its military gains and victories at the negotiating table for dubious political gains from the military ruler of Pakistan , dubbed by the Washington Post as a liar.

The Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General J J Singh, within the constraints of being a serving soldier, could not have stated it better and firmly the Indian Armys strong feelings on the issue.

* We have conveyed our concerns and views to the Government and we expect the composite Dialogue between the two countries will take care of all these concerns
* The Government decision will be taken in consonance with the views put in place
* Troops withdrawal is a process when disengagement of the forces from the present position has to be undertaken and that will be followed by demilitarization. We will cross the bridge when we reach it

The Congress Government would be severely answerable to the Indian public, should it choose to ignore Indian Armys mature professional advice. It should learn from Indias military history post 1947, the lessons of ignoring sound professional military advice given to political leadership on crucial security issues..

The tribe of retired senior military officers enlisted by the establishment to advocate its project of de-militarisation of Siachen does not reflect sound military professional advice. They reflect the views of their patrons, both Indian and external.

Pakistans Questionable Position on Not Formally Authenticating AGPL on Maps

Nobody has questioned Pakistan s questionable position on not being ready to formally authenticate the AGPL on maps as part of an overall Siachen Agreement, in view of the past record of authenticating the following:

* Pakistan had formally authenticated the 1949 LOC Line
* Pakistan had formally authenticated the 1972 LAC

The reasons being advanced in the media are simplistic, in that Pakistan would not like to admit that its troops are withdrawing from Siachen when it has all along been projecting to its public that Siachen is with the Pakistan Army. It is public knowledge within Pakistan that their valiant Pakistan Army surrendered at Dacca (93,000 troops), lost territory in 1971 in J&K , leading to a new LAC and was evicted from Kargil in 1999. So that is not the argument.

In view of the above, some additional questions that arise are as follows:

* Siachen is very much part of the J & K issue. How or why Pakistan is willing to negotiate on Siachen, (even with an Annexure) separately when it not willing to accept the LOC as a border?
* Is there some Pakistan-China strategic angle refusing to acknowledge the AGPL by Pakistan ?
* Why is Pakistan willing to negotiate troops withdrawal in Siachen but not delineation of the AGPL like the LOC?
* Is this Pakistani reluctance got to do something with Pakistani merger of Northern Areas (Part of J & K State) with Pakistan ?

These questions need to be deliberated upon:

India Has No Strategic Compulsions to Justify a Climb-down on Siachen

Figuratively and literally, India today has no strategic compulsions to climb-down on Siachen, when it should be Pakistan that should be climbing down on the issue.

India s nuclear and conventional military predominance on the Indian sub-continent is well established. India has some internal security irritants but these can be sorted out without any re-deployment from India s borders. Pakistan s strategic and security situation is grave:

* Pakistan s Western frontiers are explosive
* Pakistan Army is over-stretched on the Western frontiers from Waziristan and Baluchistan facing a very serious armed conflict.
* Pakistan needs peaceful Eastern frontiers with India to enable diversion of Pak. Army to the Western Frontiers.
* Pakistan needs to withdraw troops from Siachen for their redeployment in Balochistan.

This was the opportune time for India to insist that for a Siachen Agreement, Pakistan would have to formally authenticate the AGPL in Siachen on maps to be signed by military commanders of both countries.

It is strange that the Prime Ministers strategic advisers cannot see the strategically opportune opening that is currently available to India vis-s-vis Pakistan and Siachen in particular.

Then why India s climb-down? Are there external pressure form the United States on India to accommodate Pakistan.?

United States Pressure on India to Climb-down in Favour of Pakistan

It is well known that United States has historically been inclined to pressurize India on Kashmir and Siachen, in Pakistan s favour.

What makes the Americans pressure on India on this count, more intense today can be attributed to the following reasons:

* USA badly needs General Musharrafs continuance as military ruler of Pakistan for its own strategic requirements.
* Pakistan is becoming restive under Musharrafs seven year misrule. The Pakistan Army too show signs of the same.
* For Musharraf to continue in power, he has to show the Pakistan Army and the masses, some visible successes or political victories over India .

The last mentioned is a critical American requirement and hence the United States pressure. Musharraf too is pressurising the United States that he cannot deliver results in capturing Osama Bin Laden until India is made to reduce military pressure on Pakistan's Eastern Frontiers

It is a different question as to why a strategically strong India , should succumb to US pressure.

Concluding Observations

India would be strategically ill-advised to repeat the Himalayan blunder of Aksai Chin in Siachen. There are no strategic imperatives that prompt or warrant a strategic climb-down by India .

Siachen Sector is a critically strategic area that borders what could virtually be called the tri-junction of Pakistan , China and India on the Northern borders. This arises from Pakistan s ceding of J & K state territory illegally to China .

Siachens strategic significance cannot be de-emphasised on a financial cost benefit ratio analysis. Nor is Siachen a geo-strategic loose change that can be given away as political alms under external pressure.

India s political leadership must recognize that in national security affairs, India has been ill-served historically by arm-chair strategists.

In matters of national security and strategic affairs India s political leadership would be well advised to listen, appreciate and respect the advice of its military professional leadership. Siachen is one of them.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email:[email protected])

Siachen
 

khatarnak

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few months ago, an article was published in a gujarati news paper in regards of siachin issue with heading - translated - a fight for a comb between two bald people. but it explains how important for us to rule siachin. in brief, it keeps the morale at its highest peak...
:dfi-1: :india:
 

ppgj

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Freeze It There
Siachen, irreversible line in the snow
V.R. Raghavan

www.outlookindia.com | Freeze It There

The military conflict over the Siachen glacier began 25 years ago, catapulting it to the world’s highest battle zone and demonstrating the limits to which human endurance and military ingenuity can be pushed. The strategic consequences of the conflict, like the slow but relentless movement of the glacier, have been irreversible.

But first, the origin of the dispute. Pakistan had linked with China not only with the road over the Khunjerab Pass but also with cartographic intrusion by unilaterally joining the lac (Line of Actual Control) in j&k with the Karakoram Pass on the India-China border. China was clearly complicit by insisting with India that the area was disputed. Pakistan had also commenced permitting foreign mountaineering expeditions into Siachen. This was confirmed by Indian military mountaineers sent to the area, leading to military teams going up the Saltoro mountain range to deny the passes for entry into Siachen. Pakistan initiated a major military venture to occupy these passes, and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wouldn’t countenance this. The Indian army pre-empted Pakistani plans by a daring operation, and the rest is history.

What started as a small-scale military action became a permanent military occupation, having lasting consequences on both countries. For one, the Indian occupation of Siachen was tantamount to another humiliation for the Pakistani military. Benazir Bhutto rubbed this in by her scathing criticism of Gen Zia-ul-Haq, which became a rallying point of her rise to power in Pakistan. The Pakistani military was forced in the many rounds of Siachen talks with India to insist on one point—seek an Indian withdrawal.

When that didn’t work, Pakistan started planning military moves to evict Indian forces. Its attempts were roundly defeated, and Bana Post and Sia La became permanent fixtures in our military folklore. It then planned the ambitious venture to cut the Srinagar-Leh road in the Kargil sector, a plan mooted by Gen Pervez Musharraf, the then dgmo. Prime minister Benazir rebuffed him. Not willing to relent, Musharraf, as army chief, put the aborted plan into action, with long-term consequences for himself and Pakistan’s political future. Then followed the attack on Indian Parliament with a military mobilisation by both countries. These strategic blunders of raising the stakes for war, and the A.Q. Khan episode, seriously damaged Pakistan’s credibility as a nuclear power. Siachen was thus the starting point of the negative strategic outcomes Pakistan has incurred.

Islamabad wants to negotiate the Siachen issue only to seek an Indian withdrawal. This is necessary for the military to reinforce the dissimulation in Pakistan that it’s present on the Siachen glacier when, in fact, it’s nowhere near it. And secondly, to show it has imposed heavy costs on the Indian military and forced it to withdraw. On the Indian side, negotiations are linked to demilitarising the area as one amongst many steps towards a lasting peace. This doesn’t suit Pakistani interests which are best served by the continuing military standoff along the lac.

Over the years, public opinion in India has evolved into taking tremendous pride in its military achievements in Siachen, thus making it difficult for its political leadership to act on a settlement which would be seen as a concession to Pakistan. This reality is often ignored by major powers which have more than once suggested to India that a concession on Siachen can strengthen the Pakistan’s hand in making progress on j&k. When the Indian military leadership took public positions against such concessions, the political establishment quickly left the matter alone.

Defence minister A.K. Antony has clearly said there can be no withdrawal from Siachen, reiterating the military view that current ground positions should be authenticated before other steps can be examined. Above all, New Delhi doesn’t know who will deliver on a Siachen agreement—while the weak Pakistani political leadership definitely can’t, its military command shows no signs of new thinking. Siachen, thus, remains one amongst many crucial elements that explain Pakistan’s journey on the slippery strategic road.

(The author is director, Delhi Policy Group. He was the commanding general in Siachen and the author of Siachen: Conflict Without End.)
 

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