WikiLeaks’ cable on Siachen dispute
WikiLeaks’ recently released cable, classified by former Deputy Chief of Mission Geoff Pyatt in 2006, stated that the failure to reach a solution on Siachen dispute was the result of Indian army’s resistance, which did not like to lose strategic advantage over Pakistan and China. This speaks volumes about the influence of Indian military on decision-making by the elected government in regard to security matters and resultantly in the realm of foreign policy. The cable also exploded the myth of the largest democracy in the world where generals can not dare interfere in or influence decision making by the elected government.
The cable stated: “Every time India and Pakistan came very close to an agreement on the Siachen issue, the prime minister of the day would be forced to back out by the Indian defence establishment, the Congress Party hardliners and opposition leaders”. The cable further stated that former Indian Ambassador Parthasarthy, who personally dissuaded Rajiv Gandhi from making a similar deal on Siachen in 1989, said this concession does not satisfy India’s underlying concern and points be agreed to in advance so that the Pakistani Army would be unable to march back into the area.
It is matter of record that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in principle agreed to withdraw from Siachen and agreement to that effect was about to be inked when the army prevailed upon the prime minister and convinced him that India would lose strategic advantage, and Indian forces would be vulnerable if India withdrew from Siachen. In 2006, the then Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General JJ Singh had expressed concern stating: “We have conveyed our concerns and views to the government and we expect that the composite dialogue between the two countries will take care of all these concerns”. Since 1984, at least dozen meetings have been held, and the position after the 12th round of talks over the Siachen Glaciers that ended last Tuesday without any agreement on the modalities of a proposed demilitarization and other key issues related to their standoff. However, both sides once agreed to continue dialogue on the issue, and Pakistan and India decided to meet again at a mutually convenient date in Islamabad. But one could question the rationale of the talks when both sides agree to continue dialogue, but nothing concrete comes of out it.
The then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had started composite dialogue with Pakistan in 2004, was also reported to have told in a private meeting with some of Indian journalists that he would never give any concession or credit to military dictator Pervez Musharraf. But it was a ruse, as India had never shown flexibility even during dialogue with the elected governments of Pakistan in 1990s or before. Later in 2006 when Congress government was at the helm, the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee while commenting on the dialogue had reportedly said that Pakistan was not willing to agree to an Indian proposal on the methodology of demilitarization at Siachen. He said both sides agreed in principle to withdraw from their positions, India wanted the troop positions delineated and authenticated in document. The way the dialogue has been moving, only an incorrigible optimist would have remained unfazed from the outcome of various rounds of talks. During the second round of confidence building measures, India had rejected Pakistan’s proposal to demilitarize Kashmir stating that it was its sovereign right to keep troop formations in the state.
The only significant achievement in that round was that Pakistan and India would not set up any new military posts along the heavily militarized Line of Control. In 2007, Pakistan and India had again started the two-day talks on demilitarization of Siachen glacier with two sides trying to evolve consensus on indicating troops’ position on the world’s highest battlefield. In view of the shrill assertiveness of India, no agreement could be reached. At 6300 metres (20800 feet), India controls the glaciers since 1984, and the analysts reckon that India is spending approximately $1 million a day. Here soldiers are left to stare and shoot each other across the line. The fact remains that the human body continuously deteriorates and with temperatures 70 degree below zero, the inhospitable climate and inclement weather have claimed more lives than the exchange of gunfire. It has to be mentioned that when the Simla Agreement was reached after 1971 war, the LoC over Kashmir was drawn, and the demarcation ended at the Siachen, as it was understood to be Pakistan’s territory. International community had raised hullabaloo over Kargil issue, but deem it appropriate to keep mum over Siachen and Kashmir dispute.
After November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India stalled the dialogue, and after three years, only secretary level talks were held including Siachen. In 2009, India started preparing for a possible ‘two-front war’ with China and Pakistan. According to newspaper’s report, Indian Army was revising its five-year-old doctrine to effectively meet the challenges of war with China and Pakistan, deal with asymmetric and fourth-generation warfare, and enhance strategic reach and joint operations with IAF and Navy. The then head of the command Lt General AS Lamba went so far as to say that a massive thrust in Rawalpindi to quiet Pakistanis within 48 hours of the start of the assault. Former India’s then COAS General Deepak Kapoor had also said: “The armed forces have to substantially enhance their strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities to protect India’s geo-political interests stretching from Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait. This would enable us to protect our island territories; as also give assistance to the littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region”.
In November 2009, Pakistan’s defence analysts had expressed concern over India’s planning for so-called ‘Cold Start’ strategy and its preparations for a limited war against Pakistan. Then COAS, General Kapoor’s statement on 23rd November 2009 confirmed the hegemonic thrust of India’s nuclear doctrine. On 24th November he had indicated that India was setting the stage for a limited war against Pakistan since long. Of course, India thrice brought its forces on the borders, and Pakistan followed suit. However, India did not dare to start ‘limited war’, as it is not India’s forte only and Pakistan is also capable of striking back immediately. Barring proper peace, India and Pakistan should be able to continue what Ashley Tellis, a research scholar, had described as “ugly stability”. He had argued: “After India and Pakistan detonated their nuclear devices, neither country had a big enough conventional edge over the other to win reasonably short war. Therefore, there is little temptation for Pakistan to make a grab for Kashmir or for India to invade Pakistan. The fear of nuclear attack makes adventurism less appealing”. In this backdrop, both countries should resolve the dispute to avert a major disaster, as both the countries have enough of nuclear arsenal and also delivery system.
Its a bit old, sorry if it has been posted before, its worth a read, me thinks