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India - Pakistan: Siachen isn’t unthinkable (Editorial, Kashmir Times)

7 October 2015

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The Kashmir Times - October 6, 2015

Editorial Siachen isn’t unthinkable

Discarding suggestions for unconditional withdrawal by both India and Pakistan is a foolish example of hawkishness

It would have been better had India and Pakistan returned any wiser from the recently concluded UN summit in New York and paid more attention to the voices of rationality than to the hawkish discourse that went on from both sides. In the din of mud-slinging, allegations and counter allegations especially with respect to peace, the message of pacifism that Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif gave was completely lost and ignored. By completely rejecting it with one stroke of belligerence, union defence minister, K.M. Parrikar has shown neither pragmatism nor a penchant for peace in South Asia. Sharif’s suggestions of demilitarizing Kashmir need to be considered with much more seriousness before deciding to discard them completely. The suggestions are not impractical. They have been discussed in the past and atleast the two sides could atleast have begun to think about initiating some beginning with Siachen based on Sharif’s advice of unconditional withdrawal of forces by both sides. Of course, nobody, as Parrikar maintains, can dictate terms to India about whether to keep the forces in Siachen or reduce them. But terms of peace would require efforts and steps from both sides and a beginning with thinning troops at the highest battlefield in the world is not so blasphemous to tinker with. A commitment to this end has already been made by both India and Pakistan during the composite dialogue a decade ago. Some forward movement was also made but no agreement could be inked on account of some trivial matters like authentication of positions of troops which could not be resolved before the peace process broke down. There is need to stop the bellicose rhetoric and pick on the threads of the previous process and begin a process of engagement. Talks on Siachen can help build the confidence and ease the present state of tensions and complete stalemate.

Military presence in Siachen Glacier is not only costing both the countries in terms of manpower and money with a high casualty rate of soldiers churned out from both sides but is also posing a major threat to the environment and the connected rivers. The glacier is reported to be melting at an alarming rate and all the major human and environmental losses incurred due to the maintenance of this highest battle field call for immediate measures to begin a process of mutual reduction and withdrawal of troops from the glacier that began to be occupied in the early eighties. Since 1984, the area has devoured soldiers, mostly dead or incapacitated due to cold weather conditions, crores of rupees have been siphoned off by both the countries on maintaining the troops in the area, and their heavy presence is costing dearly to the flora and fauna. Thus, any logic that the Siachen issue can wait is detrimental not only to the interests of peace but also to the economic and environmental health of the sub-continent. Resolving Siachen, on the other hand, would not only give the much needed fillip to the peace process between India and Pakistan, it could also help bring some thaw between the two with regards to Kashmir. Siachen, which falls on the Line of Control, and remains a bone of contention between India and Pakistan is located in Jammu and Kashmir and its militarization has a direct impact on the situation on Line of Control elsewhere. The Kargil war was an offshoot of the stalemate on Siachen and the inability of the two sides to resolve the crisis and in turn disrupted peace and calm elsewhere on the borders as well. Forget the ugly spectacle of war of words at the recent UN meetings, whatever positive suggestions were made by either side should be engaged with more dispassionately for an enabling peace process to begin. The defence minister could have done better by atleast discussing the practicability and feasibility of Nawaz Sharif’s suggestions about Siachen meltdown rather than the complete snub he had to offer.

P.S.

The above editorial from Kashmir Times is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use