Major General Mrinal Suman
Siachen is in the news again. Loss of ten precious Indian lives in the most unfortunate tragedy of 3rd February has reignited debate about the rationale of our military presence on the glacier.
Pakistan High Commissioner was quick to recall the proposal of ‘mutual withdrawal of troops from Siachen made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the UN General Assembly last year’. “Time has come for urgent resolution of Siachen issue by mutually withdrawing troops from there to ensure more lives are not lost due to harsh conditions on the glacier”, Pakistan added ingeniously. Note the words ‘mutually withdrawing troops from there’.
True to their seditious agenda, a number of self-proclaimed strategic analysts have started toeing the Pakistani line and advocating ‘demilitarization’ of the glacier. It is being suggested that such a move will eliminate a major cantankerous issue between Indian and Pakistan; and act as a catalyst to promote friendly relations. To be honest, one has not heard of a more treacherous and outlandish logic.
Demilitarization of an area implies withdrawal of the opposing military forces from the designated area with an agreement that neither side would undertake any military activity till the resolution of the conflicting territorial claims. Thus, demilitarization necessarily entails withdrawal by both the sides from the disputed area. The area becomes a de facto frontier between the two nations. As is apparent, the concept of demilitarization entails two major essentials. One, it presupposes that both sides have their military presence in the said area/zone. Two and more frighteningly, it implies that both sides agree to settle their mutual claims at a later date through non-military means. In other words, it declares the area to be a disputed territory. In the case of Siachen, Pakistan has no presence on the glacier – not even a toehold. The entire main glacier (76 km by 2-8 km) and the subsidiary glaciers are in India’s control. As a matter of fact, Pakistan cannot even have a peek at them as all the three main passes (Sia La, Bilafond La and Gyang La) are under India’s occupation. Pakistani positions are well west of the Saltoro Ridge. Hence, if Pakistan is not present on the glacier, how can the question of its withdrawal arise? If that be so, demilitarization of Siachen would mean unilateral withdrawal by India and accepting it to be a disputed zone. It will amount to forfeiting the territory which is rightfully under India’s absolute military control.
Pakistan is adept at achieving through negotiations what it loses in war. Indian soldiers shed blood to gain military ascendency, only to see their hard fought gains being lost through the misplaced zeal of some self-proclaimed advocates of peace. Their current suggestion of demilitarization of Siachen is an extension of the same subterfuge.
How deceitful can a proposition be? Undoubtedly, it is a brainchild of the fifth-columnists, at the behest of their Pakistani mentors. For public posturing, they masquerade as intellectuals with liberal views. In fact, they are a bunch of anti-national elements, coming together with the sole objective of undermining the country from within in favour of India’s enemies. Their activities are both overt and covert. In addition, they resort to the clandestine tactics of influencing public opinion through disinformation campaigns. Being Pak sympathisers, they try to present Pakistan as a reasonable and peace-loving country. By implication, they portray their own government to be irrational, obstinate and inflexible.
The Perverted Logic
“Demilitarization of Siachen will assure Pakistan of Indian sincerity in resolving contentious issues; help bring about a reduction in Pakistan’s hostility towards India; and both the countries can live peacefully thereafter” – is the commonly touted perverted argument of the Indian advocates of the withdrawal.
The above proposition is highly perfidious and subversive in intent. It is based on a highly farcical contention – vacation of Siachen by India will convince Pakistan of India’s good intentions. A reassured Pakistan will shed its enmity and prove to be a trustworthy neighbour. A closer look at the logic is certainly warranted.
As regards convincing Pakistan of its sincerity to develop a rancour-free relationship, India has tried various measures over the last six decades. All were doomed to fail for the simple reason that they were based more on hope than on hard ground realities of Pakistan’s deeply ingrained hatred for India. Under the Tashkent agreement, India agreed to return the strategic Haji Pir pass to Pakistan, in exchange for an undertaking by Pakistan to abjure the use of force to settle mutual disputes and adherence to the principles of non-interference. However, Pakistan continued its proxy war through its notorious secret agencies. Sanctuaries and safe passage were provided to underground elements of North-Eastern India.
Without learning from the past experience, India agreed to release 96,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War (PoWs) after 1971 war under the Simla Agreement. In exchange, India accepted a solemn verbal promise by Bhutto that Pakistan would accept LOC as the de facto border. India once again let Pakistan hoodwink it.
Bhutto never intended to abide by his word. To avenge its defeat, Pakistan redoubled its efforts to create turmoil in India. Worse, true to its nature, Pakistan dishonestly kept back 54 Indian PoWs out of 617 PoWs held by it.
While the Indian leadership was trying to break ice through ‘bus diplomacy’ in 1998-99, Pakistani military was busy planning the notorious Kargil incursion. Modi’s out-of-the- box gesture of birthday stop-over at Lahore was followed by a fierce terrorist strike at the Pathankot airfield.
Thus, India has done enough to demonstrate its desire to be friends with Pakistan. Unlike Pakistan, it has never coveted neighbour’s territory. Disappointingly, Pakistan remains incorrigible as a devious and cunning neighbour. Many feel that India’s over-indulgence and conciliatory gestures have emboldened Pakistan into considering India to be a soft state. It has increased its intransigence and hardened its anti-India attitude.
Will Pakistan ever shed its hostility towards India? Only the naive believe that. Pakistan was created on the ideology that the ‘pure’ cannot coexist with the infidel. Pakistan’s shedding of hostility towards India and adoption of a friendly stance would amount to the negation of the two-nation theory, the raison d’être for its very existence. A nation born out of hatred needs hatred to feed itself on for continued sustenance and to justify its existence. Anti-India stance fulfils this need aptly and cannot be shed. Pakistan’s core values are based on the warped political principles of ‘hate and hurt India’ at all costs, even if its own existence gets jeopardised in the process. Expecting a change of heart is nothing but self-delusion. Issues like Kashmir and Siachen are merely a manifestation of Pakistan’s infinite hostility towards India. Were India to hand over Kashmir to it on a platter and withdraw from Siachen, Pakistan will invent newer issues to keep the pot boiling.
When some ill-informed enthusiasts talk about Track-II diplomacy and initiatives like ‘Aman Ki Asha’, they forget the fact that adoption of anti-Indian policy is Pakistan’s compulsion. Shedding of antagonism towards India would amount to questioning the very logic of its creation. Affable statements made by a few retired cricketers and singers are of no import. Their masquerading as ambassadors of friendship is of little consequence – they visit India only to make money and have to be politically correct.
Over a period of time, to hate and cheat India has become Pakistan’s national obsession. Due to decades of indoctrination and brainwashing, all Pakistanis suffer from an extremely brutal and vicious anti-Indian streak. They are convinced that India is their arch enemy. For that reason, while dealing with India, a strange sadistic instinct gets aroused that takes control of their thinking and behaviour. Even a casual visitor to Pak websites and blogs gets shocked to see venality of comments against India. There is hardly a sane voice that advocates need to promote amity.
Quite rightly, the whole world considers Pakistan to be a rogue state. As it is impervious to any pangs of conscience, deceit has become the key stone of its state policy. Independent Pakistan started its track record with treachery. Despite having signed a ‘stand-still agreement’ with the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan unleashed tribal marauders on the hapless Kashmir valley with the active participation of Pak army. And, the policy of duplicitous conduct continues to date.
India has been repeatedly duped and cheated by Pakistan. What has Pakistan done in the recent past to earn another chance to be trusted? One is not aware of a single step taken by Pakistan to assuage Indian feelings and earn its trust. It has been taken for a ride for far too long. Pakistan should never be trusted with respect to Siachen – it may well resort to clandestine operations to occupy the heights vacated by India. Once that happens, it will be well nigh impossible for India to dislodge Pak troops. The cost will be prohibitive.
Trust is a two-way process. Trust between two nations is the expectancy that one nation can rely on the other nation’s solemn word. India should never forget that deceit, betrayal, duplicity and perfidy are synonym with Pakistan. One recalls the words of former Australian Test umpire Darrell Hair. He described the Pakistani cricketers as ‘cheats, frauds and liars’. The same tag can be applied to Pak leadership as well.
Pakistan can never be India’s friend as the poison of anti-India feeling is too deeply entrenched and it will take generations for it to abate. India’s unilateral offer of friendship will always be rebuffed. When a leading Pakistani paper claims that Pakistan is destined to defeat India because ‘Pakistan’s horses in the form of atomic bombs and missiles’ are far better than ‘Indian donkeys’ and boasts of re-conquering India, the level of percolation of anti-India venom can well be gauged. Rogue countries like Pakistan do not believe in international conventions and shamelessly flout them. Under world pressure it may be forced to wear a mask of reasonableness and friendship, but the irrefutable fact is that India will always remain Pakistan’s eternal enemy. It will be foolish to expect an unscrupulous nation like Pakistan to shed its ‘cloak and dagger’ strategy against India.
Most worrisome, Pakistan has been able to cultivate many influential Indians through what is commonly referred to as ‘biryani diplomacy’. They are frequently taken on fully-paid trips to exotic locales the world over, ostensibly for seminars and group discussions. Lavish hospitality generates bonhomie, providing ideal setting for Pak operatives to establish personal rapport with the Indian guests. Soon, such Indian friends of Pakistan start singing Pak tune and have no qualms in echoing Pak stance by misleading the Indian public. Finally, it is understandable for the Pakistani military to use the term demilitarization as it wants to continue deceiving its countrymen that it is occupying part of the glacier.
However, it is simply preposterous for ‘Indian friends of Pakistan’ to speak in terms of demilitarization and thereby mislead the public. They should be honest and refer to the proposal as ‘unilateral vacation of Siachen by India’. And, any Indian who suggests vacation of Siachen should be treated as an anti-national element and tried for high treason.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of
Major General Mrinal Suman