Video discussion is in Hindi. Because the issue is very important, it has been translated and discussed here in English.
Context: 10 Indian soldiers martyred in an avalanche on Siachen glacier a few days back.
Q. Tell us a few things about Siachen?
1. It’s world’s highest battlefield.
2. Outside of polar region, it is world’s longest glacier(76km)
3. It is a disputed region being a part of Kashmir.
4. It was considered so inhabitable that its coordinates were not even demarcated during Karachi agreement (1949) and shimla agreement.
5. The Glacier region is not just the glacier per se but includes the Saltoro Ridge, a crucial mountainous stretch which acts as a watershed.
Q. What’s the dispute over this region?
Dispute is as to which side (India or Pakistan) this glacier belongs to.
- The origin of Siachen dispute lies in the fact that both the Karachi Agreement of 1949 and the Shimla Agreement of 1972 have left the status of Indo-Pak boundary vague North of Pt NJ 9842.
- While the Karachi Agreement says, “From Pt NJ 9842, the ceasefire line will run Northwards to the Glaciers”, Shimla Agreement does not even make a mention of it.’
- Pakistan, on the other hand, believes that the alignment of the boundary runs in a north-easterly direction to the Karakoram Pass.
This conflicting interpretation is the source of conflict.
Q. When so many soldiers die due to extreme weather, why don’t we come to an understanding and vacate the post?
It’s true that it costs us 5 crore daily and more than 1000 soldiers have martyred due to avalanche and extreme conditions, we can’t even think of vacating the posts due to its strategic significance.
1. The Saltoro Ridge overlooks the area of Gilgit–Baltistan of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
2. It guards the routes leading to Leh, the principal town and capital of Ladakh.
3. it overlooks and dominates the Shaksgam Valley, which was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan
4. it is close to the Karakoram Pass through which the Karakoram Highway passes connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Xinjiang Province of China.
Before thinking of vacating the posts, we should question ourselves whether the reasons for which we went there in the 1st place, for which 1000s of soldiers have lost their lives, still exist or they have disappeared. Short answer is situation is even more complex now with the unwarranted entry of the PLA in the garb of road builders, and the administration in the Northern Areas and the POK.
Q. So why did we go there in the 1st place?
1. Pakistan had been sending expeditions there and giving passes to foreign expeditions in effect trying to establish it’s sovereignty there.
2. Pakistan was buying high altitude equipment to occupy the heights. Fortunately, same company which supplied equipment to India also supplied them to Pakistan and India came to know about it.
3. To thwart the Pakistani designs to occupy the undemarcated region, India troops had to occupy the heights and passes in 1984 (Operation Meghdoot)
Fact remains if we vacate the posts, Pakistan will occupy them the next week and it will be next to impossible for us to dislodge them from there.
Q. So what’s the solution? I thought, it was considered a low hanging fruitt.
1. Alternative is demilitarisation with a bilateral agreement not to reoccupy the heights at any cost and eventual delimitation or demarcation.
2. Pakistan demands demilitraisation 1st followed by demarcation while India wouldn’t demilitarize without delineating teh actual ground position line (AGPL) first. Who can trus pakis!
3. Ultimate solution is solution of Kashmir issue. siachen is part of kashmir. We need holistic solution, piecemeal solutions won’t do.
The basic issue is of lack of trust which will not be addressed by withdrawal and may not lead to delimitation.