The flight was approaching Skardu Airport. Cameramen in the C-130 plane were glued to its windows to capture the first step in the journey. From Skardu, we were supposed to travel by air to Goma base and from there, by road to Gayari, Siachen. It was there, ready to be touched and the next moment it was gone. Bad weather forced us all to go back and hence concluded the Inter-Services Public Relations-organised trip to Siachen, which was to be attempted again at another time. Of course, one point was made automatically. When it is so difficult to even make it there, imagine how taxing the rescue efforts must be in the minus 15 degree-temperature of Gayari.
But as our flight touched back on the tarmac in Rawalpindi, there was no end to my flight of fancy. In the Bizzaro World, we would have made it to our destination already. But then, in the Bizzaro World, the purpose of the visit would have been much more pleasant. The media has recently been bitterly criticised for its failure to cover the Gayari incident, where 138 jawans and civilians were buried alive due to an avalanche. Thus, the genuine sentiment was to brave the atrocious climate and express solidarity with the victims and their families. Meanwhile, I was asking myself what I would say to the camera once we made it there. If truth be told, I wanted to be silent, to weep, to cry and curse the stupidity of the South Asian Siamese twins who cannot live without each other and yet, never tire of fighting.
Of course, generals on both sides of the border have been so hell bent on showing off their machismo that they end up sending a huge number of soldiers to their deaths in Siachen. No, they have to show each other how their boys play games of life and death at these excruciating heights and build the world’s highest helipads and check posts. So to them this shouldn’t be a great loss. But wait a minute. Our side has not stopped its search and rescue efforts even when all hope of survival seems likely to have been lost. Could it be a bit of remorse and regret? Could it be that the same sentiment exists on the other side of the border, too?
As I said earlier, such tragedies are not new to the generals on both sides of the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line, even if the magnitude this time was unprecedented. While some members on our side continue to hair-split and try finding evidence of Indian wrongdoing in the entire episode, the evidence of malfeasance of both sides is not hidden.
Is it not plain that both India and Pakistan have taken their forces to heights where they were not supposed to go? It is like invading the water storage tank of your own house and poisoning it out of fear that an enemy might also use the water.
It is no longer about your soldiers only, sirs, even though their suffering is unbearable too. You are destroying the future of your children, their future generations and the entire world’s population. Melting glaciers will one day inundate your homes and starve your children. It’s about time, then, that sane people slap some sense into their leaders and force them to vacate the region. No human presence there. Not even a peace park, please.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2012.