Vacate Siachen, already

Published: April 18, 2012

The writer hosts a show called “Capital Circuit” for News One

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.

Reader Comments (45)

  • Icydevil
    Apr 18, 2012 - 12:46AM

    Pakistan and India need to come back to the 1989 agreement that was agreed upon by political leadership of both countries. Indian army needs to keep its power frenzy in check and realise what a waste of resources is occurring and same with Pakistani establishment. There exist other less harmful ways of wasting the precious resources too other than fighting on 20,000 feet altitude.

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  • true_blue_pakistani
    Apr 18, 2012 - 12:51AM

    Declare the disaster stuck site as national cemetery and offer prayers for the lost souls. Surely there are unknown numbers of Mujahideens buried there too.
    Withdraw Pakistan army from Siachen immediately. If Generals want to fight, let them relocate GHQ to Siachen.
    Enough is enough!

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 18, 2012 - 12:53AM

    The relentless onslaught of Siachen-related articles is a bit overwhelming. Pls note that our understanding of the LoC is different from Pakistan’s. We occupied the heights of Siachen when he had hardly any experience in high-altitude warfare, negligible financial stability and mind-numbing poverty; on all these counts, we are in a much better position to safeguard our interests now – so flushing almost 30 years of blood, sweat and toil (and billions of dollars) down the drain is not an option. The ecological impact of the Siachen standoff as well as the high monetary costs are both likely to impact Pakistan much more than India. If these are not worthwhile considerations, we can continue with the status quo; if not, authenticate the AGPL, I can guarantee you that India has no desire to station its soldiers in Siachen after that.

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  • Faisal Siddiqui
    Apr 18, 2012 - 12:58AM

    Most of the Pakistanis do not even know the strategic significance of Siachen Glacier and why India advanced into it towards Pakistan controlled territory in 1983. The region is a triangle between Pakistan, China and India. If India can advance further, it can come next to the Chinese regions and block Pakistan’s access to China and also gain strategic control over regions of Gilgit and Baltistan and blocking the strategic Karakorum highway.

    Note where Kargil is. Pakistan had advanced just a little more in Kargil in 1999 and that resulted in such a fierce war as India knew that if Kargil is taken, the entire Kashmir would be lost from the North. These regions are not defined borders but are called Line of Control and any nation which has more muscle and nerves can grab whatever it can.

    Nations defend their territories, even if they seem insignificant. These seemingly small regions, play a great strategic role in shaping the destiny of the nations.

    US President Richard Nixon had said this about nations not protecting their borders against such seemingly small regions:

    ‘The pages of history are littered with the ruins of countries that were indifferent to erosion of the balance of power. Losses on the periphery where a country’s interests appear marginal never seem to merit a response or warrant a confrontation with the enemy.
    But small losses add up. Expansionist powers thrive on picking up loose geopolitical change. When it comes, it usually takes place under the worst possible circumstances for those on the defensive.’
    –Former US President Richard M Nixon,

    Never ever doubt that fact that Siachen is critically important for us and we will never withdraw from here even if India withdraws. In fact, InshAllah, we will advance further till we reach Delhi to be part of this great army of Ghazwa e Hind. By Allah, We are Muslims and death of a shaheed is a reward for us!

    Today we are seeing how our ‘Dollar-lover’ politicians have now started to voice against the Pak Army presence in Siachen. They have started a new propaganda against the presence since pulling out the Army will make way for the Indians to take over most of the region.

    Arm yourself with knowledge and fight back. share this with your friends and spread it globally to counter the SAFMA and NS propaganda. These snakes must be defeated, InshAllah!.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Ummaid Ali
    Apr 18, 2012 - 1:01AM

    Well… I agree to the point that one should not fight.
    But the place siachen has a significance as well. Why is pakistani army there? Because there are several routes nearby which are connected to china and are very essential trade routes.
    Pakistan may suffer great loss if this place is given to India. India must understand the geographical importance of the region for Pakistan. And call its men as well. Or they should just come up with some sort of settlement.
    I do have lack of information about the geographical importance. Do correct me if im wrong.

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  • Apr 18, 2012 - 1:14AM

    your article is reflection of reality good job done by you.

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  • fahim
    Apr 18, 2012 - 1:53AM

    “In fact, InshAllah, we will advance further till we reach Delhi to be part of this great army of Ghazwa e Hind” Tell the truth, when you wrote these lines, did you yourself believe even a letter of it? Did you believe even in your wildest dream this is ever going to happen in reality? Then why waste time in this false propaganda and spoil the image of this country by living in some crazy, dreamworld brainwashed by anti-national like zaid hamid and hamid gul? Entire country from Gilgit to Balochistan, to KP to Karachi is burning and breaking apart, and this guy wants to go to delhi it seems..

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  • Thomas
    Apr 18, 2012 - 2:13AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:

    Keep putting offering in the wishing well too.!!!

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  • Apr 18, 2012 - 2:27AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:
    Who is Nixon. Oh! the same guy who could not do anything in 1971. Forgotten history so soon! Now do some homework and find out how important is Siachen for the Indians. And who exactly is sitting on top of the glacier and who is not?

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  • Ilyas Hussain
    Apr 18, 2012 - 2:45AM

    Dear Mr. Akmal,
    No offence but your comments are no less then hillarious. Even if India is able to cross the glacier with a couple of thousand soldiers they can not sustain a war on the other side of the largest glacier in the world , just because it is impossible to resupply the troops through the glacier. Please read some books and do not try to fool the ordinary public here. Recommend

  • ashok
    Apr 18, 2012 - 3:14AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:
    Arm yourself with knowledge.
    “Pakistan army’s presence in Siachin” ???? What?
    p>Do you know that Pakistan army is far away from Siachin; it is not even on Saltoro ridge?
    Pakistan army is near the western sides of Saltoro ridge which is on the west side of Siachin glacier.
    Time has changed and “Ab Dilli Door nikal gayee hai”?

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  • Chotta Panda
    Apr 18, 2012 - 3:28AM

    I don’t know what to say – India’s economy is 9 times bigger than Pakistan’s economy. India spends $300 million per year at Siachen while Pakistan spends $200 million. Because India’s economy is 9 times bigger in principle India is spending only $37 million ($300 million /9) in Pakistan’s comparison terms. There is a direct assymetry of $163 million per year. As time goes and, as India’s economy grows the assymetry will also grow until it becomes untenable for Pakistan to maintain this force. India took a lesson from Ronald Regan on defeating the Soviets without actually fighting by raising the defense budget until USSR fell down. The game plan is working well for India very well. Pakistan also took a lesson from Ronald Regan on defeting the Soviets by creating the Mujahadeen. But unfortunately for Pakistan this model is not working as the Jihadis seem to devouring Pakistan itself. After 9/11 there is paradigm shift – terrorism cannot be used as a state policy anymore.

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  • s shah
    Apr 18, 2012 - 3:45AM

    @faisal siddiqui: channeling Zaid Hamid I see. Instead of making other people’s children pay the cost of your delusions of grandeur, why dont you station yourself at Siachen. Pakistan should agree to the AGPL and withdraw unilaterally from Siachen. I agree with the author there should not even be a peace park there. And before you accuse me of being an Indian, let me tell you that I am a patriotic, (but rational) Pakistani.

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  • Muhammad
    Apr 18, 2012 - 4:14AM

    @fahim:
    how awkward it sounds now someone bashing the new era of ‘pull out your army’ ehh? Hope, is the only cure for the ever increasing ever prospering games the media and people like this author himself are carrying on playing in the minds of the nation. Even if Zaid Hamid keeps this kind of mind frame then so what!? Get out of your blanket of darkness and think in a broader spectrum what the consequences have to be faced by us.

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  • Faisal
    Apr 18, 2012 - 4:19AM

    @Dr Priyanka:
    Indians would sell off anything if they have to for gaining this region. Now since your unfortunately, an indian yourself it seems, no point indulging in a debate since nothing will go through an indian ‘hard-to-find’ brain. Chao !Recommend

  • Hindi hain hum...
    Apr 18, 2012 - 4:23AM

    India’s position is clear: No draw-down without signing the AGPL. Pakistan can do this or as the current episode shows that Pakistan is not spending enough on its Siachen deployment. It needs to spend more in terms of money and lives. The current level of $5 million / month is not enough and needs to be increased to at least 3-4 times that level. The good news is that this is money that Pakistan can’t afford.

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  • Bilal
    Apr 18, 2012 - 4:40AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui
    I totally agree with you.
    great analysis I must say.

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  • gp65
    Apr 18, 2012 - 5:26AM

    The spate of articles on Siachen seem to have a common thread – Pakistan army has to many fires burning and would like to reallocate its resources from Siachen. So India must be flexible and pul back. Of course Pak army will not authenticate the AGPL leaving the real possibility that once situation stabilizes, Pak army can come back and occupy Siachen which it could not fight and gain from Indians. Even lay Indians like us cannot buy such naive logic. Do you think Manmohan Singh can sell this idea to Indians who know what Pakistan has done in 1965 and 1999 and was also trying to do in 1984 when it was prempted?

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  • same-old
    Apr 18, 2012 - 6:19AM

    Why is it that the tragedy of over 100 Pakistani soldiers buried alive is suddenly translated into asking India to pull back the troops?
    The Govt. of India has already offered a solution – sign on the document that defines the line of control so that both armies can withdraw honorably. There are just 3 options Pakistan can choose from:

    1) sign the document and both armies can go back to warmer climates.

    2) Refuse to sign, proclaim that staying in Siachen is the height of idiocy and then withdraw unilaterally and leave India in the ‘cold’. OR

    3) Continue staying on Pakistan side of the glacier and shut up.

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  • C. Nandkishore
    Apr 18, 2012 - 6:36AM

    Why this sudden love for peace? Just because you lost a few jawans? What about thousands killed by the terrorists you sent to Kashmir?

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  • sars
    Apr 18, 2012 - 7:48AM

    Everyone who wants troops in siachin should put there money where their mouth is. Go joing the army and get stationed there or shut up and stop advocating the dying of our troops in a no win war.

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  • Aarvey,india
    Apr 18, 2012 - 7:52AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui: It’s not enough that Pakistan does not hold the strategic heights in Siachen but this gentleman is advancing a theory of moving on to Delhi through Siachen if one has to read his analysis right. I don’t think he understands the implication of such a move. And he has unscrupulously dropped Allah’s name 3 times in as many paragraphs. I have many Muslim friends and I understand from them that one has to use the term ‘inshallah ‘ very frugally as more often than not you can wish for anything on this earth freely ( as our friend Faisal has wished to ‘ see’ Delhi) and God is very selective in granting these wishes.

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  • Apr 18, 2012 - 7:54AM

    Vacate Kashmir First

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 18, 2012 - 8:27AM

    @C. Nandkishore: ” … Why this sudden love for peace? Just because you lost a few jawans? … “

    Had the tragedy unfolded on the Indian side, I can guarantee you, there would have been scenes of jubilation in Pakistan.

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  • Sam
    Apr 18, 2012 - 8:48AM

    Siachen: always India at fault. What else is new! Love the way Pakistani writers find “balance” by equating the conduct of their General’s with India’s. No one in the world buys into anything Pakistani Army says – not even its own people.

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  • Maddy Khan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 9:10AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui
    Yes, i agree with you… lets die of hunger, lets not build universities, lets not research for alternate energy resources, lets not give out people a better life…. and lets fight for our borders in the name of religon because the only way we can protect our religon is by buying fighter jets from US and other western countries.. the only way we can save our religon is by making DHA’s and driving luxury cars with starred number plates while our kids study in foriegn countries. And depending on the mood of CAS, we can anytime take over this country in the name of national security because democracy is not healthy enough to take care of it and ensure that no matter how many times we take over.. same politicians and democracy standards are maintained because thats how we can protect our country and religon. And as we cannot take control of our own KPK, FATA, Balouchistan.. lets stay inside our safely guarded cantts in luxury homes with all latest facilities.. but still give hopes to the people of Pakistan that
    “In fact, InshAllah, we will advance further till we reach Delhi to be part of this great army of Ghazwa e Hind. By Allah, We are Muslims and death of a shaheed is a reward for us!”

    =)

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  • Hindu Indian
    Apr 18, 2012 - 9:39AM

    @Syed Owais Mukhtar:
    Keep waiting…. of the 1000 years ZAB asked Pakistanis to wait more than 900 years are yet to come… and dont forget to continue chewing on grass

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  • Watty
    Apr 18, 2012 - 9:45AM

    Nobody is forcing Pakistani military to man the Siachen heights. India will have no complaints if Pakistan decides a unilateral withdrawal of its soldiers. As for this sudden Pakistani pangs of concern for the environment, global warming, global air pollution and regional coal fired power generation are bigger threats to the glaciers – none of which is likely to change in the foreseeable future.

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  • ayesha khan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 10:15AM

    @Chotta Panda: “I don’t know what to say – India’s economy is 9 times bigger than Pakistan’s economy. “

    Not just that, the tax to GDP ratio for India is double that of Pakistan. In other words, Indian government gets 18 times the tax revenue which Pak government gets accentuating the asymmetry further.

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  • Faisal Siddiqui
    Apr 18, 2012 - 10:23AM

    Face the facts. Indians are more in fear of Pak-China friendship than they are to their grandmothers! Indians are trying their hearts out to cut off the Karakoram highway that links China to Pakistan. Stick this up your minds that no matter what you do, China and Pakistan will always find a way to stay close to each other. You can have an idea of this indian ‘obsession’ by the fact that on average one Pakistani solider dies every fourth day up there while an indian soldier dies every other day!!

    So, fellow neighbours, don’t try to stick your noses in between Pak-China relationship or it will be severed brutally!!

    Cheers!

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  • Imran Khan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 10:26AM

    I am watching talk shows on the issue, retired defense personals now self proclaimed analysts trying to convince nation that unilateral withdrawal would mean we are allowing Indian to control Karakorum Pass. But this is a stupid argument, Why Indian will not stretched out from Siachen there are two main reasons. first Karakorum has strategic importance just not for Pakistan but also for China. Indian will never want to annoyed China on the issue second nuclear deterrence is still working. If Pakistan decide a unilateral withdrawal(as announced by Nawaz Sharif) will not sign of weakness as China also had withdrawal its forces from Laddakh in 1962 to end Sino Indian war and for the same reason like harsh condition and killing height of battle field.

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  • Asma from Pakistan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 11:08AM

    @Faisal siddiqui
    The people like u have distorted the image of Islam and Pakistan. And Shaheed is the person who dies in the way of Allah and not in the way of fighting India where more than 30 crore Muslims live….correct your misunderstanding.

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  • wonderer
    Apr 18, 2012 - 11:59AM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:

    Cheers!

    You have a very strong point to make. Why get bitter?

    India is indeed worried about Pak-China axis. Any sensible country like India would be. India will take care of that to the best of its ability. So, you can relax.

    Pakistan in fact should be worried about China. After US, China. After China, who? Chinese bills for services provided will soon start arriving. And, the US is not going to pick them up.

    I am sure you have heard of the good old rule of NO FREE LUNCHES.

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  • dasmir
    Apr 18, 2012 - 2:48PM

    But glaciers are putting on mass!?

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  • Ak
    Apr 18, 2012 - 7:37PM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:
    Wow Faisal you began so well and then descended to the ‘famous defense analyst’ level. By the way just to clarify, LOC may not be international border but it is well demarcated and only place where it has not been defined properly is Siachen. No one has grabbed any land before or after Pakistani incursion in Kargil since 1971.

    Regarding Gazwa-e-hind, my suggestion would be to come out delusional, aggressive and medieval mindset. I don’t know how moderators allow such nonsense to be published. By the way no one in India dreams of capturing any part of your country.

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  • amanat
    Apr 18, 2012 - 8:19PM

    I offer my sincere grief over the sad tragedy in Siachin. It cannot be said with certainity whether it is natural or India has done some mischief. The entire nation is shocked over this sad incident. As regards Nawaz Sharif ‘s call to pull the troops frpm Schian and Pakistan should do so first I cannot endorse his views. Is he not aware about India’s attitude over the last 64 years? India has captured Pakistan’s territory in Schian and its intention is to cut Pakistan-China land route. India will never vacate Schian area but contrarily it will also occupy the area in our conrol once our troops vacate the same and some day it will also change flow of water.. India is building dams over our rivers to stop our water and to make Pakistan barren whereas Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif are favouring trade with India. They are trying to please America and India.. Pakistan should never vacate Schian.

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 18, 2012 - 8:49PM

    Agreed. NO Peace Park. That will not bring the dead back.

    Just get out!

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  • Apr 18, 2012 - 10:30PM

    pre-1984 positions should be maintained… else there is no reason being pakistan withdrawing from the glacier as it is an administrative part of pakistan and we cannot give even an inch of our land to the indians…Recommend

  • Pollack
    Apr 19, 2012 - 12:16AM

    @Ak:
    “Regarding Gazwa-e-hind, my suggestion would be to come out delusional, aggressive and medieval mindset. I don’t know how moderators allow such nonsense to be published.”

    I think the ET moderators are very good. They are letting in such comments because they can recognize humor when they see it. Have a laugh. There is no topic which is funnier than Gazwa-e-Hind. I wish more of the Gazwa-e-Hind soldiers show up in these forums to give indepth info on the Gazwa-e-hind enterprise.

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  • Ganesh
    Apr 19, 2012 - 2:10PM

    @Faisal Siddiqui:
    Mr Faisal Gazwa Hind…… march to delhi etc shows that you are fan of the great comedian “Zaid Hamid” LOL!!You guys,instead of preaching others,can always feel free to come to Kashmir and fight Indian army yourseves or at least send your sons!!Why do you suggest that other Pakistanis have to lose their sons in this asymmetrical war where India is 7 times bigger than you in Military,Economic,Demographic and landsize terms!!!!

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  • Vaibhav
    Apr 19, 2012 - 4:14PM

    Dear Pakistani brothers,

    First of all condolences for tragedy. Soldier fighting anywhere for their country (and not religion) should get the deserve respect in life and death.

    We are very sure in here that the sentiments shared in Pakistan would have been different if this tragedy was to take place on our side of border.
    After what we faced in 1999 there is no way India going to change the status quo on Siachen and to be honest Manmohan Singh does not have mandate to take any decisions to change our history or geography so wait for few more years (atleast 2).

    But it is hard to believe if it is true that Pakistani educated populace still lives in dream of putting green flag on Red fort.
    Guys there are many other important issues to deal with on both side of the border and why are you scare mongering about threat to religion and nationhood from India?

    We never invaded any nation in our 5000 year old civilizational history don’t think we will start doing it now.

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  • ANJAN BASU
    Apr 19, 2012 - 4:39PM

    Pls give condolence to the passed souls. India Pakistan may be, unfortunately, separate country, but culturally we are together. I have had experience how some people here feel bad when they heard disastour in Pakistan. I experienced abroad whenever a Pakistani see an Indian, they come forward to greet as if he met his cousin and share their sorrow and happiness. Irrespective of political relation, Indian sub-continental feel comfortable when they meet in china or russia or in usa. I still can not forget two pakistani friends Karim and Naqib I met in England. The mistake what Jinnah, nehru, patel did let’s repair it. Tens of millions of people suffered for their mistake. Pls do not preach hatred among people. When you are good at heart, you do not have to remember God, God will always remember you.

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  • DB
    Apr 19, 2012 - 7:54PM

    It is funny to see Indians so afraid of Pakistan that they need to come on Pakistani websites to promote their false viewpoints.

    Fact is that India initiated the military adventure in Siachen and now India is forced to sit on the heights of Siachen no matter if Pakistan does or does not. India will always be afraid of someone taking the heights from them.

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  • Ahmed HM
    Apr 20, 2012 - 12:11PM

    From the comments or the blog, it seems that most of the readers and writers of ET do not have the knowledge of the strategic importance of Siachen. This whole propaganda of ‘leave Siachen’ has recently started and I am simply waiting for something else to happen so the attention of these useless bloggers / writers is diverted there.

    No matter how patriotic they pretend, ET is a sub set of traitors. They are the ones that come from the media and they try to generate false propaganda against Pakistan (not including Islam at the moment).

    You can keep lying as much as you can, but InshaALLAH your lying will not make it true.

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  • Cynical
    Apr 20, 2012 - 3:06PM

    @Faisal Siddiqui

    You can’t be serious.
    And if it’s a joke, I don’t get it.

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