Indo-Pak ties: A case of inflated egos, deflated brains

Siachen, the world’s highest battleground testifies to the sheer stupidity and irrationality on both sides.

Dr Mohammad Ali Rai June 14, 2012
One can always trust the Indians and Pakistanis to make their battles about their inflated egos. The end point is no surprise; Siachen, the world’s highest battleground testifies to the sheer stupidity and irrationality in vogue among the khakis and non-khakis on both sides of the border.

The story goes that the Siachen saga was hatched at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, where some Pakistani generals decided that they better lay claim to Siachen before India does. So, they ordered Arctic-weather gear from a shop in London, which also supplied the Indians as well. Whether this was bad luck, or simply a sheer demonstration of the deep insight and strategy that our generals’ exercise, is a question better left unanswered. And of course, the Indians came to know of this order, and soon rushed over to grasp hold of the hitherto unoccupied ‘valley of death’ – Siachen.

Since then it has been a sordid tale of more and more misery.

Each passing year witnesses wanton blood streaming through the serene snow. Only last month, an avalanche buried over 120 servicemen on the Pakistani side. Since that devastating tragedy, there has been a lot of talk going around about making Siachen a glacier of peace. High-level talks even took place between the defence secretaries of the two states.

Even though I am an optimist, my glass looks half-empty when I look at the Siachen issue through the lens of history, and more importantly, the deep-rooted animosity and bitterness between the two sides.

We have been hearing stories for years now about how the much needed breakthrough between Pakistan and India was just about to happen, and then it all faded away at the last possible second. This cat and mouse game was played between Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee at the Minar-e-Pakistan when it was being touted that both countries are finally on the same page. More recently, the story that Musharraf and Manmohan had almost sealed an agreement over Kashmir made quite a few eyes pop out.

The fact remains that nothing has changed, no stances have been modified, and the swords remain close to the hearts, just as they did 65 years ago.

Peace comes at a cost – a heavy cost mind you. Considering the violence we have gotten used to now, one could imagine that settling Kashmir and other thorny issues like Siachen will take a bit more than some coffee exchanges in five-star restaurants. That may sound like the cynic’s perspective, but do bear in mind that any talks that do finally make a difference are held on a higher level and not among middle-tier bureaucratic professionals who stick to inflexible notes and refuse to think outside the box.

So don’t expect any big breakthrough to come soon. Siachen is not going to change into a tourist spot any time soon, and is likely to remain a cemetery for soldiers in years to come. And why would the Indians, who clearly have an upper hand there right now, want to leave their dominant position? This view has been adamantly portrayed in the Indian press, and however kind-hearted and noble we may try to become and expect others to become, diplomacy is alas not an art of kindness.

The only way forward is a change in mindset – Siachen is but a mere cog in the whole game – putting a single jigsaw puzzle in place does not mean the tortured and cumbersome game is solved. In fact, it has just begun.

The list of disputes between India and Pakistan is long and extensive, and stretches right from fact to fiction. Unless a strategy is evolved on both sides that tries to address all the issues, and then comes up with a vision to stick to those parameters, no progress is going to be made.

We can continue going in circles round and round.

If deep in my heart, my intention is still to humiliate and test my neighbour, then a smile on the face and a handshake are but a mere smokescreen.

Read more by Dr Rai here or follow him on Twitter @MAliRai
Dr Mohammad Ali Rai A graduate student at Oxford who lives and breathes politics and healthcare issues. He tweets @MAliRai
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ajay | 9 years ago | Reply @SKChadha: I fully agree. Gen Kayani suggested talks out of no-choice not for sake of peace. He has been in power for 4 years and he never asked for peace negotiations before. Now his situation is so dire that a)they can't set up another base without taking precautions since it will hve to be mountain base and another such incident cannot be ruled out b)No Pakistani soldier will like to be stationed there c)Cost is being incurred heavily in ongoing recovery of bodies d)Day to day operation cost is prohibitive for Pakistan especially at this time e)their transit route is currently blocked by this Avalanche. The issue is not Siachen but west of Saltoro ridge. Any neutral person can see that Pakistan has no choice but to be able to vacate that area if somehow they can make sure that Indians do not descend into Gilgit. The only way to achieve this is through a formal agreement. Why should India give this break to Pakistan when Pakistan has not been kind to it in any shape or form? It is anyway risky for Indians to vacate their Siachen base. It isn't just Pakistan, India has to factor in China also who could occupy this base. PAkistan has recently leased GB to China for 50 years. So the best course for India is to let the current situation run its course until Pakistan cannot afford it any more and comes requesting to India for an agreement. The best course for Pakistan is not to make too many demands and seize the opportunity of current goodwill in extracting an agreement from Indians before they change their mind. I can't believe that Pakistan thinks that India will give its positions to Pakistan or simply vacate. Which country has ever vacated occupied land willingly? at this time Pakistan needs an agreement more than the Indians. Pakistanis are being silly in trying to do a hard bargain with Indians as the current Actual Ground Position will never change.
Ajay | 9 years ago | Reply @ranjit: You are looking at things from one angle only. I do not agree that Muslims did not have any way to know how things will turn out. But there is something called hope, common sense and proof of character. Gandhi, nehru and other leaders behaved in an exemplary manner always very fair minded, sacrificing themselves for both Hindus and Muslims by repeatedly going on hunger strikes, and Hindu philosophy was known to all- open to change, based on non-conversion of anyone, flexible. If Jinnah had his way, India would have been doomed as those Muslims who are not broad minded would have taken their dream of Caliphate and Islamism to extreme ends. Can't you see how Indian cleric Bokhari meddles in politics- he uses his influence to demand policies from chief ministers. Recently he asked Mulyam Singh Yadav to support Pranab for President by negotiating a deal with Sonia in return for 4% reservation for Muslims in India. He doesn't care a whit whether Pranab is a good person or not, able leader or not.
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