The army’s cerebrum

The Indian army ran up the Saltoro heights in the Siachen glacier just to prove Pakistan wrong.

Jyoti Malhotra May 09, 2011

Watching — or reading, or listening — Indian Army Chief General VK Singh shooting his mouth off over India’s ability to carry out a strike similar to what the US Navy Seals did vis-à-vis a certain Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last week, brought to mind another caper by yet another former Indian army chief, General JJ Singh.

Soon after he was named to the top job in the early 2000’s, General Singh thought he would check out the cooler climes of Srinagar and reteach his boys how it was important for good soldiers to always be on the ready. Once there, in a lecture hall full of strapping young boys, Singh instructed someone to put a tumbler on a table, whipped out his pistol and, to the astonishment of his fellow officers, began to connect bullet with beaker.

To read the story, as reported in the Indian Express later, to deal with both astonishment and wonder at the exploits of India’s top generals, to sleep securely on one’s coir mattresses and down pillows in faraway Delhi and know that India’s frontiers were being safeguarded by men with nerve, pluck and flair; needless, to say it was an epiphanic moment.

Perhaps my fellow Pakistanis will wonder at the point of my little anecdote. After all, what was the big deal about cracking a glass or two at the speed of Mach, when Pakistan’s men in uniform had been fighting the best armies in the world and running the country at home at the same time, for several decades in the past?

That’s the whole point of being in the army, I suppose. For a moment let us forget the alleged intelligence failure, the biggest in the history of Pakistan, of not figuring out where Osama bin Laden lived and what he had been doing in Abottabbad for six-long years (ministering to three wives and several children cannot take up a whole day, after all).

Now, even if ISI Chief Shuja Pasha is able to explain to the CIA, over the next few days, what his organisation had really been up to, one wonders how the ISI-Army sisterhood will explain the debacle to its own people in Pakistan. After all, the people did elect Zardari & Co. to power only three years ago.

One also wonders if that’s asking for too much, that is, asking the army to abide by the political directives of an elected government? The question brings to mind the Indian Army’s unnerving ability to veto a deal on Siachen between India and Pakistan since 1989.

Now everyone knows the Indian Army ran up the Saltoro heights in the icy, nether regions of the Siachen glacier in 1984, thereby preventing the Pakistani Army from doing the same silly thing. Evidently, when you’re up there, you have a great view of the Kashmir Valley and if you have a couple of strange ideas up your sleeve — like a certain Pervez Musharraf had about Kargil, which he thought he could encircle, cutting off the Kashmir Valley from the rest of India, a strange thought indeed, not only because he hadn’t reckoned for the sheer bravery of the Indians, who were fired up with both nationalism and zeal, but because of the sheer inadequacy of the cerebrum that was involved in the planning process — then the rarefied, mountain air makes you feel like you, too, can follow them.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the Indian Army is believed to have told all Indian prime ministers since Rajiv Gandhi cut a deal with Benazir Bhutto in 1989, in which Indian soldiers from Siachen would be withdrawn in exchange for Bhutto’s promise that nobody would occupy the glacier, that basically, you can’t.

Can’t trust the Pakistanis not to reoccupy the glacier, that is. So here’s the truth: In the last 22 years, since the Gandhi-Bhutto deal, no government in both Islamabad or Delhi has had the courage to conclude the Siachen deal.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2011.


Maqsood Kayani | 10 years ago | Reply "UK's Economist Magazine says no country in the world censors international media like India does. News for Economists: India bans Pakistani writers in Indian newspapers who contradict Indian policy, Pakistani commentators on Indian websites are banned too. Foreign media is banned in occupied Kashmir. What's allowed? Ads celebrating INCREDIBLE INDIA!" And Pakistani newspapers and channels give prime slots to Indian journos to spit venom and pig-swill at Pakistan and Pakistanis ??? BBC News - Economist Magazine accuses India of censorship over Kashmir map: The Atlantic Wire - India Orders The Economist to Place Stickers in 28,000 Magazines: The Economist attacks India in censorship row: Hostile censorship exposes Indian democracy‎: Censorship in India: Dec 7th 2010, 15:47 by The Economist online | DELHI INDIAN leaders and visiting dignitaries like to wax lyrical about the world’s greatest democracy, with its billion-plus people relishing a tradition of vibrant debate. The fourth estate in the country appears to be pretty robust, too. Cable news shows reach a high proportion of the population, weekly current-affairs magazines and daily papers offer lively discussion and opinion in English, Hindi, Bengali and many other languages. Indians are also fast taking to the internet as a forum for debate. At first glance, then, Indians enjoy the freedom to speak and criticize no less than Americans, Europeans or others lucky enough to live in democracies. Look closer and the picture is rather different. The country is enthralled at the moment by a series of corruption scandals, mostly involving members of the ruling Congress party. Now attention has turned to some journalists-cum-lobbyists whose close ties to powerful business and political types go beyond acceptable limits. Indian journalists, say local critics, are too often docile, unwilling to challenge those in authority, or, worst of all, easily bought off with gifts and made to publish (or withhold) stories in the interests of the powerful. None of this stops Indians with controversial views speaking out, of course. But there are limits on what can be said. This month courts are pondering the prosecution of Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy for sedition, for daring to question the place of Kashmir within India. The same colonial-era law is occasionally trotted out to threaten separatists and others who speak out. At least outsiders have been free to say and write what they like in India. Yet censors are getting increasingly grumpy about what they draw. When foreign publications print maps of India that show the reality in Kashmir—territory divided between areas controlled by Pakistan and by India—censors at customs houses, citing a law from 1961, stamp them as "not recognised" by India. For The Economist, for example, that delays delivery of the magazine by a few days, affecting some tens of thousands of Indian readers. Now, for some reason, India’s censors are getting angrier yet. Rather than just wield a stamp, the customs men recently stopped the import and distribution of a consignment of copies of the Financial Times newspaper. They were offended by a map of Asia that included Kashmir. This week copies of The Economist were also seized, preventing subscribers in some cities from being offended by the sight of a map of Asia that showed India’s borders. It is far from clear what India’s zealous customs men are hoping to achieve. In neighbouring Sri Lanka, copies of The Economist are often seized by customs for a few days if officials take against articles that are critical of the government. The result, however, is usually only to bring more attention to the criticism (with readers switching to read articles online) and to spread fears that an intolerant government is continuing to crack down on critics. The self-defeating efforts by Sri Lanka’s customs men hardly offer a model for democratic India. (Photo credit: AFP)
Aslam Mahaboob | 10 years ago | Reply @dost Khan: All said and done, India looks like it will never let go of Kashmir. If u look at last 20 yrs, the policy of supporting 'freedom fighters' has not dented india at all, but we are sinking. How did we end up in this position? For its growth & image, India will not seek war with anyone for now. So where does that leave us?
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