On April 8 a deadly snow avalanche struck a remote military camp of the Pakistan Army’s Northern Light Infantry in the Gyari region of Siachin, burying alive 127 soldiers and 11 civilians. The operation to retrieve the bodies buried under 80 ft snow continues unabated but so far no body has been recovered, despite the latest technology and experts from advanced courtiers pressed in recovery. This reflects the enormity of the nature’s fury and its catastrophic fall out.
The tragic incident has raised question marks on stationing troops on as high as 7000 meter high glacier and the “rationale” behind in converting the Siachin into the highest military battle ground of the world.
The entire world has expressed concern on the harm caused to the environment by the military occupation of the Siachin glacier by neighboring countries of India and Pakistan and has condemned them for wastage of money on non-productive sector. They have asked for demilitarization of the region and desist from polluting and plundering its beauty. Strangely, however, whereas in Pakistan media has raised the hype in this regard and both civil and military leadership are listening to the voice of sanity and conceding the need of troops withdrawal the same anguish, concern and sensitivity is wanting from India side. Here the powerful media seems to be quite frigid. Indian military and civilian leadership too do not look troubled. The reasons are not far to seek to judge this apathetic attitude.
When a state is guilty-conscious of her wrong-doing, the safest remedy she tries to lay her hands at is to downplay the importance of the issue and thus try to kill it in “dark” womb. Indians have resorted to the same therapy, whether it is Kashmir or Siachin, they first try to consolidate their military grip and then sing the leitmotif of “integral part” and seek solution of the problem of their own making by having all tails and all heads spin its name and authenticate its military position.
World knows – and one should never be biased in its approach of analyzing an event – it was India which in 1984 surreptitiously and in violation of the ceasefire agreement occupied the Siachin glacier. Before Pakistan could rise to the occasion Indian troops had occupied the highest site in the glacier. In response Pakistan too rushed its troops to halt the Indian troops advancement. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s military chief, referring to the compulsion of the situation said, while addressing to media in Askardo after visiting Gayari – the site of avalanche in Siachin – that ‘Pakistan was not manning those treacherous heights out of choice – the world knows why we are in Siachin’.
It is in this context that one of this most pointless posturing in military history has escaped media attention in India . It knows when the veneer of darkness blows up, people in India will start questioning who did play the devil first? And necessarily and inevitably the gaze would fall on the politico-military establishment which to bully its neighbor and further its military aggrandizement took the battle to where nature had left it pristinely virgin.
Pakistan is often ridiculed that its military is playing the foul when its civilian leadership tries to better its relationship with India , whereas in India the army has to be subservient to civilian government. In Siachin, however, the opposite has happened. The times India and Pakistan were close to sign the agreement reached between the two governments. One when Benazir and Rajiv Gandhi agreed on demilitarization of the glacier and second when Manmohan and Parvez Musharaff reconciled to the folly of making their soldiers victim of vagaries of nature where temperature falls to -60 degree Celsius. But on both occasions Indian army called the shots and did not allow the civilian government(s) to have a peace deal with Pakistan on Siachin. Present day Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s wish of making the Siachin ‘a mountain of peace’ never got realized as army did not support him.
‘It is time’, as General Kayani has rightly said, ‘to resolve Siachin peacefully’ and begin a new era of peace and prosperity in the region.