Sunday, April 30, 2006

Siachen Sell Out?

The 49 mile long Siachen Glacier forms part of the watershed that separates Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Indian Army has been deployed on the commanding Saltoro Ridge since 1984. The line of deployment is known as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). India and Pakistan appear to be currently negotiating troop reductions in Saltoro. The agreement might entail a redemarcation of the ground position. It is difficult to assess the proposed deal as the negotiations are being conducted in stealth.

M.K Narayanan, National Security Adviser to the Manmohan Singh administration indicated that India and Pakistan were about to reach agreement on the mutual reduction of troops and troop withdrawal in Siachen. In contrast, the Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General J.J. Singh has expressed concerns that "We have conveyed our concerns and views to the Government and we expect the composite dialog between the two countries will take care of all these concerns" and added that "demilitarization is not on the horizon"

The United States might have facilitated discussions on the vexed subject. It is in American interest that Indo-Pakistan relations improve so that the strategic objectives of the United States can be better met in the extended region. Any settlement on Siachen should not compromise India's long term interest to ensure a corridor to Central Asia. India needs to retain its presence to prevent further consolidation of the Sino-Pakistan axis across the Karakoram pass.

This is not to deny the value of mutual troop reductions in Siachen. The current deployment of troops is not cost effective. However, the rumored redemarcation of the AGPL (even if accepted by Pakistan) is not in India's interest. Writing in the Asian Age, former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi says that "while the Indian Army is not averse to vacating the AGPL, if the nation so desires, but wants that what it secured with great effort and many sacrifices, and which it has held safely for the nation, in the face of enemy action, as well as the severity of the climate and the treacherous terrain, for the last 22 years, should not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency, merely to notch up one more CBM towards the ephemeral peace process". He added that "if India withdraws from Saltoro and Pakistan captures it, the situation then becomes irreversible".

Nehru had erred in "conceding" ground control over Baltistan and Gilgit to Pakistan in 1948. That terrain had enormous geopolitical significance given its proximity to Central Asia. Mrs. Gandhi recaptured Kargil - one of three districts of Baltistan - in 1971. India occupied Siachen in April, 1984. Pakistani troops under a certain Brigadier Musharraf unsuccessfully endeavored to undo this in 1987 and in 1999. Recall that before the Kargil aggression of 1999, Siachen was an unoccupied zone since 1949 with the positions of LoC clearly delineated as per the 1972 Simla Agreement. Yet the Pakistani Army had no scruples in violating these borders. There is a good reason not to trust them today since the mastermind of that war is still the ruler of that country.

There are reports that India might even drop its insistence on marking a AGPL in Siachen before withdrawing to show its 'eagerness' for the peace process during Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Pakistan in July. This is an unwise move devoid of strategic considerations. It is in India's long term interest to annex the restive region of Baltistan when Islamabad is preoccupied with domestic insurrections and Beijing focused elsewhere. Any compromise on the line of control could foreclose future options. Moreover, New Delhi can not forego its de jure claim on the territory.

The reported deal benefits Pakistan. Pakistan currently has 80,000 troops stationed in Balochistan to crush an insurrection there. It has another 80,000 troops tied down in the North West Frontier Province/Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Its military is stretched and it needs to urgently redeploy troops. Islamabad now requires a stable eastern frontier to tackle domestic issues to its west. India can use this to leverage better terms. For one, it should not concede on the line of control in the Siachen segment. While Pakistan would find this difficult to accept, India is not pressed for time.

The lack of transparency vis-a-vis the current negotiations is disturbing. India is a democracy where the executive is held accountable to the elected legislature. The authorities in New Delhi need to take Parliament into confidence on an issue of such importance. The Government must realize that its only constituency is the local one, not foreign interests.

Further reading:

Subhash Kapila, India: Government set to repeat strategic blunder of Aksai Chin in Siachen?,South Asian Analysis Group, 2006.

Vishnu Makhijani, From Haji Pir to Siachen, it is deja vu for the Indian Army , IANS, 2006.

Co-authored by Jaffna and Cynical Nerd


Anonymous said...

this is an eye opener. there is a trend today of india making one sided compromises. siachen should be with india since it overlooks the Leh highway. we have the advantage of height today and should not give that up.

Anonymous said...

Man, it's one thing after anoter with this disastorous government. Are they committed to destroying everything good for India and compromise India's national interest? I thought that te idiotic nuclear deal was the worst possible sell-out of India's national interests, but this one seems to be almost as bad if not worse. Not to mention reservations, Natwar Singh, increased and emboldened terrorist attacks...wy are Indians so stupid as to elect these commie and congressi traitors? Arghhh...!!!

Jaffna said...

Anonymous 1 & 2

To be fair by Manmohan Singh, I think he is motivated entirely be economics. The civil nuclear deal with the United States is one example. The reported agreement on Siachen is another.

In each case, Manmohan appears to have rushed decision making to meet artificial deadlines be it the Bush visit to India in March, 2006 or his upcoming visit to Islamabad in July, 2006.

From an economic standpoint, discussions on Siachen might make sense, albeit flawed. India currently spends US$ 300 million each year to maintain its troop presence there. All troop movements to Siachen and back have to be done by helicopter as Pakistan controls the land route.

But foreign policy and defence is not about economics and the open market alone. It is more about strategic advantage.

India needs to retain future options with regard to Central Asia. And Siachen makes pre-eminent sense from that perspective.

This is not entirely unhelpful to the economy either. For instance Jet Airways plans to commence flights to the region. Furthermore, the US$ 300 million goes somewhere and finances investment there.

The Government needs to be held accountable to the legislature and should explain the deal before agreeing to anything.

Best regards

Anonymous said...


I thought that we agreed in the previous tread that the nuke deal is a comprehensive disaster, even from an economic viewpoint. See this, for example:

I quote:
"India has the world’s second largest reserves of coal but only a fraction ends up going to domestic coal-based power plants."

Globally, coal is recognized as the cheapest possible fuel source for producing electricity in terms of cost/MW. How do you expect that nuclear power will be cheaper? Have you thought about what will happen to global Uranium prices if, God forbid, India is actually foolish enough to waste billions of dollars in buying crappy American nuke plants and create a deamnd sock in the Uranium market?

As you rightly observe, MMS is falling for artifically created deadlines that are meant to induce faulty decision-making under pressure. This is the oldest trick in the handbook of negotiating, see this for example:

Vishal said...

It is foolish to harp on Siachin while we are being death the death of thousand cuts
by Maoists.
And now Sitaram Yechury wants the Nepali Maoists that are detained in India to be released. We need a strong party to make public this Communist-Maoist nexus.
Unfortunately BJP is dead inert.
Congress has sold itself to Communists and castists.

Jaffna said...


The Maoist strategy might indeed be to bleed India by a thousand cuts. But it still remains a law and order problem. The suppression of the Naxalite problem will not be difficult provided a competent police force is authorized to crush it. This will need to be accompanied by basic land reform and empowerment of the poor in Naxalite infested areas.

Siachen on the other hand is strategic territory. It can not be bartered away for a nebulous peace. Extremists today killed 22 Indians in Doda. The peace with Pakistan is therefore illusive at best.

Nehru gave away the Coco islands to Burma in 1954. The man failed to realize its strategic importance in the Bay of Bengal.

Burma in turn in the 1990s allowed China to set up a covert military facility there to monitor India. That was stupidity on his part.

India should not repeat these mistakes any more.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

Any political decision can be argued 'for' and 'against' perspectives, same is the case with Siachen military reduction proposal of the government. While I acknowledge the fact that political leaders will try to sign so called 'path breaking' deal/ agreement during their summit visits, I cannot believe that Manmohan singh will sell out India to make some breaking news during his Pak visit. I fully agree that we cannot trust these commies on National Security Interests....Hope Narayanan has done his homework while proposing a reduction of military. History has taught us that no one can trust the Pakistanis, their foreign policy is nothing but an ISI mission statement.

We have to assume that the Indian Pakistan policy is significantly linked to its Afghan policy, particularly its eagerness to get a passage to Afghanistan, the fact that India is spendig nearly half a billion dollar in aid in Afghanistan is a clear strategy to get well rooted in the backyard of Pakistan. This is also the US strategy, it wants Indian presence in Afghanistan while they phase out. This has good economic and foreign policy sense, but the fact that the Pakistan is not a trust worthy dealmaker should be fully taken into account. This meaans that we cannot have a partial reduction in strength without a clear physical demarcation. Hope the Indian natiional security expers will not be mypoic and foolish to trust the Pakistanis. While the some in the Delhi intellectual circule may be eager to hug their cultural cousins from the otherside of the boarder and many eye the business interests in India_Pak trade, hope Mr. M.K narayanan will be capable to look these issues from the perspectives of national interests........
Let us wish ourselves Good Luck!!!!

One request, can you please share the Blog with the so called Security Experts in India


Manish A said...

After reading your excellent post, may I request the authors to remove the "?" from the post title. Is there any doubt on the sell-out part. This is a very serious issue. Is this the way of honoring of brave soliders who made the supreme sacrifice defending Kargil and Siachen heignts.

Since this UPA govt came to power, it has been callously running its domestic and foreign policy.

Be it on the domestic issues like reservations, religous survey in the Armed Forces, doing nothing on various internal (Maoist) and external (Pakistan, Bangladesh) security threats, this is a shameful government.

And what about that nuclear deal, that economist Prime Minister is supposed to clarify on the terms of surrendering our strategic assests to the Americans - let's hear it.

Anonymous said...

From the Hindu:

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party would support a "settlement" of the Siachen issue with Pakistan only if certain factors are in place, including a "confirmation" of the actual ground position line (AGPL) in Siachen and the icy Saltora glacier, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh has said.

In a letter to Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee dated April 24 — a copy of which was released to a group of journalists here on Friday — Mr. Singh expressed his concern over reports that a "settlement" was near. He pointed out that statements had come from the Army that no solution should be arrived at without due deliberation.

He referred to reported statements attributed to National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan — without naming him — that an accord on troop reduction and withdrawal was "imminent." His letter cautioned the Government against "alterations to the AGPL" saying that it was disturbing to note that "a number of officials have been quoted as suggesting such alteration to the AGPL as almost a done." This was causing "great disquiet in the Army."

In response to questions Mr. Singh said the BJP would not oppose troop reduction in Siachen and Saltora glaciers only if certain factors were in place. One, there must be "confirmation of the AGPL as the defining line." Two, India must get a commitment from Pakistan against reoccupation of the Siachen heights. Three, the extent of troop reduction/withdrawal must ensure no terrain advantage to Pakistan leading to any surreptitious reoccupation. Four, there should be a time-schedule for an agreement on environmental and ecological cleaning up of the glaciers with each country cleaning up the mess made by it.

Mr. Singh did not favour joint patrols to monitor/prevent reoccupation as it was the job of each country to ensure that no changes or alterations are made on the AGPL.

He emphasised the "inviolability" of the Line of Control (LoC) as of "central importance" — Pakistan was isolated diplomatically during Kargil as a direct result. And this was as true of the Siachen sector where the LoC had been termed the AGPL. The Government must not treat the AGPL "casually."

He said the party was not against a settlement. "I would be the first to bring our troops to a more habitable terrain." But, any solution must fully recognise the sacrifices made by our soldiers since 1984.

Also, the Government must share with the Opposition what exactly was happening on the Siachen issue

Anonymous said...

Excellent and informative as always with the two best in blogging. The following might interest you, Jaffna.

Asian Age - May 02, 2006

Some questions about the nuclear deal

By K. Natwar Singh

On February 27, 1967, I sent Mrs Indira Gandhi a note. I was then working as a middle level IFS official in her secretariat. The note related to the nuclear powers. A well-known West German Christian Democrat MP, Felix Von Eckardt, had said this:

"Non-proliferation is like a club of notorious boozers who demanded a written agreement from the teetotallers that they never take alcohol and won't even touch a drop when a glass is offered to them. And then after the pact is signed, these drinkers not only sit together and booze it up again, but throw the empty bottles at the teetotallers..."

India is no longer a teetotaller, but efforts are afoot to even deny us the de facto status of a nuclear weapons state.

I was closely associated with the July 18, 2005 agreement. I fully supported Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I did so for good reasons.

Firstly, it was evident that the Bush administration had come a long way from the highly critical and sanction imposing Clinton administration. This was welcome. Second, I was impressed by the genuineness of President Bush to have closer, deeper and wider relations with the Manmohan Singh government. America is the predominant world power. It was in our interest to fully reciprocate the friendly approach of President Bush.

I was also aware of the pitfalls. Arrogance of power distorts vision and clarity. The Americans are also given to dramatic U-turns. Henry Kissinger's 1972 China U-turn was of momentous proportions. Nevertheless, diplomatic elasticity has its uses. Nations should resort to it with greater and sincere frequency.

Then there were serious differences in our world class scientific community about the nuclear deal. I saw no immediate threat to the July 18, 2005 agreement. I supported Dr Manmohan Singh's statements, the ones he made on July 29 and February 27, 2006 and March 7, 2006. I wrote to congratulate him, even though a thin dark cloud was beginning to form on the Indo-US nuclear horizon.

The Americans began to show a not so subtle reluctance to use the word "reciprocity." For India, reciprocity was, and is, fundamental. All three statements of the Prime Minister emphasise this in unambiguous terms. On February 27, 2006, he told Parliament: "India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other states which have advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States."

So far so good.

The Prime Minister also was forthright when in the same statement he added the all important (separation, civil and military) words, "this was to be conditional upon, and reciprocal to the United States fulfilling its side of the understanding... reciprocity was the key and we expected that the steps to be taken by India would be conditional upon and contingent on action taken by the United States."

The Prime Minister's March 7, 2006 statement invited some flak from several responsible quarters about the civil-military separation plan. I was not privy to the deliberations inside government of India, and so I said nothing.

My misgivings began on April 5, 2006. That day Ms Condoleezza Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions on the nuclear deal. The same day she also appeared before the House International Relations Committee.

She made it quite clear that India would not become a nuclear weapons state. No "same benefits" as US. But that was not all. Ms Rice elaborated: "That the NPT is the cornerstone" and that "the Nuclear Suppliers Group had certain standards of behaviour. India is agreeing to adhere to those unilaterally through the Missile Control Technology Regime, which India is agreeing to adhere to unilaterally." There was no mention of reciprocity.

My understanding (a layman's) was and is that the Indo-US nuclear deal is about energy and not about arms control or non-proliferation.

The question is: Have we unilaterally agreed to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and MTCR conditionalities? This confusion needs to be dispelled.

Senator Allen brought in the Proliferation Security Initiative adding that he had discussed this with our Prime Minister.

Have we been discussing this?

Ms Rice replied to Senator Allen: "We are, in fact, prodding the Indians to do so. And they have shown great interest in the Proliferation Security Initiative."

Have we been discussing this with the Americans?

I was also uneasy about unilateralism impinging on the FMCT (nuclear fuel cap) or the MTCR (restrictions on missile development).

Now, to the Additional Protocol with the IAEA: are we discussing this with the US? Surely Parliament should be taken into confidence. If I am not mistaken, Parliament was told that once the Waiver Bill is through, then government will have negotiations with the IAEA.

Will the Waiver Bill give us a carte blanche or not? So, no reciprocity. No "same status" as the US or other advanced nuclear states.

On the NPT and FMCT, the secretary of state did not provide satisfaction. She was hard on our foreign secretary: "told him in no uncertain terms... " On the Proliferation Security Initiative, "we will press very hard," she added. The US secretary of state said, "We clearly need something more than the NPT."

I am not and do not claim to be knowledgeable on complex nuclear matters. I am in favour of the nuclear deal. I consider the July 18, 2005 agreement as the key document. All that is needed is for government to clarify some specific issues raised in the Congressional hearings including "safeguards," additional protocol, separation of civil and military installations.

If unilateralism replaces reciprocity, then there is need for clarification. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will allay all concerns when he speaks in Parliament. I wish him good luck and success.

K. Natwar Singh is a former foreign minister

Tehmina Rehman said...

cynical nerd and jaffna:

This was a thoughtful and detailed post. extremely insightful. I wish our media had covered this with equal clarity. How much of the Karakoram range besides Siachen does India have? What does the PM hope to get in return by withdrawing troops from the heights that India had since 1984? Is he such a fool?

Anonymous said...

Hello to all readers of this Blog. I am posting an important message showing the inadequacies of the Indian Defence Ministry Babooooobs to safeguard the life and gidnity of our Jawans.............It is high time to correct these with a vision to value Indian Life, beyond the symantics of India Pakistan CBMs.....

Lt. Saurabh Kalia of 4 JAT Regiment of the Indian Army
laid down his life at the young age of 22 for the
nation while guarding the frontiers at Kargil. His
parents, indeed the Indian Army and nation itself,
lost a dedicated, honest and brave son. He was the
first officer to detect and inform about Pakistani
intrusion. Pakistan captured him and his patrol
party of 5 brave men alive on May 15, 1999 from the
Indian side of LOC.
They were kept in captivity for three weeks and
subjected to unprecedented brutal torture, evident
from their bodies handed over by Pakistan Army on June
9, 1999. The Pakistanis indulged in dastardly acts of
inflicting burns on the Indians with cigarettes,
piercing their ears with hot rods, removing their eyes
before puncturing them and breaking most of the bones
and teeth. They even chopped off various limbs and
private organs of the Indian soldiers besides
inflicting unimaginable physical and mental torture.

After 22 days of torture, the brave soldiers were
ultimately shot dead.
A detailed post-mortem report is with the Indian Army.
Pakistan dared to humiliate India this way flouting
all international norms. They proved the extent to
which they can degrade humanity. However, the Indian
soldiers did not break while undergoing all this
unimaginable barbarism,which speaks volumes of their
patriotism, grit, determination,tenacity and valour -
something all of India should be proud of. Sacrificing
oneself for the nation is an honou! r every soldier
would be proud of,but no parent, army or nation can
accept what happened to these brave sons of India. I
am afraid every parent may think twice to send their
child in the armed forces if we all fall short of our
duty in safeguarding the PRISONERS OF WAR AND LET THEM
It may also send a demoralizing signal to the army
personnel fighting for the Nation that our POWs in
Pak cannot be taken care of. It is a matter of shame
and disgust that most of Indian Human Rights
Organisations by and large, showed apathy in this
matter. Through this humble submission, may I appeal
to all the civilized people irrespective of colour,
caste, region, religion and political lineage to stir
their conscience and rise to take this as a NATIONAL

International Human Rights Organisations must be
approached to expose and pressure Pakistan to
identify, book and punish all those who perpetrated
this heinous crime to our men in uniform. If Pakistan
is allowed to go unpunished in this case, we can
imagine the consequences. Below is the list of 5 other
soldiers who preferred to die for the country
rather than open their mouths in front of enemy.

1. Sep. Arjun Ram s/o Sh. Chowkka Ram; Village & PO
Gudi. Teh. & Dist.Nagaur, (Rajasthan)
2. Sep. Bhanwar Lal Bagaria h/o Smt. Santosh Devi;
Village Sivelara;Teh.& Dist. Sikar (Rajasthan)
3. Sep. Bhikaram h/o Smt. Bhawri Devi; Village
Patasar; Teh.Pachpatva;Distt. Barmer (Rajasthan)
4. Sep. Moola Ram h/o Smt. Rameshwari Devi; Village
Katori; Teh.Jayal;Dist. Nagaur (Rajasthan)
5. Sep. Naresh Singh h/o Smt. Kalpana Devi; Village
Chhoti Tallam;Teh.Iglas; Dist.Aligarh (UP)

Yours truly,
Dr. N.K. Kalia (Lt. Saurabh Kalia's father).
Saurabh Nagar,
Palampur-176061 Himachal Pradesh Tel: +91 (01894)

Please sign in by writing your name and then copy and
paste it again to forward it to your friends and
relatives. Let us give some supporting hand to Dr.
Kalia in his efforts to get justice.

Remember, Lt Kalia and his colleagues died on the
front so that we could sleep peacefully in our home.


JAI HIND ......Victory to India

Best, Visionary

Jaffna said...


Thanks for the comments and post.

I am worried about Siachen but it now appears that the momentum against Manmohan Singh in the realm of foreign policy is building up. He might not be able to continue with his unilateral concessions for much longer.

Pakistan, a US client state, and Iran are entering into the pipeline agreement. Then why on earth did India have to abandon it on account of pressure from DC.

Condi's latest statement that more concessions from India on the nuclear deal are in order takes the cake.


Professor Masud said...

How many more young men will we lose? albeit in the name of bloody honour KILLING OF MEN, should I say? Young fresh men, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs died in my arms too in 1989-1990. Why ? for hills like Karakorum.
Please live and let others live peacefully. I have a wonderful beautiful wife and kids and if I am killed tommorrow in the name of India or Pakistan, what will they do, sing songs for the K2, Karakorum or Mount-everest. Regards. Professor Masud.

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