Si­achen Sur­ren­der: An Ex­pen­sive Af­fair

With­out a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy we may find so­lace in non-align­ment, but the po­lit­i­cal bungling in agree­ing to with­draw from Si­achen will surely be re­mem­bered as the gravest strate­gic blun­der of the 21st cen­tury by In­dia

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

With­out a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy we may find so­lace in non-align­ment, but the po­lit­i­cal bungling in agree­ing to with­draw from Si­achen will surely be re­mem­bered as the gravest strate­gic blun­der of the 21st cen­tury by In­dia.

THE DYE HAS BEEN cast for an­other strate­gic blun­der by In­dia in agree­ing to with­draw from Si­achen, that too with­out a de­bate in Par­lia­ment. The dif­fer­ence this time is that pub­lic fo­cus may be de­flected through ex­pec­ta­tions/ award of a No­bel Peace Prize, the pos­si­bil­ity of which may have been hinted by west­ern me­di­a­tors—play­ing their own games that our lead­er­ship is too naive to dis­cern. What do you make of Canada-US prop­ping up Pak­istan (read Kayani) at In­dia’s ex­pense? Why are the At­lantic Coun­cil of Canada, Ot­tawa Univer­sity, the At­lantic Coun­cil of the US and Na­tional De­fense Univer­sity, Washington, in­ti­mately in­volved in In­dia-Pak­istan con­fi­dence build­ing mea­sures (CBMs) not dis­cussing a ‘Peace Park’ astride the Du­rand Line, re­solv­ing cri­sis in Mid­dle East and Syria? Has de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of Korea, de­creased chances of con­flict? How much do we know about the US-China Com­mit­tee on In­dia and what they dis­cuss? How much did we know of the se­cret chan­nel be­tween the US and China through Pak­istan, chron­i­cled by F.S. Ai­jazud­din in his book From a Head, Through a Head, To a Head, wherein he de­scribes Chou En-lai’s ad­vice to Ayub Khan to raise a mili­tia to fight a pro­longed war be­hind the en­emy (In­dia) lines—man­i­fested in to­day’s ji­hadi ter­ror­ists. With­out a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy we may find so­lace in non-align­ment, but the po­lit­i­cal bungling in agree­ing to with­draw from Si­achen will surely be re­mem­bered as the gravest strate­gic blun­der of the 21st cen­tury by In­dia.

In­dia-Pak­istan CBM’s – Si­achen Story

Af­ter numer­ous In­dia-Pak­istan mil­i­tary CBM meets at Dubai, Bangkok, Chi­ang Mai and Palo Alto, the In­dia-Pak­istan Track II at La­hore (Septem­ber 23-25, 2012) signed an agree­ment to de­mil­i­tarise Si­achen de­spite grave reser­va­tions by some In­dian mem­bers—a former am­bas­sador, a three star rank of­fi­cer each from Army and Navy and even a former Spe­cial Sec­re­tary of Re­search and Anal­y­sis Wing (RAW). The de­ci­sion to de­mil­i­tarise or rather with­draw from Si­achen has ap­par­ently been taken ar­bi­trar­ily at the high­est po­lit­i­cal level dis­re­gard­ing strong ob­jec­tions by suc­ces­sive Army Chiefs, in­clud­ing the present Chief. The agree­ment mainly in­cludes: set­ting up of a joint com­mis­sion to de­lin­eate the line be­yond NJ 9842; joint au­then­ti­ca­tion of present ground po­si­tions; de­ter­mi­na­tion of re­de­ploy­ment ar­eas; dis­en­gage­ment and de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion time frame; and co­op­er­a­tive mon­i­tor­ing en­sur­ing trans­parency. The agree­ment states that re-oc­cu­pa­tion can­not be done in a hurry, which is stupid; even dis­count­ing In­dia’s light­en­ing heli-borne oc­cu­pa­tion, some ar­eas of Sal­toro have ‘no’ snow dur­ing sum­mer and can be reached in dark­ness, bad weather on foot and re­main un­de­tected—are we for­get­ting Kargil in­tru­sions? Tech­ni­cal sur­veil­lance is a mis­nomer con­sid­er­ing the means, ter­rain and weather. Wasn’t the US with all its tech­ni­cal re­sources sur­prised by Pokhran II?

Dup­ing the Na­tion

How has this hap­pened de­spite se­ri­ous ob­jec­tions by the Army? The government brief­ing to the Track II Team fo­cused mainly on Army’s stand that fur­ther talks are taken up af­ter ground po­si­tions of both sides get au­then­ti­cated, which did not im­ply a to­tal package. Mem­bers’ queries as to why we should de­mil­i­tarise and when does the government want it, were not an­swered. The strate­gic im­por­tance of the Sal­toro Ridge was sys­tem­at­i­cally ob­fus­cated by or­ches­trat­ing elec­tronic and print me­dia. Government and gullible TV chan­nels and journos (Nira Ra­dia tapes lever­ages in­cluded) were mo­bilised and se­lected former uni­formed of­fi­cers (shunted out by Army or given the op­tion to re­sign or face le­gal ac­tion) put up on TV shows to morph per­cep­tions. A bar­rage that Si­achen has no strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance was let loose; a former two star of­fi­cer even wrote In­dia is hold­ing Karako­ram Pass—a bla­tant lie. Na­tional dailies re­fused to print ar­ti­cles high­light­ing the enor­mous strate­gic dis­ad­van­tage of with­draw­ing from Si­achen and nei­ther could this be de­bated by them on TV—government in­struc­tions to me­dia houses. North­ern Army Com­man­der, an out­stand­ing pro­fes­sional and diehard na­tion­al­ist op­posed to Si­achen de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion was pro­posed to be shifted to South­ern Com­mand (to get a pli­able re­place­ment) but he re­fused. In­dian team

Why do the CBMs have to start with with­drawal from Si­achen? Be­fore tak­ing such a step, wasn’t a dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment war­ranted?

were care­fully se­lected; not one has served in Si­achen, no in­fantry of­fi­cer (of six Army of­fi­cers) and the team never vis­ited Si­achen de­spite months of par­leys. Po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions of two former uni­formed mem­bers are well known. They would ob­vi­ously be re­warded for tow­ing the line blind­folded— pos­si­ble am­bas­sador­ship/gov­er­nor­ship to the leader (former Air Force Chief) and a bag of juicy car­rots for an­other former one star of Army. A government of­fi­cial also re­marked that the Track II team is as good as Track I.

The sole aim ap­pears to be a No­bel Peace Prize at ‘any cost’ show­cas­ing ma­jor achieve­ment be­fore elec­tions. The mil­i­tary can­not open their mouths, veter­ans op­pos­ing with­drawal are de­nied me­dia fo­rums and the gullible pub­lic would be too elated with the peace prize. Government of­fi­cials un­of­fi­cially say that they never thought Pak­istan would agree to au­then­ti­ca­tion of ground po­si­tions as this was their ear­lier stand, which is rub­bish since me­di­a­tors would have sounded Pak­istani in­ten­tions well in ad­vance. Head­ing the Pak­istani team, Jehangir Kara­mat, who is an exDGMO and Army Chief, un­der­stands the strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance of Sal­toro. Not only did Pak­istan grab the strate­gic op­por­tu­nity, they man­aged the full works. At­lantic Coun­cil, Ot­tawa, promptly put out the news on the In­ter­net. Shuja Nawaz, head­ing the At­lantic Coun­cil of the US fully-net­worked with Kayani, was in close touch with At­lantic Coun­cil, Ot­tawa and at­tended most meet­ings. The At­lantic Coun­cil of the US, an ex­ten­sion of Pak­istani Mil­i­tary, is well funded and has ex­panded with ad­di­tional of­fi­cers, courtesy Kayani. The Coun­cil man­ages per­cep­tions in the US pub­lic do­main in­clud­ing the diplo­matic and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. We need to take a cue and es­tab- lish think tanks abroad rather than fo­cus on per­cep­tion man­age­ment within In­dia, as in the in­stant case. The line of con­trol be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan was orig­i­nally drawn on a 1:250,000 map with a thick sketch pen with­out mil­i­tary ad­vice that left a vari­a­tion of hun­dred plus me­tres at any given point be­sides not al­ways fol­low­ing ridge­lines —a source of per­ma­nent hos­til­ity and ac­ri­mony ever since. If the government has set its heart on the No­bel Peace Prize come what may, a flour­ish of the same thick pen may be used to de­lin­eate the line of ground po­si­tions, fol­lowed by or­der­ing with­drawal.

Ar­gu­ments of ex­penses and ca­su­al­ties are ir­rel­e­vant con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar po­si­tions in Kargil, along the line of con­trol (LoC) in Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) and de­fences fac­ing China. Si­achen is fully sta­bilised, com­pared to some other places. Should we then va­cate Kargil? What about the bri­gade mi­nus worth of ca­su­al­ties in counter-in­sur­gency in J&K—should we run from there too?

Strate­gic Ad­van­tage

Pervez Mushar­raf ad­mits in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that Pak­istan was plan­ning to put a bat­tal­ion on Sal­toro Ridge but the In­di­ans pre-empted that move. If Sal­toro had no strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance, why would Pak­istan: at­tempt oc­cu­pa­tion; draw imag­i­nary LoC from NJ9842 di­rectly to Karako­ram Pass, make re­peated at­tempts to gain footholds, un­der­take Kargil in­tru­sions to cut off Si­achen; and al­ways harp on demilitarising? Pak­istan is at a great dis­ad­van­tage at the Sal­toro Ridge and Pak­istan’s dis­re­gard of Shia dom­i­nated Baltistan, en­forced de­mo­graphic changes, sub­tle but de­lib­er­ate con­ver­sions to Sunni form of Is­lam and state-spon­sored Shia mas­sacres is turn­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Baltistan ex­plo­sive that can threaten sus­te­nance of Pak­istani troops in Si­achen. Strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance of Sal­toro should be seen in re­la­tion to: Ex­ten­sion of the line north from NJ 9842 to Daf­dar in Tagh­dum­bash Pamir near Beyik Pass (bor­der­ing Wakhan Cor­ri­dor)—north-west­ern ex­trem­ity of the J&K-Ti­bet bor­der. In­creas­ing Chi­nese foot­prints in Gil­gitBaltistan cou­pled with China’s il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of Shaks­gam Val­ley and Ak­sai Chin and the bridge that Si­achen pro­vides to th­ese ar­eas, which will pro­vide fur­ther China-Pak­istan link up. De­fence of Ladakh post-with­drawal. Tremen­dous dom­i­na­tion that we en­joy over Pak­istani po­si­tions.


Fall­out of with­drawal from Si­achen would be as fol­lows: It will di­lute our 1994 Par­lia­ment res­o­lu­tion that J&K is an in­te­gral part of In­dia. The new de­fence line will need many more times ad­di­tional troops than the bri­gade cur­rently man­ning Si­achen. Flood­gates of in­fil­tra­tion into Ladakh will open—ter­ror­ists also tar­get­ing Ladakh and Zan­skar Ranges. This will re­quire rais­ing of more for­ma­tions and bat­tal­ions—both mil­i­tary and po­lice forces. ISI has been nur­tur­ing Shia ter­ror­ist out­fits with an eye on Ladakh

since the late 1990s. When Mushar­raf said, “There will be many more Kargil’s,” it was with the con­fi­dence that he will be able to fool In­dia into with­draw­ing from Si­achen. Courtesy Pak­istan, we have al­ready wit­nessed spo­radic com­mu­nal ten­sion in Ladakh. The above will en­tail ex­pen­di­ture of lakhs of crores of ru­pees that will eat into al­ready mea­gre mod­erni­sa­tion funds of the Army. Dou­ble-cross­ing by Pak­istan is pos­si­ble in the garb of so-called non-state ac­tors. The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) in the garb of ge­ol­o­gists can flood the area. Re­cap­ture is out of ques­tion—a former Army Chief gave this in writ­ing to the government.


The pub­lic and the Par­lia­ment have the right to ask the government what ex­actly Pak­istan has done to earn such a trust. Has the an­tiIn­dia ter­ror­ist in­fra­struc­ture in Pak­istan and Pak­istan Oc­cu­pied Kash­mir (POK) been dis­man­tled? Has ‘any’ worth­while progress been made in pun­ish­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror at­tacks? Isn’t the China-Pak­istan nexus arm­ing, equip­ping and stok­ing in­sur­gen­cies in In­dia? Isn’t the ISI hell-bent on re­viv­ing mil­i­tancy in Pun­jab? Isn’t the ISI link to as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Lt Gen­eral K.S. Brar ad­e­quate proof? Wasn’t the cease­fire con­tin­u­ously breached while Pak­istani par­lia­men­tar­i­ans were dis­cussing CBMs in In­dia re­cently? Why does ev­ery US think tank re­fer to Pak­istan as the most dan­ger­ous place in the world?

Way Out

A Track II agree­ment should not be bind­ing on Track I dis­cus­sions es­pe­cially with ram­i­fi­ca­tions on our 1994 Par­lia­ment res­o­lu­tion of J&K be­ing an in­te­gral part of In­dia. We should have only agreed to de­lin­eate ex­ten­sion of the LC north of NJ 9842; run­ning north to Daf­dar in Tagh­dum­bash Pamir near Beyik Pass (bor­der­ing Wakhan Cor­ri­dor) on the north-west­ern ex­trem­ity of J&K-Ti­bet bor­der. This should be our stance for the Joint Com­mis­sion to de­lin­eate the line be­yond NJ 9842. Au­then­ti­ca­tion of ground po­si­tions should have noth­ing to do with de­lin­eation of the line be­yond NJ 9842. Only af­ter the LC be­yond NJ 9842 is es­tab­lished, fur­ther dis­cus­sion on CBM’s with re­spect to Si­achen should progress. This would be in In­dia’s na­tional in­ter­ests.

The Real Pic­ture

In­di­ans may gloat in shar­ing Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh’s moment of glory in ex­pect­ing/re­ceiv­ing a peace prize but pos­ter­ity will curse him and his government, as they curse Jawa­har­lal Nehru for 1962 and his China utopia if with­drawal from Si­achen be thrust upon the na­tion.

De­fence an­a­lyst and former Pak­istani Army of­fi­cer Agha H. Amin writes, “Utopi­ans in In­dia are ju­bi­lant that Pak­istan has made peace with In­dia. Noth­ing in re­al­ity can be far­ther from truth….The real pic­ture of true in­ten­tions of the Pak­istani mil­i­tary will emerge when the US with­draws from Afghanistan. This will be the time when the Rus­sians, Ira­ni­ans and In­di­ans will have no choice but to sup­port the North­ern Al­liance against Pak­istan-spon­sored Tal­iban who re­gard all Shias, Is­mailis, non-Pash­tuns, mod­er­ates Pash­tuns as in­fi­dels who de­serve to be mas­sa­cred.…Pak­istani politi­cians will re­main as pup­pets of the mil­i­tary that they have been since 1977”. Why do the CBMs have to start with with­drawal from Si­achen? Be­fore tak­ing such a step, wasn’t a dis­cus­sion in Par­lia­ment war­ranted?


For­eign Sec­re­tary Ran­jan Mathai with his Pak­istani coun­ter­part

Jalil Ab­bas Ji­lani in Is­lam­abad on Septem­ber 7, 2012

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