by editor | April 9, 2012 2:17 pm
By Waheed Hamid
The PRIDE of Pakistan Six Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI) which was on duty of our protection on the world’s highest battle ground and operating in temperatures as low as -60 C (-76 F), vicious winds and altitude sickness — the region is just east of the world’s second-highest peak, K-2 .Climate have killed far more than the fire. Casualty figures are not released by either military, but hundreds are believed to have died there. A battalion headquarters size Pakistani post working since last 20 years in Gyari sector of Siachen came under avalanche 80 feet deep and almost a km by km in size .We all pray for them .
Six Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI) – Unit History The history of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment dates back to 1889 when a “Levy Force” was raised by Colonel Algenon Durand which was re-organized as “Gilgit Scouts” in August 1913 by Major JC Bridges 5th Gorkha Rifiles. Later on “Northern Scouts” was raised in October 1949 by taking it’s manpower from Gilgit Scouts and the first Commandant was Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Muhammad Rafi Khan. Due to operational requirement, the Corps of Northern Scouts was bifurcated on 1st July 1964 and a separated Corps by the name of “Karakurm Scouts” was raised with it’s HQ at Skardu whose first Commandant was Major Sardar Muhammad Hussain Shaikh. “Northern Light Infantry” was raised by complete re-organized of Gilgit, Northern and Karakuram Scouts in Northern Areas on 1 November 1975. 6 Northern Light Infantry Regiment was converted into Northern Light Infantry Battalion on 1 November 1975 from 104 Wing of Karakuram Scouts. This conversion took place at Skardu with a local name of “SIKKIS”. The unit has rich history of valour. The unit participated in 1965 and 1971 wars as Karakuram Scouts from Olding Sector Skardu. It had a stay of two years at Siachen Glacier, four tenures of Azad Kashmir including two tenures of Sher Gali at Lipa Sector, Over and above the other areas of FCNA.
Honour and Awards
Problems at high altitude
Challenges of Command
Command of troops in such environment is an extreme test of leadership traits. In addition to managing troops, commanders have to ensure that their own temperament and deportment remain unaffected. Irrational and erratic behaviour by a commander is a sure recipe for the breakdown of normal functioning of a military unit. Therefore, it is essential that they be trained to read signs of their own inconsistent behaviour to be able to exercise caution. It is only then that they can monitor mental and physical health of their troops.
The problem of isolation in the case of officers is far more acute as almost all posts are manned by a solitary officer with his men. He has no one around to share his feelings and thoughts. Therefore, every officer in the glacier has to be physically and mentally robust.
Commanders have to be on the look out for possible behavioural changes amongst troops and handle them with empathy. They should be able to identify symptoms of extreme duress and take timely curative action. Instead of commanding troops through issuance of orders, they have to modify their style of leadership. Less authoritarian approach and display of compassion invariably prove more effective.
Most officers assume the mantle of being a father figure to their troops. They make them eat their meals sitting in front of them. Periodic ‘letter parades’ are held where all troops are ordered to write letters to their homes conveying their welfare. Soldiers are engaged in informal conversation and encouraged subtly to share their concerns.
The Brave Hearts with Never-Say-Die Spirit
The very fact that during the last three decades of Indian Army’s deployment on Siachen Glacier, there has not been a single incident of transgression bears testimony to the mental and physical robustness of Indian soldiers and the high quality of leadership. To date, no Indian soldier has ever sought exemption from serving on the glacier.
A battalion headquarters size Pakistani post working since last 20 years in Gyari sector of Siachen came under avalanche 80 feet deep and almost a km by km in size raising obvious question why now? It is not just 135 Pakistani soldiers who lost life but will also affect their families and more importantly, same can happen tomorrow to anyone in the region. Glaciers are ancient rivers of compressed snow that creep through the landscape, shaping the planet’s surface. They are the earth’s largest freshwater reservoirs, collectively covering an area the size of South America. Most of the world’s glaciers are located around the poles. In the non-polar region, the Himalaya Mountains are the origin of many glaciers and important rivers of Asia. The range offers a variety of glaciers. It includes Siachen, Baltoro, Biafo, Nubra and Hispur Glaciers. But the most important is the Siachen Glacier, which is the largest glacier outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains at about 35°3’N 77°0’E, at an altitude of 15,000 feet, on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. A portion of it is being controlled each by India and Pakistan. 70 km (43 mi) long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakorams. The glaciers are the main and the biggest source of fresh water in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. Therefore they are a lifeline for hundreds of millions of people of the area whose food security is dependent on Himalayan waters.
The Siachen Glacier’s melting ice is the main source of the Nubra River in Indian controlled Ladakh, which drains into the Shyok River. The Shyok in turn joins the Indus River. Thus the glacier is a major source of the Indus waters. The Indus Basin is the 12th largest basin in the world, ensuring food replenishment to millions of people. The geographic layout of the area is such that it slopes towards the south and southwest. Therefore speedy melting of the Siachen Glacier increases the chances of flooding the Indus Basin and causing destructive snow avalanches on both sides of Saltoro Ridge. If this happens, most of the routes used by world mountaineering expeditions, particularly originating or passing through Pakistan, would become unsafe.
As a matter of fact glaciers have been retreating worldwide since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850), but in recent decades glaciers have begun melting at rates that cannot be explained by historical trends. Since the early 1960s, mountain glaciers worldwide have experienced an estimated net loss of over 4,000 cubic kilometres of water. However, among the legendary peaks of K2 and Nanga Parbat, glaciers with a penthouse view of the world are rather growing. It is the Siachen Glacier only which is melting and that too on the eastern side of the Saltoro Ridge (presently occupied by the Indian army), the retreat of which has been observed as about 110 meters a year. It is the fastest melting rate of any glacier in the world. Reports also indicate that a large lake has formed in the middle of the Siachen Glacier presently occupied by the Indian army.
It seems very strange that the glacier is defrosting fast on one side and at the same time growing on the other side. It really raises a question why global warming is not affecting the Himalayan glaciers uniformly? Is it global warming or something different that is causing rapid melting, thereby shrinking the glacier? In the recent past, expert reports suggested another probable cause: the erection of artificial infrastructure and human activity in the area as it has been an active battlefield for the last two decades or so. The surfacing of a lake at a location which is the centre of military activity of the Indian army further strengthens such speculations. It indicates one more thing that glaciers on the western side bear thin infrastructure and human activity. In any case, global warming has less to do with deicing of the Siachen Glacier. It is also evident from a statement of the Indian environment minister who admitted that there was no scientific proof to support the idea that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers was being caused by global warming. A report in the August 10, 2009 issue of Current Science journal of India said that the “Siachen Glacier has not been affected by the rise in global temperatures.” Jammu University scientists have also claimed that the “Himalayan glaciers, including the world’s highest battlefield Siachen, are melting not because of global warming.” The prevailing evidence therefore points towards extraordinary activity of the Indian army, the infrastructure being established and huge explosive storages on the eastern side of the Saltoro Ridge.
The effects of thawing of glaciers and particularly Siachen Glacier, being the largest in the region, are going to be devastating. However, there exists little awareness among the world community regarding the causes of this phenomenon. After clarifications of scientific experts and Indian officials themselves, it leaves not even an iota of doubt that the rapid shrinkage of the Siachen Glacier is due to chemical and explosive storage and cutting of glacial ice by the Indian army and not by global warming.
The de-icing of glaciers is not only hazardous for the food security of the region, particularly for the Indus Basin area, it is equally disadvantageous to the world’s mountaineering expeditions that commence their journey from this area. The area contains the highest peaks of the world like K2 and Nanga Parbat and remains attractive to world hikers. Ensuring a pollution-free and safe environment is the joint responsibility of all. It must be appreciated that war-specific developments are a death sentence for Himalayan glaciers. Blaming only global warming for rapid defrosting is a false impression being created deliberately by India with a view to covering up the serious and catastrophic environmental crime its army is committing. It is therefore a moral obligation of the world community and United Nations to take notice of the Indian army’s activities in Siachen and ensure that the Himalayan glaciers are not disturbed. Their deterioration would not only be detrimental to food safety, it would also be catastrophic to global environmental efforts. The global environment and human right experts and activists may realize one day that they have stains of this blood on their ignorance and not putting enough pressure on Pakistan and India to demilitarize the GLACIER
Zofeen Ebrahim interviews ARSHAD ABBASI, advocate of the demilitarisation of the largest Himalayan glacier*
Situated on the strategic tri-junction of India, China and Pakistan, the glacier is considered a climate regulator and an “ecological source” for South Asia, says Abbasi.
Dubbed the world’s highest battleground, at 21,000 feet above sea level, the 77-kilometre-long glacier has been melting rapidly due to military presence in the region. Since 1984, India and Pakistan have been laying claim to the ice mass, where fighting between the two states has been going on intermittently since April 1984.
Troops on both sides have played irrevocable havoc with the region’s biodiversity, ecology and hydrology, says Abbasi, former director of the Planning Commission of Pakistan and now advisor to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a policy-oriented, research institute based in Islamabad.
Experts say human-induced climate change has contributed significantly to alarming changes in climate patterns that, among others, are affecting the rate at which glaciers melt, triggering a wave of natural disasters such as increased incidence of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.
According to estimates, about 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere daily due to burning of fuel for the sustenance of the troops and transportation of war material by land and air. Both India and Pakistan spend a million dollars a day to maintain their troops at Siachen — an enormous amount that, experts say, can go a long way to fight poverty and hunger that beset both countries.
Three percent of the casualties between the two forces fighting over the glacier are due to hostile fighting; the rest are attributed to the altitude, weather and avalanches.
Calling the Siachen conflict a war between the glacier and humans, not one between India and Pakistan, Abbasi says the 97 percent casualties point to that, because a majority of soldiers sustain frostbite and injuries caused by accidents arising from snowstorms and other natural causes, and very rarely from crossfire.
In an interview with IPS, Abbasi explains why the only war worth fighting is protecting the glacier and preserving the fragile ecology of the glacial ice, which may not be there for too long for the two sides to continue fighting over.
Q: How and when did you begin calling for the demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier?
A: It began when I received the first satellite imagery (of the Himalayan glaciers) and compared it with the status of the glacial mass in 1978. The most significant ice-mass loser was Siachen. I shared the images with the director-general of the Meteorological Department, who told me that the glacier was overburdened by the armies of both countries (India and Pakistan).
Q: Why is the melting of Siachen catastrophic for the South Asian region?
A: In the last 25 years, the glacier has been reduced to 35 percent and is retreating three dimensionally, thinning vertically at an alarming rate, as well as retreating horizontally, at approximately more than 100 metres per year.
The melting of Siachen and other glaciers due to this (India-Pakistan) conflict is already causing variance in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, but its worst impact on global sea level rise remains under-estimated and understudied. Rising sea level is the most serious threat to the populations living on and along the coast.
Q: Is it unprecedented compared to other glaciers in the Himalayas?
A: Yes, the recession is unprecedented when you compare it to other neighbouring Himalayan glaciers like Bara Shigri, Gangotri and Chhota Shigri.
Q: Can you cite the factors that have contributed to the accelerated melting of the Siachen glacier?
A: Permanent base camps on the glacier, cantonments in its vicinity, hourly helicopter flights to retrieve wounded or sick soldiers and dropping off supplies, dumping military garbage and human waste, laying of 120-km-long oil pipeline for heating igloos, keeping rifles warm over kerosene stoves, melting the snow for machine guns by keeping them in boiling water, construction of bunkers by cutting and melting glacial ice millions of years old by sprinkling chemicals and (using) mechanical methods; and using glaciers as roads to reach the last base camps – Kamar and Indra – (these are) causing severe environmental degradation to the glacier.
Q: What to your mind is the solution to the pillaging of the Siachen Glacier?
A: Urgent demilitarisation by negotiating an honourable withdrawal and ban on mountaineering and other development activities near glacier regions. This would be the greatest relief for the Siachen and other Himalayan glaciers as direct human interference will come to a halt. The daily, rather hourly, aviation activities will be over. The glaciers would again grow or at least remain stable.
Q: The idea of a Siachen science park and a peace zone has been floated for years. What is your take on it?
A: I only support the idea of preservation of glaciers but not that of a science park. In Antarctica, since the last many decades, scientists conducting research from different nations have so far failed to develop any technique to preserve glaciers. On the other hand, their presence has made the continent vulnerable and (the glacier) is melting at an accelerated rate.
Q: You were present at the three-day Track-II Dialogue on Conflict Resolution and Peace Building (held in Bangkok on Oct. 7 to 9) between the two adversaries in Bangkok. Was there anything significant discussed there that gave you hope?
A: In the Pak-India track II dialogue, demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier was discussed. Major Gen Dipankar Banerjee, who served in Siachen, is taking a keen interest to convince Indian policymakers to save this glacier from melting. Other experts on both sides also held similar views. Preserving the Siachen and other Himalayan glaciers, they said, was in the best interest of both countries and the world at large.
It is time civil society, independent researchers and media, from both sides began pressing their respective governments to save and preserve the glaciers, especially the Siachen. I would also urge both sides to get an independent audit of the glacial ice-balance to compare what it was back, say, in 1984, with (what it is) now to get an idea of the damage caused (by military presence at Siachen).
(*This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.)
Siachen glacier melting fast due to military activity: study
Last Updated: Saturday, December 30, 2006, 00:00
Islamabad, Dec 30: Siachen glacier has been melting alarmingly more due to military activity of India and Pakistan than global warming, a new study has said.
Siachen glacier was rapidly melting because of the ongoing military activity at the highest flashpoint of the world, according to the study conducted by Arshad H Abbasi, a consultant for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“Siachen is weeping, tomorrow the world will cry,” the excerpts of the study, pubished in the local daily The News, say.
Siachen is the longest glacier in the non-polar regions from where the Nubara river originates and is a source of the Indus river in Pakistan which caters to 75 per cent of its irrigational requirements.
Another study conducted by Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power confirmed the decline of cold temperatures in Siachen. Pakistan Meteorological Department on November 25 last year informed the government that the Himalayan glaciers, particularly Siachen, have been receding for the last 30 years, with losses accelerating to alarming levels in the past decade.
“We are very much concerned over the development, but human activity with regard to the Siachen war could not be stopped until and unless the peoples of the two countries exert pressure upon their respective governments to stop the war,” it quoted an official as saying.
The studies reportedly pointed out that during the last two decades, the melting of Siachen glacier has now been bracketed amongst the fastest in the world. Its retreat is evident from the snout (base of the glacier) and through the continuous thinning of ice along its entire length. Siachen, along with several other major tributary glaciers, reduced their volume by 35 per cent during the last twenty years and retreating at the rate of 110 metres per year.
Update Gayari Rescue Operation By ISPR
Rawalpindi, April 10: Despite weather hazards, rescue work continues at Gayari. A total of 452 person including 69 civilians are employed on relief efforts. 2 Dozers, 2 JCB (Earth Mover), 3 Excavator and 2 dumpers are working day and night on the site. Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress. Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually.
Foreign rescue teams, Six members German team, three member Switzerland team have arrived in Pakistan and waiting for weather clearance to proceed to Gayari.
Seven members SPD team is using life detection kit and thermal imaging camera during the rescue operation.
Times of India commented…“The ruthless terrain and lack of oxygen at heights of 20,000 feet have a psychological toll on the soldiers posted in Siachen, killing more soldiers than gunfire. The economic costs are also huge and in 2009 it was estimated to be between Rs 3 to Rs 3.5 crore a day. Whether these hardships are strategically worth it, remains a matter of debate.” (Read here)
Building upon discussions during President Asif Ali Zardari’s Sunday visit to New Delhi, India and Pakistan are looking to step up the dialogue process by seeking to set dates for talks on the disputed Siachen glacier and Sir Creek marshland.
Issues relating to Siachen and Sir Creek figured in discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Zardari on Sunday, with the two sides agreeing to move forward the talks on what was felt to be doable issues.
No dates have been set but it’s likely that the talks on these two issues could take place before External Affairs Minister S M Krishna visits Islamabad in June-July.
During the talks, it was felt the two sides need to reinforce positive momentum in trade ties by focusing their diplomatic energy on making tangible progress on less contentious issues like Sir Creek and Siachen which could form the basis for Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan.
Although the Pakistani side has been insisting on a Manmohan Singh visit before the year ends, India maintains that the timing will depend on forward movement on Islamabad taking action to bring 26/11 perpetrators to justice and against 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed. (Read more here)
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, April 14: Search and rescue Operation at Gayari continues even in extremely cold conditions. A fresh slide, which had triggered at the site of old avalanche, have created difficulties for troops devoted to conducting search and rescue operation at Gayari. The situation has been compounded by the mass of snow in which troops are working under low temperature, intermittent snowfall and piercing blizzards. However, concern of their brothers at arms under avalanche is driving troops of Siachen Sector to endure hardships of the weather and terrain to accomplish their task befittingly.
The excavation work, therefore, continue at its fullest exploiting all available manual and mechanical resources. The endeavour is to dig as quickly as possible. In this regard, the search teams have commenced excavation at a new site as well with the help of plant equipment and infantry troops. The rescue teams have conducted first level explosion to dig further into hard mass of snow against the tunnel being attempted to access a suspected structure at an important excavation site. The digging team is doing a remarkable job in undertaking the tunnelling effort against all odds like heavy pileup of snow, extreme cold and cramped up work space. The excavation work at the remaining sites continues as usual. The all out support rendered by the nation by making maximum resources available have boosted the morale of the troops and given them vigour to undertake the mammoth task
1. Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas Saturday said that Pakistan Army is facing difficulties in Gyari rescue operation due to harsh weather, however 24-hour round the clock operation continued.
2. There’s definitely an environmental issue due to the large number of troops on the other side in Siachen but I cannot speculate if this has anything to do with the burial of our men in avalanche.” Director General Military Operations (MO) Major General Ishfaq Nadeem said responding to a query at a press briefing on the rescue operation in Gayari jointly addressed by the DG MO, DG Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas and DG South Asia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Zehra Akbari.
3. Pakistan Air force (PAF) is also making all out efforts for the rescue of Pakistan army soldiers trapped in avalanche.
4. Assistance was also sought from international organizations and friend countries, adding that teams from Germany, Switzerland and China had reached the area
5. DGMO said the American team also reached Pakistan and it would kick off work after the improvement of weather conditions. Gen Nadeem said that a team from Norway would also reach to the area soon.
6. Replying to a question, he said that 139 people including soldiers and civilians were present in the Battalion headquarters at the time of the incident.
7. Gen Nadeem said that the magnitude of the tragedy was so big that local rescue facilities in the region were not enough while movement of heavy equipments was also very difficult.
8. He told as many as 400 troops and some 60 civilians are currently taking part in rescue and search operation.
9. The DGMO said that all entire nation and army was praying for a miracle for the recovery of soldiers alive.
10. “A 1989 agreement exists, which settled the principles for the resolution of Siachen conflict,” Zehra Akbari, Director General (South Asia) at the Foreign Office, said at a media briefing on rescue operations in avalanche-hit Gayari.
11. “Time has come for the implementation of that agreement. It has to be resolved to prevent such mishaps from happening again,” she said.
12. The Director General of Military Operations, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem, said rescue efforts in Siachen were at “full-scale” and rescuers had been able to reach the ground level at two points, but did not find anyone.
13. Digging at other points, he added, was continuing. He admitted that chances of finding any survivors were slim, advising “prayers for a miracle”. He expressed the hope that rescue efforts would pick up pace in coming days after an expected improvement in weather.
14. Maj-Gen Nadeem said a new battalion headquarters had been raised at Goma to replace the one buried under the avalanche. The new headquarters has been properly staffed and equipped. It is fully operative now.
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, April 16: Search and rescue Operation at Gayari continues round the clock even against heavy odds. The weather remained very harsh and posing serious challenges to the men and machines working at the avalanche site alike.
However, the spirit and zeal of courageous soldiers has not wavered under arduous conditions. In fact, the urge to help their mates stuck under avalanche has given them newfound resilience. The skies have been continuously showering flakes of snow.
The rescue work is being carried out at full speed with sufficient number of plant equipment. The exasperating work at the tunnel being dug in the compact snow of avalanche, needed to access a suspected structure to find survivors, has made good progress by using control use of explosives. A team of German and Swiss rescuers is also rendering useful help in conforming already available data to locate the survivors. Meanwhile, the excavation work continued at three other sites to search survivors. Similarly, some engineer’s effort was also dedicated to widen outflow of water channel, which had been blocked by the avalanche
Siachen: ten questions (The News)
Dr Maleeha Lodhi
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.
It was in April twenty-eight years ago that the seeds of the Siachen conflict were sown. This April nature struck a cruel blow when an avalanche hit the area, burying 139 Pakistani soldiers and civilian workers. The tragedy is a poignant reminder of the need to settle a long-standing, costly dispute.
Because facts have been sparse in recent TV discussions of Siachen it would be useful to recall the dispute’s military, political and diplomatic history. One way to do this is to ask ten key questions even if they are not exhaustive.
1. What is the source of the dispute?
Agreements between Pakistan and India that followed the wars of 1948 and 1971 did not demarcate or determine a dividing line in Kashmir’s northeastern reaches – one of the world’s most inhospitable and desolate regions. The July 1949 Karachi agreement established a ceasefire line, which after minor modification became the Line of Control under the 1972 Simla Agreement. This went as far as a point known by its grid reference NJ9842, south of the Siachen Glacier. From here on, the agreement said, the line continues “thence north to the glacier”. The area beyond NJ9842 was not delineated because it was deemed too harsh and inaccessible for habitation. Neither side at that time thought the region had any military or strategic importance. It was not anticipated that the glacier would later become a contentious issue and that modern mountain warfare or shifting strategic calculations would make it disputed.
In the mid 1970s Pakistan began to allow international mountaineers and expedition teams to visit the glacier’s peaks. Pakistan’s administrative control of the area also received cartographic backing. International map publishers started showing the Line of Control proceeding north-eastward towards the Karakorum Pass and the Siachen area in Pakistani territory. Because of the treacherous terrain Pakistan established no permanent posts. Only scouting missions periodically went there.
How did the conflict start?
With India occupying key peaks in April 1984 in a major airborne operation named ‘Meghdoot’. A failure of intelligence meant that Pakistan discovered this and dispatched troops only to find Indian forces occupying almost all the high ground positions along the Saltoro range. Pakistan’s efforts to dislodge the Indians did not succeed. Both sides gradually came to deploy more soldiers and create more posts.
2. When did diplomatic efforts start to resolve the conflict?
Soon after the first clashes. But it wasn’t until the December 1985 meeting in Delhi between General Ziaul Haq and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that a serious effort was made to pursue a settlement. Since then twelve rounds of talks have taken place, the last in May 2011.
3. Was agreement for military disengagement ever reached?
Yes, in the fifth round held in June 1989 after the advent of Benazir Bhutto’s government and an upswing in relations with India. The joint statement issued after talks on June 17, 1989 outlined the core elements of a settlement: “There was agreement by both sides to work towards a comprehensive settlement, based on redeployment of forces to reduce the chance of conflict, avoidance of the use of force and the determination of future positions on the ground so as to conform with the Simla Agreement and to ensure durable peace in the Siachen area”. It added: “the army authorities of both sides will determine these positions”.
4. How significant was the June 1989 breakthrough?
It produced the outlines of a solution. For the first time the Indians agreed to relocate forces away from the disputed heights although in subsequent talks between military officials in 1989 differences emerged over where they would pull back. The language ‘redeployment of forces’ rather than ‘withdrawal’ was a Pakistani concession aimed at enabling Rajiv Gandhi to sell the agreement to his military and to political opponents in an election year. The agreement was endorsed by Prime Ministers Bhutto and Gandhi during the latter’s July 1989 visit to Islamabad.
5. Was Pakistan keen to turn this understanding into an agreement?
Absolutely. Pakistan’s defence secretary was mandated for the sixth round of talks in November 1992 to discuss modalities for implementation of the 1989 agreement.
6. What prevented an accord?
Indian backtracking on the 1989 understanding and subsequently changing the terms for a settlement largely on the urging of its military, which continues to oppose a pullout. The 1992 talks ended in deadlock when Delhi insisted on ‘complete’ authentication of ‘current’ positions prior to redeployment and sought to reopen previously settled issues. Pakistan saw this as resiling from the 1989 agreement that obliged both sides to stand down to pre-1972 positions. Pakistan held that India violated the Simla agreement by occupying an area that may have been undemarcated, but was under Pakistan’s administrative control. The Simla Agreement prohibited unilateral alteration of the status quo whatever the differing legal interpretations.
7. Has ‘authentication’ been the main sticking point?
Yes. The 1989 joint statement made no mention of marking ‘current positions’, referring only to determining ‘future positions.’ Pakistan rejected authentication because a) it meant legitimising an illegal act and b) provided India the basis for a legal claim in negotiations later to delineate the area beyond NJ 9842.
India’s demand for authentication of an Agreed Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the map and on the ground rested on the argument that this would provide a legal or diplomatic safeguard if Pakistan later went back on commitments and captured the Saltoro ridge. Other than being a vehicle to formalise ‘current positions’, authentication has, over the years, served as an alibi for the Indian army to resist military disengagement. Former Indian officials have argued that withdrawal from Siachen will facilitate Pakistan’s access across Saltoro to the Karakoram Pass on the Chinese border. In what reflects the defence establishment’s thinking, they have also presented a strategic rationale for the LOC’s delineation beyond NJ9842 that provides India both a key location on the Chinese border and permanent control of heights overlooking Gilgit and Baltistan.
8. Were there other missed opportunities in the 1990s?
Possibly. In the November 1992 talks Pakistan showed readiness to record ‘present’ positions on an annexure to the agreement provided the main text contained the proviso that this would not constitute the basis for a legal claim or justify any political or moral right to the area. But the Indians insisted on ‘complete’ authentication and exchange of maps. Pakistan refused. Thereafter the January 1994 talks explored ideas about a Zone of Complete Disengagement based on an Indian non-paper. Delhi continued to press for acceptance of the AGPL before demilitarisation. The dialogue began to run out of steam. The mid 1990s saw BJP leaders calling to retain Siachen for ‘strategic and security reasons’ while Pakistan started to link Siachen to resolving Kashmir.
9. Did the 1999 Kargil episode have implications for talks on Siachen?
Inescapably. Any escalation of tensions or confrontation inevitably sets back diplomatic efforts, but Kargil did more. It gave Delhi an added how-can-we-trust-Pakistan justification to toughen terms for a Siachen settlement and put Islamabad in the dock for violating the Simla accord. It helped the Indian army argue that disengagement would risk Pakistan seizing the posts it vacated.
10. Did the last round in May 2011 make progress?
No. Pakistani officials detected a hardening in the Indian position. Delhi insisted that the line beyond NJ 9842 be delineated before any disengagement or withdrawal. This reversed the sequence proposed by Pakistan and earlier agreed by India: disengagement and moving outside the zone of conflict followed by talks on demarcation. A package proposal was conveyed in a Pakistani non-paper handed during the twelfth round. This reiterated redeployment and joint monitoring of the disengagement process. It also reiterated that once withdrawal schedules were prepared, ‘present’ and ‘future’ positions could be incorporated, subject to the earlier proviso. The talks ended in an impasse.
This unedifying diplomatic history should not however dampen efforts for a settlement but instead intensify the search for imaginative ways to untie the Siachen knot. Not only will this end a confrontation that exacts such a high price but it will also set a powerful precedent to solve other more vexed disputes.
Pakistan’s climate change challenge
By Michael Kugelman
10 May 2012
Last month, an avalanche on the Siachen glacier in Kashmir killed 124 Pakistani soldiers and 11 civilians. The tragedy has intensified debate about the logic of stationing Pakistani and Indian troops on such inhospitable terrain. And it has also brought attention to Pakistan’s environmental insecurity.
Siachen is rife with glacial melt; one study concludes the icy peak has retreated nearly two kilometers in less than 20 years. It has also been described as “the world’s highest waste dump.” Much of this waste-generated from soldiers’ food, fuel, and equipment-eventually finds its way to the Indus River Basin, Pakistan’s chief water source.
Siachen, in fact, serves as a microcosm of Pakistan’s environmental troubles. The nation experiences record-breaking temperatures, torrential rains (nearly 60 percent of Pakistan’s annual rainfall comes from monsoons), drought, and glacial melt (Pakistan’s United Nations representative, Hussain Haroon, contends that glacial recession on Pakistani mountains has increased by 23 percent over the past decade). Experts estimate that about a quarter of Pakistan’s land area and half of its population are vulnerable to climate change-related disasters, and several weeks ago Sindh’s environment minister said that millions of people across the province face “acute environmental threats.”
…….First, climate change vulnerability risks inflaming relations with India. Some Pakistani hardliners accuse their upper riparian neighbor of contributing to the flooding that has ravaged their country in recent years. India, they allege, manipulates Indus Basin river flows so that water gushes downstream into lower riparian Pakistan. “Liberating” India-held Jammu and Kashmir, they argue, is the only way to stop India’s hydro machinations. Given the warming trend in Pakistan-India ties over the last year, such rhetoric-produced by an admittedly small minority-is not presently a major concern. However, with flood-exacerbating glacial melt well underway, and with anti-India sentiment becoming more vociferous thanks to the emergence of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, or DPC (a new political movement of militant organizations and conservative religious parties), the relationship could in time be put to the test.
This scenario becomes even more likely if Pakistan’s next national election brings to power a more conservative governing coalition that is willing to trumpet the DPC’s aggressive views on water-which accuse India not only of flooding Pakistan with the resource, but also of withholding it. At a DPC rally in February, one of the movement’s most notorious spokespersons, Hafiz Saeed (leader of the extremist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba), thundered that India was preventing water from flowing into Pakistan.
Second, environmental stress could deepen Pakistan’s urban violence. Karachi is often convulsed by such strife, and much of it arises from fierce competition over precious land. Yet Karachi-a coastal, low-lying metropolis-is vulnerable to flooding, cyclones, and other climate-related phenomena that could easily wipe out vast swaths of the city’s heavily contested real estate. This means the land that remains could become even more precious, thereby raising the stakes for the city’s fighting factions and likely increasing violence. Additionally, many impoverished farmers and fishermen, their livelihoods shattered by water shortages, have migrated to cities. Pakistan’s government is woefully unprepared to meet the soaring demand for basic services and natural resources sparked by this influx of migrants. Such privation, over time, could increase poverty and joblessness, breed anger, and spark more urban unrest.
Third, and perhaps most troubling, Pakistan’s environmental insecurity imperils nuclear security. The fear here is not of militants seizing nuclear weapons, but rather of the nation experiencing the type of disaster that befell Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant last year. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) sits not only in a flood- and storm-prone area, but also in one of the most densely populated parts of the country. In fact, a study released by the journal Nature and Columbia University this spring concludes that more than eight million people live within 30 kilometers of KANUPP-the largest such figure for any nuclear facility in the world. Nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy describes the 40-year-old KANUUP as a “chronically incontinent” reactor that frequently leaks heavy water. Given the combination of a dysfunctional plant, a large surrounding population, and Pakistan’s poor emergency-response capabilities, the consequences of a tsunami or cyclone strike on or near KANUUP could be truly catastrophic. Hoodbhoy predicts not only the release of deadly radioactivity, but also clogged roads, a collapse of vital services, and Karachi-Pakistan’s financial capital-taken over by “looters and criminals.”
…..A former Pakistani environment minister has projected that climate change effects could cost Pakistan’s economy up to $14 billion per year. Given the inevitability of global warming, Pakistan will undoubtedly be saddled with some of these debts. Yet by taking steps to manage, and reduce, the impacts of climate change, Pakistan can be spared some of these costs-not to mention some of the death and destruction visited on the country by an angry and abused environment.
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, April 21: The weather has once again turned very cold due to overcast conditions and chilling winds. The bad weather posing difficulties in rescue activities but could not affect the pace of work at site.
The excavation work is being expanded with help of men and material. A probing search was carried out at three spots. Some life jackets, pieces of Igloo and medicines have been found at the site. These items were found 600 Meters from the original location.The items recovered showed the magnitude of destruction and nature of the avalanche. The entire process of initiation/striking down of avalanche took less than five seconds as intimated by WAPDA Team Hydrological experts.
Can the ice melt on Siachen?
Dr Maleeha Lodhi
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Interestingly in his annual Congressional testimony on worldwide threats in January 2012, James Clapper, the US director of National Intelligence, assessed that India would maintain a “go slow” approach in negotiations on the “difficult border issues of Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek”. This “go glow” posture is underpinned by the Indian security establishment’s apparent opposition to giving up “advantageous” positions on the Saltoro ridge. Behind this lies the strategic calculation reiterated in a recent article by the former head of RAW, Vikram Sood, that invokes “the China factor”. Like many Indian defence analysts he sets out the rationale to deny China and Pakistan access to each other through the Karakorum Pass leading to Tibet, which according to him, is assured by India’s present position in Siachen. These strategic reasons serve to justify – and explain – the lack of flexibility shown by India in the talks. The protracted impasse has encouraged ‘Track Two’ efforts to explore ways to address this. A recent conference in Bangkok in which former Indian and Pakistani military officers participated threw up ideas for simultaneous actions by the two sides. An integrated approach was suggested, as a prelude to a resolution of the Siachen dispute and without prejudice to the claims of each country. This involved withdrawal from the conflict area and agreement on a package of integrated stipulations. They included disengagement and demilitarisation in accordance with an agreed timeframe, cooperative monitoring of these activities, and joint recording of present ground positions.
With the next round of talks between the defence secretaries due next month the question is whether they will go beyond the usual restatement of positions and bring a solution any nearer.
Islamabad regards a Siachen resolution as an important milestone in the road to sustainable peace between the two countries. Will India match Pakistan’s willingness to reach a settlement and ensure that the diplomatic ice melts on Siachen?
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, April 25: Search and rescue operation at Gayari Sector is being carried out round the clock. Plant equipment is suffering breakdown due to extremely weather conditions.
Work on all indentified sites is in progress.
Ground penetrating Rader Team took readings at 24 different points and indentified four of these for further probe. Army Survey Group of Engineers team has completed the topo survey of the avalanche including water channel.
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, April 30: Ground Penetrating Rader team has scanned a total of 176 points at various locations and indentified 44 points for excavation.
Mean while excavation and physical search continues at all locations and all efforts are being made to maintain the pace of work. To augment the search and probe operation more Engineering plant equipment which include 19 excavators, Dozers and dumpers are on their way to Gayari.
Protection band is being made between artificial lake and avalanche to prevent inundation of excavated site.
ISPR Press Release
Rawalpindi, May 03: Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited Gayari, today, to see the progress of rescue efforts.
COAS was briefed about the progress of ongoing work including the efforts to create a water course to safely drain the lake formed by blocking of Gayari river by the avalanche. The satellite data link also became operational today, which will allow real time video monitoring of relief work from GHQ.
COAS remained with the troops for some time and lauded their motivation in face of tough conditions and extreme weather. He appreciated their resolve to upkeep Army’s proud tradition of not leaving a man behind, until humanly possible, regardless of cost.
COAS was also accompanied by Commander Rawalpindi Corps and a media team, invited to witness firsthand, the ongoing activities at disaster site.
Update Avalanche Clearance at Gayari Sector Siachen
Rawalpindi, May 07: Army has employed all possible efforts/manpower for rescue activities at Gayari Sector since last one month inspite of harsh weather conditions.
The excavators work at seven sites in is progress with full pace and restoration of water channel is also underway round the clock.
A nonstop, deliberate and methodical Rescue Operation, supported by all available resources is under way
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