July 4, 2001


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J&K: The confusion

Arvind Lavakare

No ready cure for this cancer

For over a month now, the Indian press has been conducting a contest of sorts to suggest cures for the Indo-Pak cancer that has assumed almost terminal proportions. As 'the summit' comes close, almost everybody who is anybody in the inner circle of the editors' rooms has been permitted to try his or her hand at the game. One of the latest entrants to the contest, as on June 22, was a Pakistani 'analyst', courtesy The Hindu, who else?

The person's name is Faqia Sadiq Khan, styled as a research associate in some 'Policy Institute' in Islamabad. Probably patented as such in Pakistan, this Khan's cure, absolutely unique, prescribes the following:

  1. An agreement whereby Jammu and Ladakh exercise a great measure of autonomy -- "India may claim sovereignty over them."
  2. 'Azad' Kashmir assured of 'fuller' autonomy and freedom from the federal government in Islamabad -- "Pakistan continues to remain the sovereign power."
  3. The Kashmir Valley to be invested with the attributes of sovereignty -- guided through a period of transition under a United Nations trusteeship.
It is a matter of utmost disgust that India's civilisational tolerance, democratic spirit and bountiful freedom of expression should permit such a humiliating Pakistani package to be carried in a 124-year-old publication that has the audacity to call itself "India's National Newspaper". Is that the kind of liberty some of our media hanker for?

On that same day, June 22, that same "national newspaper" reported, on its front page, a prominently displayed plan of one Aamir Ali (another Pakistani, presumably) to withdraw troops from the Siachen glacier to convert it into a peace park -- in the interest of preventing environmental degradation, loss of life and, conspicuously, because the proposal "skirted the contentious issue of border demarcation".

As if an Ali advocating withdrawal of troops from Siachen under the guise of "conservation" was not injury enough, an Indian Express Amrita Abraham did the same the other day by shedding tears for soldiers on guard in the icicles of the highest battlefield on earth.

Don't our senior editors read anything substantial that's written about India's woes and wars with Pakistan? The question (rhetoric, maybe) arises because anyone who writes for millions of true Indians, resident and non-resident, would get the disturbing "dope" on Siachen from just under half an hour's follow-up on the index section of the Kargil Review Committee Report:

  • There never was any Pakistani presence in the vicinity of Siachen. This area was always under Indian control because, as per the unchanged 1949 Karachi Agreement, the LoC traversing some 740km from the south up to NJ 9842 must run "thence north to the glaciers".
  • However, after it had ceded the Shaksgam Valley to China in 1963, Pakistan began developing roads in J&K's "Northern Areas" (in PoK) towards Eastern Karakoram, and, with China's assistance, developed the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit to Xinjiang. Pakistan then began to license mountaineering and scientific expeditions to the Eastern Karakoram and followed up by projecting the LoC as moving from NJ 9842 not "north to the glaciers" but northeast to the Karakoram Pass.

    Mysteriously, this cartographic rape found encouragement in American maps and into maps later adopted by a number of international atlases, thereby falsifying the LoC to India's detriment and creating a new dispute within the Kashmir dispute.

  • Sometime in 1983 the Indian Army got wind of Pakistani plans to physically move into the Siachen area. Being understandably sensitive to the implication of cartographic ambiguity after the Chinese experience of 1962, our army took pre-emptive action and in April 1984 occupied the Saltoro Ridge, which marks the western wall of the Siachen glacier.

    The Government of India approved this action because it was as per the definition of the LoC from the original Karachi Agreement to the Simla Agreement, 1972. Pakistan has ever since been smarting under what it perceives as the humiliation of being robbed of a prize.

  • In 1992, both countries came close to an agreement of measures on Siachen, including ceasefire, establishment of a demilitarised zone and withdrawal of forces, but no further progress could be made because Pakistan was unwilling to agree to authenticate the ground positions held by the two sides. In 1998, India insisted that a ceasefire be established before any package could be discussed.
  • Pakistani writings revealed after Kargil 1999 showed that our army was justified in being circumspect. One report revealed that one of Pakistan's military-related motives in the Kargil intrusion was "to outflank India's defences from the south in the Turtok and Chalunka sectors through unheld areas, thus rendering its defence untenable in Turtok and Siachen. Further, an Indian Intelligence Bureau report said that the Pakistani Army had been using remotely piloted vehicles in Siachen for clandestine photography/reconnaissance of army deployment/IAF installations.
In these circumstances, why should a Pakistani or non-resident Indian or both expect India to agree to the withdrawal of its troops from Siachen in favour of what could well become a Pakistani peace park?

Someone will say, of course, that a United Nations group could be stationed to monitor the peace park. Well, well, how many know that a UN Military Observers' Group has been deployed since January 1949 to supervise the Indo-Pak ceasefire along the LoC? How many have asked what exactly that UN group did during the Kargil intrusion and during all the countless cross-border infiltrations before and after? How much has that impotent outfit cost our treasury over the last 52 years?

To answer the last, you must know the strength of the outfit: do you know it comprises 49 members? And yes, it's still alive, even if not kicking -- a year ago, the outfit even got a new chief, a major general, from Uruguay.

If the UN didn't resolve the 'Kashmir' issue over the last 52 years, and, instead, has left us stabbed in the back; if Pakistan's wars on us (three? four? five?) didn't resolve the 'core' issue because we have remained the same stupid suckers that we have been from 1947; can these Pakistani 'analysts' or the Alis and the Abrahams be expected to offer solutions that will vindicate our legal and moral position on the state, whose sovereign maharaja acceded it to us constitutionally on October 26, 1947?

Today, the Indo-Pak cancer has assumed almost terminal proportions. There are simply no ready cures available -- not even the non-invasive surgery at the LoC as suggested by some of our senior editors and others of the 'peace with Pakistan' brigade.

Once that surgery is over, these self-styled 'realists' are the ones who may happily hop across to enjoy Islamabad's celebration parties. And it will be only the sensitive, sentimental ones on this side of the LoC who will suffer the psychological trauma of conceding our territory legally, and for all times, to a cockroach country.

But even before the wounds of the LoC operation start to heal, and this is not imaginary, Pakistan will plot more plots to further dismember this ancient, peace-loving civilisation.

Meanwhile, the Government of India ludicrously goes on chanting its old mantra of Kashmir being "an integral part of India", citing the Parliament resolution of February 1994 or the Constitution of India, without seeming to know what to do further about that 'mantra'. Why, it does not even know that that 'mantra' lies not where they think it lies, but elsewhere. Unless a very recent letter written by a senior citizen to the prime minister and his home minister has made them wise, we'll find that tome and the travails of the LoC surgery next week.

Arvind Lavakare

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