August 11, 2021
Ever since partition, Pakistan and India have harboured deep-rooted mistrust and animosity towards one another. In a longstanding rivalry, the two states have faced each other on numerous occasions and shared a long history ridden with conflict and disputes. Siachen is one such dispute that continuous to hamper the peaceful coexistence of the two nuclear neighbours. Time and time again, the Siachen dispute has been brought to the forefront but like any other matter, quickly moves to the back-burner.
The Siachen dispute is in essence a territorial dispute, one that has simmered in the earlier part of the 1980’s. It was when India launched ‘Operation Megahdoot’ and gained control of the glacier by beating the Pakistani counter-offensive within a margin of a week. The Indian side coined a new term known as ‘Oropolitics’ that refer to the political use of mountaineering and mountains. What had started as an oropolitical stunt remains an unresolved dispute for nearly five decades. The Siachen conflict is unique as the men face an unseen, unheard enemy. Although on paper, this war is being fought by the two South Asian militaries, in reality, the nature of the conflict is much more complex. Men on both sides are struggling for every breath, day in and day out. The ruthless temperature and huge piles of snow covered mountains makes it both a difficult terrain to fight in and an almost impossible environment to survive in. High altitudes and subsequent low levels of oxygen leave the solider breathless which in turn can lead to several medical and psychological disorders. Both, India and Pakistan had lost nearly 2,400 precious lives of soldiers since 2014 and the numbers increase with each passing day. Rising environmental hazards further add on to the expense of this dispute.US, Russian defense chief hold talks to avert accidental war
Even viewing the dispute through a realist lens does not qualify it as sustainable. The financial cost of this unique warfare is considerably high, leaving policymakers on both sides in a dilemma. How can one justify an armed conflict that costs more than $600,000 per day (almost 95 million Pakistani Rupees) on just one side? Especially when both Pakistan and India have faced economic crises during the 2021 pandemic. The whopping figure does not account for the additional cost of highly sophisticated mountaineering equipment and imported clothing.
India’s strategic understanding of Siachen glacier, apart from the territorial claims, is less realistic as proved by the recent India-China standoff of 2020 in the Ladakh region. Firstly, China does not need Karakoram Pass in order to pose a threat to India. Secondly, the mountainous terrain acts as a natural defence for India and it will never favour any joint aggression of Pakistan and China. India must understand that such false insecurities are creating tremendous issues for both states. The settlement of these alarming issues are in the hands of the two governments. The solution to this dispute may not be simple but it is surely achievable. India and Pakistan have, in the past, come to the in attempt to resolve this standoff. The answer lies in the 1992 negotiation between the two defence secretaries; an understanding that was soon to be turned into an agreement but failed due to silence from India. Simply put, the triangle in tussle, Indira Koli—point NJ 9842—Karakoram Pass, must be demilitarised and forces from both sides must withdraw to the status as mentioned in Shimla Agreement, in the south of point NJ 9842. Advance technology and satellite system can provide efficient surveillance of this triangle. Thus, both states must not engage their men but should utilise modern equipment. The idea of converting this triangle into a ‘Peace Park’ can prove helpful in order to deter future aggression from either sides.Powerful magnitude 7.1 earthquake rattles Philippines, triggers Tsunami warning
Talks on this standoff is the need of the hour. Kashmir has remained the underlining dispute between India and Pakistan since the very beginning. Owing to hard-hand policies of the Modi-led government, a resolution of Kashmir in the foreseeable future seems unlikely. Pakistan and India would do well to raise peace constitutions and Siachen can prove to be the first step towards easing tensions. A settlement of this dispute will not only provide relief to the two states, economically and militarily, but will also set the ground for normalisation of relations and lead to an agreement of new confident building measures. It is time for both sides, especially India, to think out of their insecurities and give peace a chance.