rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Last updated on: April 20, 2012 11:28 IST

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

     Next

Next
Jyoti Malhotra

Will India and Pakistan transform the crisis at Giari into an opportunity? Jyoti Malhotra analyses

Days after a bevy of glamorous Indian models scorched the ramp in Delhi last week, showing off some scintillating fashion silhouettes from Pakistan, the 22-year-old Siachen glacier dispute returned to the headlines, sparked off by comments by senior Pakistani politician Nawaz Sharif and army chief Ashfaq Kayani.

To be sure, the Siachen conversation is the direct outcome of a massive avalanche in its Giari sector on April 7 in which 124 Pakistani soldiers of the 6 Northern Light Infantry and 14 civilians were buried alive.

The NLI, of course, has a particular tie with India, having in 1947 as well as in 1999 in Kargil, invaded India in the guise of "tribesmen".

Click on NEXT to read further...

 


Image: Rescue operation at Gairi Sector of Siachen
Photographs: ISPR

     Next

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Sharif, of course, knows the Siachen dispute better than most people in India-Pakistan, having been its first political casualty at the hands of his own army chief, Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Visiting Giari earlier this week, he wondered why India and Pakistan did not withdraw their troops from the glacier and spend their hard-earned money on better causes.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari followed Sharif on Wednesday, with Kayani in tow.

With Kayani admitting to the need for resolving the dispute "so both countries don't have to pay the cost," and an India-Pakistan defence secretary-level conversation scheduled for next month, speculation just added grist to the mill.

Click on NEXT to read further...

 


Image: Pak army chief Kayani inspects rescue operation at Siachen
Photographs: ISPR

Prev     Next

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Watching Zardari stride across Giari alongside Kayani, one wondered if Zardari and Manmohan Singh had discussed the matter when they met, without aides, before their more public lunch in Delhi.

Could Singh and Zardari have agreed about the need to start a public debate on the complete futility of the Siachen battlefield -- at 22,000 feet the highest battlefield in the world where more people are hurt by frostbite than bullets -- when they met that hot April afternoon?

It has already been reported that Singh offered Zardari Indian help on mounting a search-and-rescue for the NLI soldiers. There has been no response from Pakistan so far and, if truth be told, none was expected.

No Pakistan army chief, not even someone like Kayani who has been perceptibly withdrawing his beloved army from the heart of Pakistan's political authority, can even afford to have the arch-enemy contemplate a humanitarian gesture.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Kayani briefs his troops in Siachen
Photographs: ISPR

Prev     Next

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Kayani's heart must have bled as he imagined his boys dying an icy death. The Siachen tragedy is so enormous that it diminishes everything else. No matter. Pakistan's army chief probably believes that harakiri at nature's hands is better than India's hand of friendship.

Certainly, the finality of death brooks no argument. Since war is regarded as a legitimate passport for death, the mind understands the supreme sacrifice by the soldier. Certainly, too, the colour of your heroism changes with the geography on the ground, but what if wars are being fought over a place with no geography?

That's Siachen for you, a no-man's land, un-demarcated beyond the grid NJ9842 (the story goes that the Indian and Pakistani teams were too exhausted, after several meetings of the United Nations-led conference to resolve the LoC in Karachi in 1949 to even think of mapping that snowy fastness, leave alone contemplate a war).

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Rescue operation at Gairi Sector in Siachen
Photographs: ISPR

Prev     Next

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

In 1984, Indian soldiers raced to occupy the heights of the Saltoro range in Siachen because they had credible information that Pakistani soldiers were planning to do the same, with the intention of linking up to the Karakoram pass and into China.

For 22 years, Indian soldiers have braved those death-like conditions on the Saltoro. It is said that it costs a million dollars a day, or Rs 5 crore, to keep these men up there.

However, in recent years, courtesy former Defence Minister George Fernandes, ground conditions and special allowances have improved so much that it is now said that a three-month tour of duty will considerably enhance your bank balance.

But what's the price for allowing your soldiers to die during peacetime? India wants Pakistan to authenticate the Actual Ground Position Line on which its soldiers are currently in position, on a four-grid map, and give a written commitment that it will not take the heights that it vacates. Pakistan has refused so far, arguing that Indian soldiers were never supposed to be there in the first place.

Click on NEXT to read further...


Image: Indian soldiers muster at the base camp after coming back from training at Siachen Glacier
Photographs: Reuters

Prev     Next

Will Zardari, Singh go where no men have ever gone before?

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

That's where Zardari and Singh come in, especially since Zardari wants Singh to visit Pakistan before the end of this year. Could the death of 128 Pakistani soldiers and 14 civilians, in peacetime and for no fault of theirs, persuade Kayani to accept the Indian conditions for withdrawal?

No one really knows whether or not Kayani has read the Bhagavad Gita and what lessons he may or may not have drawn from Arjun unwilling to participate in the act of killing his kinsmen, even if it's for a just cause.

With Pakistan fighting so many battles at home at the same time, Zardari is smart enough to realise that Pakistan has so much more to gain if Siachen is turned into a "mountain of peace," a phrase Singh used in 2005 when he toured the vicinity.

If Zardari can convince Kayani to transform the crisis at Giari into an opportunity, he will find Singh packing his bags for the trip to Pakistan. Perhaps, last week's bevy of Indian models could return the compliment in Lahore. With the possibility of peace breaking out in the sub-continent, a deal on Siachen would mean that Zardari and Singh will have gone where no men have ever gone before.

Click on NEXT to go further...


Photographs: ISPR

Prev     Next

Top photo features of the week

Prev     More

Click on MORE to see another set of PHOTO features...



Tags: PHOTO , MORE

Prev     More
Source: