Thursday, May 25, 2006

Leaving Saltoro and a path to Peace II

I am seeing a lot of ideas being paraded about Siachen, some of these are plain absurd and I took the time to write out a few responses to the more memorable ones. There was an interesting article on Bharat-Rakshak which speaks to some of this.

1) Leaving Siachen will leave the Karakorum pass undefended

No it will not. This may have been the case 20 years ago when the Nubra valley was undefended. Over the past 20 years there has been a lot of infrastructure development and the quality of arms available to our army has improved dramatically. We can now defend the Nubra valley and no credible threat to the Karakorum or passes closer to the mouth of the Nubra exists.

1b) The Pakistanis will be able to lay a pipeline to the Karakoram Pass via Siachen.

No - that is just a fantasy. The temperatures and the terrain are too adverse. If our experience with kero pipelines between Dzingrulma and Kumar Camp is anything to go by then even Pakistan with its special status with Allah can't lay a pipeline there. The best place for a pipeline currently is along the KKH from Hassan abdal to Kashgar. It is ofcourse much cheaper to actually lay a pipeline north from the gulf of Martaban to Mandalay and from there east to Guizhou. For the geographically challenged - those places are in Burma.

2) The Pakistanis will infiltrate terrorists into Leh through the passes in the Nubra Valley like they did in Haji Pir!

Unlikely - they can still use Haji Pir. It is atleast 10,000 times easier to infiltrate a Jihadi into India from Haji Pir than it is to have him trudge it out across the Siachen. Haji Pir is actually harder to seal than Siachen in some ways. I know Haji Pir has become a cause celebre among some folks, but infiltration routes are all over the place.

3) There is no point demilitarizing - the Pakistanis will simply occupy the posts we vacate and the Army will have to dislodge the Pakistanis and retake posts.

It is unlikely that the Pakistanis will reoccupy the heights. They have been whining about the costs of Siachen for far longer than anyone in India has. Even if they occupy the heights the Indian Army will not have to retake the posts. As they have not authenticated the AGPL. We will be able to strike across it. Without an AGPL - there will be no imaginary line the Americans will be able to hold us to. If they start something there is no guarentee that we will stop on the Saltoro now.

4) The Americans will support Pakistani aggression in Siachen.

And what else is new. The Americans rely on keeping the Pakistani military feeling good about itself and are generally more than happy to encourage adventurism in the Pakistani Army brass. Now that Pakistan holds the Al Qaida Nuclear Bomb over America's head, there is atleast one more reason for the US to love its hand picked Pakistani General Staff. Ofcourse they will encourage the Pakistani army to do something very stupid on Siachen - why is this such a big surprise?

5) The Pakistanis will be very keen to do something to show that they are not the losers on Siachen.

Yes - they will most certainly want to do that. That is precisely what they will get by way of their refusal to authenticate the AGPL. A completely fake victory that will allow them go on printing fake maps and passing them off as authentic to the world. And the world led by the Americans will sagely nod whenever a Pakistani flashes the fake map in their face. Who knows a year or so down the road Peter Lavoy will write a major book about the success of strategic mythmaking in Pakistan and he will cite Siachen as an example.

6) The Pakistanis will definetely escalate in Siachen.

Lets think this one through. If they escalate in Siachen - we will accuse them of having betrayed our trust. The last time we did that was in Kargil. Yes I know Kargil was a very bloody war - and we lost a lot of brave young men in that war. But what did Pakistan go through? Even if we pretend that no Pakistanis died in Kargil - what did Pakistan have to do to regain India's trust? Can Musharraf or some able Pakistani General tell us what that was?

7) The "Siachen Demilitarization" is yet another example of Indians selling out their own country - Pakistan is sure to betray our trust and attack us.

In that case - atleast we can now look forward to seeing a rerun of the "Kargil Surprise" saga.


At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Parts of paragraphs [3] and [5] are contradictory.

You are right about one thing in paragraph [5]. The Pakistani Army will do and say anything (including fabricating complete fairy tales like Operation Ibex) that would enable it to achieve a propaganda victory for domestic consumption. For this they need to: [i] Hide their incompetance in the conduct of military operations on the Saltoro and [ii] Portray themselves as having persevered and triumphed over the infidels against all odds.

The refusal to officially authenticate the AGPL stems from having to accomplish [i]. How will they accomplish [ii]? Here is where I disagree with what you say in paragraph [3] about it being unlikely that the Pakistanis would reoccupy the heights. The Pakistanis are not going to just sit around and publish fake maps. That they will surely do. Over and above that, I am sure that they will move up to occupy the vacated posts. There is no other way to accomplish [ii]. Now you will undoubtedly raise some very valid objections to that: [a] The Pakistanis will have to occupy a sizeable number of posts on the Saltoro in order for their positions to be defensible. [b] The Pakistanis have neither the requisite logistics chain in place nor the requisite number of acclimatized troops to do this.

My contention is that such prosaic practical concerns will not stop them from trying out some reckless stunt. Atleast it has not stopped them in the past. Also, they do not need to capture and hold on to a defensible line of posts. All they need to do is capture some high profile post(s) like Bana Post and then their spinmeisters within Pakistan and in the West will get to work. What happens to the captured post(s) afterwards is irrelevant. The Pakistani Army does not need a military victory on the ground to achieve the domestic propaganda victory that it desires. (When was the last time it had a military victory on the ground for that matter?) The Faustian bargain that the Pakistani Army has struck with its people for which it needs these domestic propaganda victories is a topic for some other time.

At 1:56 AM, Blogger s c r a p s s t u f f s said...

Maverick, since you "obviously know a lot" why don't you tell us what the Pakistanis had to do to regain our trust?

I think it will help you to keep in mind that we have the UPA government in power now, a government without any leadership whatsoever.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi anonymous,

I feel it will be cheapest and easiest for them to sit around and publish fake maps. That way they don't actually have do anything. If any Pakistani opposes their fantasy vision then he can simply be labelled Al Qaida and handed over to the Americans.

In Siachen we have been faced with a major tactical conundrum. Yes tactically speaking we hold higher ground but in mountain warfare this comes with a cost - it is harded to resupply the higher posts. Sure the Pakistanis could occupy the higher posts - but that would mean that they have shoulder the burden of a higher logistical cost.

Why go to all this trouble when the 323 Brigade's boys can just climb Tahir Towers or some other meaningless little hump on the Kondus glacier and claim that they pushed the Indians off it?

You do realize the Pakistani public has no idea where the AGPL actually lies. I would not be surprised if Pakistani audiences have been told to believe that the AGPL lies "along a straight line from NJ9842 to the Karakorum Pass".

I agree they will carry out a reckless stunt which shows the world what kind of people they are, but it is much cheaper to carry out a photo op stunt on some peak to the west of the Saltoro Ridge and then claim that the peak is deep inside India's Siachen glacier than it is to actually do something on the glacier itself.

As regards the spin doctors, they are going to spin it as "Pakistan's dogged refusal to vacate the glacier forced India to fight a costly war on the Glacier and then finally withdraw unilaterally." This is why people feel we should have gone to Skardu in the first place.

Hi Scrapsstuff,

I think it is best if a Pakistani General officer answers that question in an oped somewhere. Coming from me it will sound like I am bragging.

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If it brings shame to Pakistan, an op-ed with full revelations by a Pakistani general is highly unlikely. I think it would be very kind of you to make the revelation and end the killing suspense. I dont think that anyone would consider it bragging.


At 7:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Pankaj,

You see on our side Kargil has been subjected to an intense public accounting. The Kargil Review Committee and dozen other independent panels have critically examined the conflict. Even today conflicting views of what happened in the run up to Kargil are available to the average public.

But what about Pakistan? has anyone in Pakistan given their own strategy a critical review?

The last I remember that was even mildly critical was Javed Nasir's piece in the Defence Journal. In the piece General (r) Nasir claimed that he should have been given control of the Mujaheddin and that he had been among the first people in the Pakistan Army to recognize the military utility of "Kaafir Pahad" (Tiger Hill?) and other features south of Gultari. Most of the article was him griping about how the operation would have had more success if he had been given control over the troops trained for the mission at the Pakistan Army High Altitude Warfare school at Astore.

Through the offices of Dr. Shireen Mazari, General Musharraf released a highly self serving account of the events. Even that darling of the Americans, the famous aviator turned all-knowing brigadier Shaukat Qadir didn't have the temerity to question the logic of the endeavor. And Ayesha Siddiqa Agha's works on Kargil - highly ignorable.

Did any Pakistani writer question the rationality of their Kargil operation - Operation Badr?

No they didn't.

No one asked what Pakistan would have to do to regain India's trust after the Badr operation was initiated in the aftermath of the Lahore accord.

It is this information vacuum in which propaganda holds its grip.

If I say what was done to gain India's trust - then everything I say will be dismissed as Indian propaganda. Who knows the mere fact that I said will sow more suspicion in the minds of the Pakistani Army that the Government of India seeks to do them harm.

Today the GoI is very keen to see the peace process work with Pakistan. I could not possibly do anything to undermine that process.

In raising the point about regaining trust - I am merely seeking to remind those in Pakistan that do know what was done to regain India's trust - that they cannot bear to see that information released.

Perhaps the only thing to learn here is that trust is hard thing to regain.

Betrayal is a costly option.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


This is one of the rare times I have to disagree with you.

1. The Pakistani side of the LoC is also sufficiently militarized, that combined with the terrain, any Indian offensive will achieve little in a short space of time. We do not have the luxury of a long drawn out war with Pakistan for reasons you are well aware of.

2. A full scale offensive across the LoC in retaliation for Pakistan's transgressions across the Saltoro is a strategic set-back for India, because we would be un-doing our claims of the LoC as a settled and inviolable border.

3. An Indian offensive would bring adverse attention to India, not to Pakistan, which would be seen as a defender.

4. A long drawn out artillery barrage is counter-productive for India in the sense that we would have just moved a LICO situation into the artillery regime. In short, any military conflict that does not result in an outright victory is a set-back for the greater power, namely India.

5. Let's assume Pakistan does not reoccupy the heights, but instead merely publishes fake maps of occupation. What would be the impact on Indian public clamour to "retake" those heights? Op. Meghdoot redux.

6. The most important reason NOT to concede anything on the Saltoro to Pakistan is this - it would offer them a dirt cheap way to put India on the horns of a dilemma viz. (a) to reopen hostilities that would bury the current peace process, which you will agree is entirely being run on Indian terms, not Pakistani or (b) risk a huge political climbdown in the face of the PA's "heroic defence of Siachen for over 20 years at great cost to itself" (sic).

7. We hold the PA over a barrel on the Saltoro. Such military ascendancy comes at a cost in logistics and manpower. Those costs are worthwhile.

8. You are nod doubt aware that most Indian public opinion on demilitarizing the Saltoro originates from the Sandia National Labs' Water Conservation project. The second largest source of fresh water after the polar ice caps is seen as critical to avert Pakistan's upcoming water crisis, since the glaciers largely feed the rivers flowing into Pakistan. Personally, I feel that the value of this fresh water supply is overblown - rather, it's pollution via the military presence is overblown; the river can recover itself. Nevertheless, the price of lifting this virtual sword over Pakistan's future should be a complete, unconditional and irrevocable undoing of Pakistan's hostility towards India; in short a makeover for Pakistan's society and power polity. Nothing less will do.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger maverick said...

hi interestedonlooker,

I welcome disagreement and debate.

By refusing to authenticate the AGPL, the Pakistanis are actually disentangling the issue from the broader issue of the LoC. So if the AGPL is violated then there are no implications for the LoC per the letter of the agreement. Seen in this way - it doesn't work to our disadvantage.

The Pakistani military presence on their side of the Saltoro relies heavily on positions like Ali Bragnsa, Ghyari and Dansam. In Kargil the Pakistani posture relied heavily on places like Muntho Dhalo, and Gultari. Without an LoC to lend an aura of protection to these places - their defensibility will become questionable. There would be no way to project Pakistan's moves as defensive after it rejects the idea of drawing a line on the Saltoro.

I do not foresee the need for an artillery barrage. I am keener to achieve precision strikes at Ghyari, Ali Bragnsa and a few other places. If these can be eliminated their ability to project any sort of force in the region is compromised.

The Indian public clamour for retaking the heights will be tempered by a release of information about the difficulties of maintaining the Saltoro defense line. This might to a small degree reflect adversely on past leadership in the Indian Army but for the most part it will only educate the Indian public. The Pakistani public on the other hand will have to be content living with lies.

If they reopen hostilities on the Saltoro - I feel our dilemma is at an end. Let them claim that indigenous Kashmiri mujaheddin have occupied the Saltoro heights and lets see how many people care to believe them. If they want a victory they will take what is on offer right now - if they want a defeat they should feel free to ask for it.

The pollution is a non-issue imo.

The water from the Siachin glacier largely flows on our side. They can't extract water from the glacier in any meaningful way. The Ghyari (Bilafond) and Kondus rivers are much smaller than the Nubra. Even if they seize the Siachen they can't actually move any water over the Saltoro. I suppose they could come up with some crazy idea to light a nuclear reactor pile in the middle of the glacier and then use the glacier itself as a coolant but then the excess melt will still flow down the Nubra.

The only solutions to Pakistan's water problems are either to have desalination plants on the Arabian Sea or to get India to release more water from the Ravi or if you think that India is capable of superior levels of kindness to hand over the entire Chenab to them.

The Americans are very keen to show Pakistan that they are capable of protecting Pakistan from the big boy India. This Siachen settlement nonsense they came up with in Sandia is part of that psywar move. If they can guarentee the Pakistanis their fake victory at no cost to us, then they should be allowed to do so.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger maverick said...

oh and one more thing.

The standoff monitoring will not work.

The only plan that will work is something Kgoan came up with.

We will have to have troops stationed on each others' territory acting as observers. So there will be a Pakistani platoon at Dzingrulma and an Indian platroon at Dansam.

That is the only cooperative monitoring idea that will work.

If they kill the Indians at Dansam - we will kill the Pakistanis at Dzingrulma and then the hostilities will have initiated.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


I am afraid I am not convinced yet.

1. Pakistan will still be seen as a defender for two reasons - (i) they will deny any violation of the AGPL and can get away with it, precisely because they had refused to authenticate it prior to Indian withdrawal and (ii) and Indian attack along the LoC disrupts PoK civilian population, while sitting on top of the Saltoro does not disrupt Indian civilian population.

2. Since there is a de-linking of the AGPL from the LoC per your reading of the Pakistani pov, a Pakistani intrusion along the AGPL cannot justify an Indian attack along the LoC in the eyes of the world. It is in Indian interests to keep the sanctity of the LoC alive, and in Pakistan's interest to challenge it. We will be doing Pakistan's propaganda work for them by attacking along the LoC.

3. The IA cannot justifiably inaction in the presence of Pakistani provocations along the AGPL by saying that it is difficult to maintain a presence along the Saltoro, when it has been there and done that admirably for 22 years. If anything, the current situation is even better now that the guns have fallen silent. We can continue to sit pretty there until Pakistan freezes over.

4. You may be underestimating the galvanizing effect of an Indian withdrawal from the Saltoro on the PA's hold over Pakistani politics. This would be THE victory by the PA over hated India in over 35 years, atleast according to GHQ pamphlets and talking heads. At a time when Musharraf was told by visiting American State Dept. officials that the US would like a return to civilian rule, the effect of a PA victory over India would effectively shut out the PML and PPP for the next 20 years from politics. Think about the fresh lease of life Musharraf got after Op. Parakram's end.

We cannot grant such a free pass to Musharraf. He, the PA and Pakistan have simply not earned it.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi interestedonlooker,

I never suggested that we violate the LoC.

I simply suggested that if they claim they have not violated the AGPL - then we conduct operations that "do not violate the AGPL".

I think I am less concerned about how Pakistan is seen and more concerned about inflicting sizable human losses on them if they choose to reinitiate hostilities on the glacier.

This is imo the only thing that will deter them from starting something unmanageable on there. If they want to climb some peaks at the base of K2 and claim that the "defeated the Indians on the Siachen Glacier" etc... then they should be free to do that.

I am not very impressed by either the PPP or the PML. For all their enthusiasm to rule - they do not prioritize Pakistan over their lives.

Without a serious devotion to the idea of Pakistan - how can they legitimately claim the leadership of Pakistan.

Musharraf (or some other Pakistani dictator) is here to stay - courtesy of the American and the threat of an Al Qaida nuclear bomb. Might as well live comfortably with him.

At 1:40 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi guys(scrapstuff,interestedonlooker..),
bring solutions to the table rather than problems. Any solution that will benefit India should be certainly welcomed.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


That is precisely my point - any Indian action that inflicts "unmanageable human casualties" on Pakistan is likely to put India on the strategic defensive than a Pakistani provocation on the Saltoro that involves climbing rocks and occupying vacant posts.

We want the current "peace process" to go on interminably, because as a friend on BRF once told me, "It is Pakistan that is unequal to the challenges of peace, not India". Currently, Pakistan's internal situation is ripe for a distraction over India, the only way Musharraf can loosen the ever-tightening noose of public pressure is to vent the Jihadi anger on India and blame us for the collapse of the relative calm when we initiate hostilities over Pakistani provocations on the glacier. And we seem eager to give him the opportunity!

The second lesson of the Saltoro is that either country can take all the pounding the other can dish out and still hold whatever they hold on the ridges. India showed it could, and our logistical situation is more precarious than Pakistan's! So I am wary of chasing the mirage that we can punish Pakistan adequately for provocations on the Saltoro.

The public pressure on the IA to throw out the invaders can be imagined when we remember the controversy that still surrounds Pt. 5533 - six years after an emphatic victory.

We should ask ourselves why we are surrendering a position of ascendancy in return for nothing, not even a Pakistani authentication of the AGPL (even which, in my opinion, is completely worthless).


I'm sorry I must have missed something. I am not bringing problems to the table, merely lifting the table-cloth and pointing out their existence. Yes, I am all for welcoming solutions that India benefits from. What I'm still missing is the benefits of an Indian withdrawal to India.

If it's less monetary expenditure, let the PM make an announcement in Parliament that says we are vacating Siachen because it is too costly to maintain it and we do not see the benefits to holding it. And that we will not try to retake it from Pakistani occupation. Any chance of that occuring?

If it's less human suffering for the IA, why is the IA the most vocal opponent to a unilateral withdrawal in the interests of a peace process? No doubt because they would be the ones tasked with responding to Pakistani occupation and they know that it's impossible to vacate the aggression without spending vastly more blood and treasure and even then it would be impossible to achieve.

I even read a strange article in the Indian press that suggested the IA is cool to this idea because it has developed a "Siachen habit"! The implication is that there is no intrinsic merit to it's objections to the proposed scheme of withdrawal.

If we are to surrender positions of relative power, let us have better reasons for doing so. Either blind faith in our ability to respond adequately or blind trust in Pakistan's behavior are recipes for disaster.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Interestedonlooker,

How about I put it this way?

Fear of India binds Pakistan together. As long as Pakistan stays together - the possibility of an unauthorized use of nuclear weapons remains low. If the Pakistani leadership feels that India is likely to remove them from power - the possibility of them authorizing the use of nuclear weapons rises.

A simulated conflict with India helps keep the Pakistan Army in power. A simulated victory with India helps keen a particular group in the Pakistan Army in control of the nuclear weapons.

Do you see where I am going with this?

To quote the Prime Minister - the peace process is irreversible.

If hostilities are initiated - the peace process will reduce to a crawl and any economic benifts that the incumbent Pakistani leadership may be accruing from the peace process will also slow to a crawl.

I think of all the money Tauqir made from the first series of cricket matches in Pakistan. It is a pity if all that has to go away.

If a Pakistani government initiates a conflict on the glacier and makes the international community receptive to its propaganda - and then India manages to project devastating military force on Pakistani forces in the region - robbing Pakistan of its simulated victory - then the dictator of the day will lose power. This will imo push Pakistan closer to an authorized use of nuclear weapons - inviting an Indian pre-emption.

Misadventure will carry an enormously high price.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


I do not agree that the only way to keep Pakistan's nuclear arsenal safe and accounted for is to give them propaganda victories over India. This sort of blackmail can start with Siachen and end with Kashmir.

Pakistan has to keep it's nuclear arsenal under control to the satisfaction of India and the US. It has gotten on the tiger, now it needs to ride it.

As an Indian citizen, it is unacceptable to me that Pakistan can dictate where India positions its forces on Indian territory - essentially the same argument you gave Shaukat Qadir. Siachen is Indian territory and our decision to keep it or leave it cannot be influenced by Islamabad's insecurities.

Even in the scenario you painted in your latest response, it is by no means clear to me that India will pre-empt Pakistani first use with a nuclear strike of its own. In the absence of such certainty, the climbdown will entirely be India's. This is unacceptable to me.

What I am suggesting is that we avoid all such scenarios of Pakistan dragging India to war over Siachen by not giving them an opening in the first place by demilitarizing.

If Pakistan wants to convince us that it is going to start a war with India if India doesn't withdraw from Siachen, then I'd tell Musharraf - "Bring it on, bi**h".

At 9:12 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi interestedonlooker,
1)clarifications:- after 9/11 there was tremendous pressure applied by the pakistanis on the American's to solve the kashmir issue. If you have noted the Gen.Musharaff's(and his Pakistani Ambassador to USA what his name, he was an ex-coas of PA) statement in the USA after meeting Bush Jr:- they demanded a pullback of our troops from places like kupwara,baramullah.. such is the intransigent attitude of the ISI and PA generals in large that they do not mind blowing up there own nations to smithreens but as the same time they expect that there enemy nation too must suffer disastorus consequences ala 9/11 mindset.
2) From 1) we in no way can pulback from the places like baramullah,kupwara,sopore..This is all in public domain as PM MMS had remarked that
any disclosure of the talks between indo-pak over kashmir will cause the govt. to fall.
a)Also the ISI has been able to convinve the US govt that muslim anger is due the fact that kashmir/palestine still remains unsettled.Recently Olmert Israeli PM effectively pulled back from certain areas of West Bank that was hotly contested by the Israeli hardliners.Can we doo the same in Kupwara/Baramullah/sopore. We cannot : as it undermines the territorial integrity of the nation.

b) a) leads to b) The least we can tell the world that we are moving forward is by climing down from Siachen Glacier.

c) To minimise the risks we have guided smerches,standoff weapons... that will minismise the risk of retaking siachen or even preventing the enemy from climbing down.Those langoors who climb up will simply die in cold
(There are many news items in the public domain which are a testimony to the fact that we are facing a certain amount of nudge to proceed the kashmir issue lest take the peace process forward. One of the ideas that J.N.Dixt proposed was moving the LOC several miles east. Of course this was all chankaian. All these points illustrate that we move ahead the de-escalation provess forward.)
Hope you now understand what was meant by "solutions". But of course this is all talk.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi interestedonlooker,

Pakistan can claim to have dictated anything they want. The point is we do what we think will make them more manageable.

If Musharraf gets wind of any activity by India to oust him from power - the probability that he authorizes the release of a Pakistani nuclear weapon will increase.

As long as the weapon is under American surveillance they will know about it. What they will do with this knowledge is anyone's guess.

If on the other hand - the weapon lies outside of the American surveillance regimes - then it doesn't matter what the American think about this situation.

Since the Pakistanis pretend to be capable of irrationality (like Nixon once claimed to wake up in the night and "stroke the big red button") we will claim to have provided them with a reason to go on living.

If the Pakistanis claim not have violated any agreement we will also claim not have violated anything. Sure Musharraf could claim that we have violated the AGPL or LoC but then he would have to explain to the Pakistani people why his vaunted Pakistan Army, America's Ally in the War on Terror is unable to defend against India?

Even if Musharraf keeps his mouth shut and doesn't accuse India of having violated the line, he still has to explain to the relatives of his dead armymen why their brothers, fathers and uncles are now dead.

As long as we retain the ability to project a high number of human casualties on the Pakistanis should they mount an operation on the Saltoro - we are fine.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi everyone,

I just want to be very very very very clear.

The only security for the Saltoro Ridge lies in India's ability to project unacceptable losses on Pakistan Army should it choose to do something that really undermines India's interests in the region.

Currently India's ability to inflict heavy losses on the Pakistan Army relies on the fact that Indian soldiers dominate the Saltoro heights and can direct accurate artillery fire on to Pakistani positions at will. The stocks at India's artillery positions far exceed their Pakistani counterparts and can shell Pakistani positions on the glacier for a week continously. A barrage of this nature will inflict about 300-500 casualties on the Pakistani side making their military posture on the Saltoro ridge unsustainable.

If it is possible to kill the same number of Pakistanis using some other form of weapons technology then it is possible to mitigate the cost of sitting on the Saltoro. I am willing to spend a few rupees if I can avoid sending the boys to occupy the Saltoro ridge. All I care about is ensuring that the Pakistanis who attempt to any mischief are severely punished.

If the Pakistani Army are severely punished for making trouble on the Saltoro Ridge, the PA's leadership will have to answer to its troops for making such a mistake. As there is no civilian government in power - unlike Kargil - the Pakistani COAS will not be able to dump blame for his personal failure on the civilian prime minister.

A Pakistani dictator who is percieved as being America's friend in the War on Islam will be especially short of friends should he decide to make trouble on the Saltoro and then lose his information dominance.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger interestedonlooker said...


A few observations:

1. India is not trying to replace Musharraf. Staying on at the Saltoro as we have for the past 22 years does not constitute trying to topple Musharraf. If he wants to make that claim, we should laugh in his face. All the nautanki he has put on about concessions to India over Kashmir may be acceptable for an American audience; for the GoI, he is still way off in his timelime to dismantle terrorist training camps - at last count, 56 were still operating and terrorist attacks in the Valley have spurted in the past two months. No concessions on anything from India, period.

2. The terrain along the LoC and the AGPL is a great equalizer. All the vantage positions for our FAOs and artillery tubes will be lost if we demilitarize the glacier. Then, the ability to punish Pakistan will exist only on paper. This is exactly what the entire IA brass has been pointing out in public and in one case, in private.

3. There is a durable peace along the AGPL, one that India and Pakistan have gotten used to. Our presence there does not amount to a new provocation. An Indian offer to demilitarize is purely based on a good faith gesture and not one required by current circumstances. I am arguing that this good faith gesture is poorly thought out and will set the current peace process back 5 years and will bring back a period of hostility - one that is not in our interests.

We need the fence to hold and infiltration/exfiltration checked for another couple of years while we wipe out the remnants of the Pak terrorists and their Hizb brethren. After that, we can talk to the splinter groups of the Hurriyat, if they haven't already been killed by the Pakistanis.


I am at a loss here. So we deny Musharraf's demand to demilitarize Kupwara and in turn concede Siachen and that is somehow in Indian interests??? To understand the utter bankruptcy of that line of thinking, replace Pakistan with India and India with China, the AGPL with the LAC and imagine the Chinese reaction. And the PLA isn't even in as advantageous a position militarily as the IA is, on the glacier.

Let's set our sights somewhat higher, shall we, and behave like a status quo power?

At 8:58 PM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi interestedonlooker,
I am not the person to suggest all this.What is being told to you is all present in the public media.This is what happening on the ground when GOI decided to negotiate with Pakistan the status of J&K. If you ask me we should never ever withdraw from siachen. Hearts of hearts,many of us including me are with you!!

At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maverick, Interested Onlooker, Mukunda and others,

I entered this very interesting discussion late. But the advantage of that is that I could take a step back and look at the issue in a broader context.

But first, here's something that is obvious but must be stated nevertheless: A solution to Siachen is possible, and may indeed by 'trivial'; but more than lines in the snow, it is a question of India's trust in Pakistan (specifically the Pakistani Army).

Unlike the political issues concerning J&K, where Indian politicians have greater leeway to appease Pakistan, there is a strong military element wrt to Siachen. Therefore it becomes a question of whether the Indian armed forces can trust the Pakistan army. Again, quite obviously, the answer is a no.

It's one of those prisoner's dilemma repeated games where the reputation of one player is abysmal.

But because India's civilian leadership has control and influence over the armed forces, it is also true that if Pakistan can gain India's overall trust, then solving Siachen not only becomes simpler, it becomes less of a public issue.

How Pakistan will gain our trust:

As Maverick hints, Pakistan comes clean on Kargil. (Tall order this, for they've yet to come clean on wars they started from 1947)

So how about this: Arrest and hand over wanted terrorists and criminals that Pakistan brazenly shelters. How can we trust them in the face of such flagrant lies?

All these CBMs are anodyne and hardly stray from the party line. The first step for Pakistan to gain India's trust is to act against high profile fugitives.

Let's discuss the mechanics of Siachen then. Until that time this is just like asking how many horns the unicorn has (no, the answer is not one).

At 6:52 AM, Blogger mukunda said...

hi all

"In that case - atleast we can now look forward to seeing a rerun of the "Kargil Surprise" saga."

1)Maverick is subtly suggesting that Kargil heights were not patrolled intentionally on the fateful winter of 1998.
2) The subsequent kargil war followed by India's victory was a diplomatic triumph. It was a signal to the entire world that Pakistan will not allow kashmir issue to get resolved.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi interestedonlooker,

I accept the contention that the military has made i.e. it is not possible to guarentee the same level of effectiveness that we have with our positions on the ridge with other (as yet untested) defence ideas. This makes total sense to me.

I also agree that until such alternative means have been proven to work atleast as effectively - the rate of demilitarization should be kept to a level that maintains our current level of security on the ridge.

However if you recall, there were a number of doubts about whether we would be able to hold the Ridge itself. And if you went by the early reports coming from Siachen - it was not at all clear that this was possible. Yet it was perseverance and sheer grit that ensured that even problems considered unsurmountable were tackled and our presence on the ridgeline was maintained.

So with that in mind - I state that I am not opposed to the idea of leaving the Ridge - provided a similar sustainted initiative can be taken to ensure that standoff targeting inflicts high casulties on the enemy in the case of a misadventure.

Please bear in mind, I do not endorse the idea of stand off monitoring. The monitoring will have to be done on site by an exchange of patrols, but standoff targetting - that is a different matter.

I am talking about doing things like - Can we launch a barrage at a precise spot using data from an EOS? okay if that does not have resolution - what about using a LORROP? - questions like this need to be answered - and they will be answered by younger members of the military. Most of commentary currently is coming from older members of the military who may not appreciate the revolution occuring in Indian military affairs.

I strongly suggest that given the success of Op Parakram - the issue of terrorist training camps in Pakistan be de-linked from progress on the AGPL.

If we do not show faith in them - then we won't be able to accuse them of betraying us.

I completely agree with you that if they betray our trust. We will have to completely repeat the process of trust building that has led us this far. It would be as you correctly point out - atleast five years before we reach this. And to think of the problems that Pakistan is going to face in the next five years - burgeoning unemployment, water shortages, political instability... what a discomfort it will be to live in Islamabad not knowing when the Indians are going to drop one on you.

Hizbul Mujaheddin to me has always been a euphemism for local support for the insurgency. This will only be eroded if there is economic development in the Valley. The AGPL has nothing to do with the Valley - that is a Pakistani fabrication. I can resolve the issue of the AGPL without bring the Valley into it.

Musharraf claims that unless America helps him get some victory over India - he will find it difficult to be America's friend. America for all its resources seems to be unable to come up with a successor for Musharraf so there is little alternative for the Americans but to pander to Musharraf's demands. In substance it is America that is doing the most to get Musharraf deposed. The repeated emphasis on a public support to America as it tramples over muslim sentiments all over the Islamic world is harming Musharraf more than any lost wars with India. Tomorrow if Musharraf falls - the Americans will be keen to blame someone else for the mess - eg. Hindu India which the American psyops people now claim has "Hindu Militants" operating in Kashmir.

If we do something credible to resolve the Siachen dispute - and we allow Musharraf to go on pretending that he "won Siachen" in front of the Pakistani people - then we can't be accused by America of having done something to make Musharraf drop his pants.

When Pervez Musharraf finds out his fall is imminent - He will want to nuke America for not supporting him - and not the India he just defeated on Siachen.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger maverick said...


I am not in favor of putting the arrest of criminals over the resolution of the Siachen dispute.

People like Dawood Ibrahim have killed Indians but lets face it - arresting Dawood is not going to bring the dead Indians back. Neither is it going to alter Pakistan's stranglehold on the sections of the Hawala market dominated by Gujarati-Sindhi Muslims.

Getting off Siachen - i.e. replacing the Saltoro with a new working defense paradigm - will imo definetely *save* Indian lives.

I was in Bombay the day the bombs went off. I felt terrible. In recent terrorist attacks in the city it has been a miracle that my friends and relatives have survived. I am sure that there are number of people who are victims of terrorism elsewhere in India that feel the same way.

But I recognize that these events were in the past and that the key to preventing the repeat of these events actually lies in improving local security in India.

Given a choice between something that could avenge a dead person and something that could save a living person right now - I will chose the latter.

In any case, a careful reading of the GoI's statements indicates that they would like to craft a working agreement with the Pakistanis that would allow for both militaries to restructure their defensive postures in the region without inviting escalation.

All this stuff about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handing over Siachen etc... that is all motivated hype.

I freely admit that I was not a big fan of the UPA govt. when it came to power, but now I love this UPA Govt. It is a strategist's dream - it does what it is supposed to, using seasoned professionals and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. And most importantly of all - this government never makes a fuss or a racket.

Not since the days of Rao garu have we had such silent and brutal efficiency in Govt.

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At 9:07 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

good to see Indians talking about precision strikes in gyari sector and ali brangsa :D to close the matter for ever we are very keen to welcome you mates (y)

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

forgot fight with each other correct me if i am wrong pakistan still holds upper hand in siachen although we lost the bigger part of it to india becoz we controls the chumik glacier indians realize this that's why they did several attempts to occupy this strategic glacier thorough which pakistan can easily dominate the entire area if ever needed (y)

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