Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Neelam Plan - a trip down memory lane.

You may recall the Neelam Plan, I was one of the people who helped develop that idea that Arindam wrote up.

The background was simple - Gen. Musharraf and his guys kept pushing the Chenab Plan. At its core it looked like they wanted a free transit for Pakistanis in this region. Given the past experience of visiting SSG/LeT/JeM/Al Badr delegations, some of us on the BR Forum were not keen on Gen Musharraf's idea. In particular I felt that Burzil La was a gaping hole that only bring suffering in all future conflicts.

I was very keen to see the Pakistani end of the Kashmir conflict sealed. I strongly believed it would bring violence levels down and reduce the number of weapons caches in the valley. Based on several interactions I sensed a kind of war fatigue in Kashmiris. I hope to exploit this and prevent the place from turning into "another Afghanistan" (as I told a Kashmiri visitor). With the flow of munitions shut, I thought perhaps HM OGWs could be brought back into the fold completely - the entire HM UGW presence cleared out.

I felt the AIOS would be up and running in the south in a few years and so there would progressively less to worry about there. I also felt that a similar arrangement would be needed in the north - specifically in the Neelam River valley. I felt any Pakistani movement there was undesirable and cutting off the Neelum Valley road would keep the 80 Inf Bde at Minimarg from getting too active. This was desirable as I didn't know if I could trust Gen Musharraf to keep his promise of not interfering in the 1-Alpha. They had too many guns in positions where the temptation to interfere would be great. So ceding the Neelam Valley to India would make a more enduring contribution in my opinion.

At the time there were discussions on the possibility of a large Indian industrial conglomerate opening a natural gas fired plant and stabilizing the problematic northern grids. This would provide a much needed relief in the region and allow for a significant improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of Indians.

Obviously I supported that idea. As the actual natural gas could only come from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan, I looked forward to going to these places and working with key stakeholders and making it work*.

In my mind with Pakistan - despite hostile feelings - the sense of common good would hold and a meaningful exchange could occur. The Pakistanis would emerge as partners in India's progress and India would be able to avoid putting dams on the Northern rivers and appearing to interfere in Pakistan's lifeline. I knew Pakistan too was deficient in electricity but there was no way they would able to secure the funding needed for the complex hydel projects that would be needed to overcome that. That had more to do with the internals of the Pakistani debt market and I didn't feel there was anything India could have done about that.

Anyway all this turned out to be a pipe dream. The PA acted like the Neelam Plan didn't exists and so did GoI (in its infinite wisdom). Instead they chose to accept Gen. Musharraf's promises and then for reasons no one wants to talk about relentlessly shelled the Neelam River Valley road. This posted significant collateral damage and I guess it achieved what was proposed in the plan but at a cost that no one was really keen to go into. I watched in horror as respected Army people openly shared that distaste for what was going on and I felt like asking then "then why are you doing this?" - but out of fear of their disapproval I kept quiet. I was young and afraid to speak my mind. The last thing I wanted to was to have a friend of my family chew me out over this. So like an idiot I kept my mouth shut figuring that perhaps some good will come of it.

The plan to open TAP pipeline also failed - the Pakistanis kept asking for giant sums of money and there was no leverage to get them to back down. And India had to turn to boosting coal imports and open hydroelectric options in Kashmir. That has created lots of problems which I am sure you are all familiar with.

* That didn't work out for reasons that are too long to detail here.


At 9:02 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

you cannot rely on Pakistan to accommodate any logistical deal. there are too many interests inimical to peace and free trade. any deal would be seen as an excellent hostage to terrorists threats and strategies in order to enforce their ideological imperative. example: polio shots.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

trump wants to leave Syria. I predict disaster for the kurds if he does.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger maverick said...

You have to know what to expect with the PK people. They have a very short throw with their national policy space.

Re- Trump - now that he has run out of immigrant kids to gas - he's getting set to push the button and kill us all.


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