Truncated or Mutilated Moth-eaten Pakistan
The vigorous campaign of Muslim League for an Islamic Pakistan, comprised of six Muslim dominated provinces Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province, Assam and Bengal, was ‘on sight’ in May 1947. But before Qaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League could cherish on its visible victory, Congress placed an injunction on Punjab and Hindu Mahasabha opposed the award of Bengal to Pakistan. Resultantly, both these provinces were divided and Jinnah agonizingly agreed to a ‘truncated or mutilated moth-eaten Pakistan’.
Since the colonial masters promised a new nation – Pakistan, carved out of India, the dreamers of the new nation thought that even at an embryonic stage, Pakistan lost portion of its claimed land to India! When India signed ‘Instrument of Accession’ with another Muslim majority province, Jammu and Kashmir, it was Pakistan’s turn to intervene.
War ensued in October 1947 and India, although won the war, lost a great portion of its territories Azad Kashmir (13,297 sq. km) and Northern Areas (72, 496 sq. km) to Pakistan. In 1965, Pakistan made another bid to wrest Indian territory but faced a crushing defeat. India won the war but lost 350 square miles of landmass to Pakistan.
The trend of acquisition of land from India in bits and parts was reversed in 1971 war when Pakistan plunged into a full-scale war and lost half of its landmass not to India, but to a new nation, Bangladesh, carved out of Pakistan.
Aryan Stock, Land and Siachen
Wresting or claiming territories/land from India has been a religion for Pakistan. Qaid-e- Azam Jinnah thought the same in 1947; so did Gen. Pervez Musharraf 52 years later in 1999 during the Kargil War. But before Kargil war, there was a quasi-war in April 1984 at Siachen when India managed to assert its control over the Siachen Glacier region. Pakistan caught off-guard in 1984 and as part of its revenge; it has orchestrated the secret Kargil operation when India was on slumber. One purpose of Kargil War was to regain Siachen.
But why Pakistan is so obsessive with Indian territories? Two reasons contributed to it. Firstly, Pakistan’s elongated geography, the lack of space, depth and a hinterland denied its armed forces the ability to fight a prolonged war with India; and secondly, the Pashtun dominated Pakistan army, as a tradition, strongly believed in seizing lands and strongly remained attached to the soil.
Since 1984, India is presiding over an area earlier physically unclaimed by either of the two countries. The ongoing conflict over Siachen is nothing but Pakistan’s untiring efforts to dislodge India from the geostrategically significant glacier region.
The Depth of Pakistan’s Claim
William Moorcroft, George Trebeck, Alexander Burnes and Mohanlal Kashmiri, all these famous travelers had, in their travelogues, described the environs and geostrategic significance of Siachen region. However, the topographic difficulty posed enormous challenges for the ‘Military Representatives of India and Pakistan regarding the Establishment of a Cease-fire Line’ to separate the claim of Pakistan and India beyond NJ9842. The 1949 agreed settlement read as beyond NJ9842, ‘ceasefire line shall be demarcated in detail on the basis of the factual position as of 27 July 1949, by the local commanders.’
The local commanders never met to decide the fate of ceasefire line beyond NJ9842 and to consolidate its defence and to provide a port of entry into Northern Areas, Pakistan signed the Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement on 2 March 1963. Strangely, known for its passion for land, Pakistan army ceded 5,180 square km (Shaksgam Valley) of its territory to China exactly on top of Siachen glacier and allowed China to built Karakoram Highway linking Xinjing province with the Northern Areas.
To protect its geostrategic interest Pakistan army cemented its relations with China. But as the Map-1 shows, the Siachen Glacier has been a thorn in the strategic mapping of Pakistan. It was obvious for the Pakistani army planners to acquire the control of Siachen so that its boundary could be extended straight to Karakoram Pass. If that was achieved, in case of conventional conflict with India,
Pakistan army would menacingly loom above the city of Leh and threaten Kargil with a flanking attack.
During 1970s, Pakistan, in its official map, showed the Ceasefire Line running straight from NJ9842 to Karakoram Pass. India’s claim on Siachen through Gyong La, Bilafond La, Sia La up to Indira Col is not accepted by Pakistan army. To assert its ownership on Siachen area Pakistan harped on half-baked sentences of Indian leaders. Pakistan highlighted how on 7 May 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru informed the parliament that Siachen area up to Karakoram Pass ‘is under the actual control of Pakistan.’ Similarly, Government of India’s protest note of 10 May 1962 referred the area west of Karakoram Pass as ‘under Pakistan’s unlawful occupation’.
Pakistan army asserted that even after Karachi Agreement (1949); Tashkent Agreement (1966); and Simla Agreement (1972) no clear delineation of Ceasefire Line and Line of Control beyond NJ 9842 existed.
Beginning 13 April 1984, India stationed its army at most of the heights on Saltoro Range west of Siachen Glacier. A weathering Pakistan army had to be contended with the lower elevations of western slopes of the spurs emanating from the Saltoro ridgeline. Pakistan army considers the statement of Rajiv Gandhi of 16 November 1989, where he said India ‘recovered about 5,000 square kilometers of area from occupied Kashmir in Siachen,’ as the tacit acknowledgement that Siachen has been obtained by use of force.
Siachen: A 21st Century Military-Diplomacy Hotspot
Since the time of Benazir Bhutto-Rajiv Gandhi, countless efforts have been made to resolve the Siachen dispute. The barren and forbidden Siachen stretch has become a prized possession where political leaders, military generals and observers from both the countries flaunt their presence to reiterate their inseparable association with the glacier. It has become a symbol of military might for India while Pakistan tried its hand at the slightest available opportunity to reclaim the region.
Much water has been flown under the Nubra River since the conflagration of Siachen conflict. Since 1997, when Prime Minister I.K. Gujaral was vetoed by the army to vacate Siachen until April 2012, when General Pervez Kayani agreed momentarily for demilitarization of Siachen, there has been no visible thaw in Pakistan-India ties on Siachen. Pakistan’s economy is bleeding for merely holding the lower ebb of Saltoro Ridge and since its army cannot forcibly eject Indian Army from Siachen tops, it has been taking the circuitous routes like demilitarization to amicably oust Indian Army.
Once that happens , Pakistan would be happy to engage China to surround Siachen.
Want A Siachen Solution?
The most visible but conveniently ignored predicament on Siachen or even for that matter on Kashmir is the inability of both the countries to identify the arbiters. In Pakistan, it is the army but in India it is the political leadership, which takes the final call. Therefore, the engagement and outcome are normally destined to produce split verdict if not a failure.
Pakistan cannot produce a powerful political dispensation capable of delivering result but India can send its military commanders to arrive at a conclusion. If this conviction is conveyed to Prime Minister Modi in 2014, then resolution of Siachen and Kashmir problems will only be a matter of time.
Dr. Saroj Kumar Rath is Assistant Professor at Sri Aurobindo College-Eve, University of Delhi and Author of ‘Fragile Frontiers: The Secret History of Mumbai Terror Attacks’.