When Army did not allow Sonia Gandhi to gift Siachen Glacier to Pakistan

 

 

Introduction

During their visit to Beijing in August 2008, Sonia Gandhi, children and grandchildren had a meeting with Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, also. (Source: Tweet of @amitmalviya of BJP IT cell.) Wonder, if the meeting of two ‘royal’ was arranged by the CCP leaders for joint strategy or to get Sonia Gandhi’s support for Pakistan. (https://www.devendranarain.com/sino-sonia-syner…-indias-security/)

Congress’, especially Gandhi-Vadra family’s, love for Pakistan is well known. When the Modi government carried out a “surgical strike” in POK or bombardment of terror camps in Balakot, Congress was disturbed and refuse to believe the claim of armed forces.

It is also a well-known fact that at least since 2005, the Sonia-controlled UPA government was trying to demilitarise Siachen Glacier that was tantamount to surrender of the Glacier to Pakistan. Before that, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992 had a similar plan. These successive Congress governments were determined to commit the same mistake similar to what Nehru had committed in 1948.

Siachen Glacier and its importance

Perhaps, Pakistan discovered Siachen Glacier in 1970 and used it for mountaineering. An Indian army officer noticed Pakistani activities in 1981 and sounded the alarm bell. Both India and Pakistan tried to occupy it in April 1984. On April 13, the Indian Army launched its “Operation Meghdoot”. Within 48 hours, the Pakistani army also reached. The two armies fought battles in the extremely cold climate. Ultimately India took control of the 70-kilometre-long (43 mi) Siachen Glacier and it’s tributary glaciers, as well as all the main passes and heights of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the Glacier. The Siachen Valley remains in the position of Pakistan.

The 70-kilometer-long Siachen Glacier at the height of 24000 ft prevents direct link between POK and China. From there the Indian army can watch Gilgit and  Baltistan regions of Pakistan and also infrastructure built by China beyond the LAC. It is considered natural protection to India.

Between April 1984 and 2003, Indian and Pakistani armed clashed several times for the Siachen Glacier and surrounding areas. Musharraf mounted an operation in Kargil in 1999 to avenge Siachen but failed, suffering over 700 casualties. The ceasefire declared during Ramzan in 2003 continues. What Pakistan failed to get in battles, the Congress governments wanted to give on a silver platter.

Because of the below -60-degree temperature, the constant threat of avalanche, and high-speed winds, it is the deadliest and costliest area to maintain for the security of India. The daily cost of keeping 5000 army personnel is about Rs. 50 million. (ET Online,  Nov 20. 2019) Between 1984 and 2019, 850 (790 between 2000 and 2003 alone) Indian soldiers died due to hostile weather.

UPA (read, Sonia Gandhi) government’s attempts to surrender Siachen Glacier

In his book, “How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century”, Shyam Saran, India’s Foreign Secretary (31 July 2004 – 1 September 2006) has written that at least three times – in 1989, 1992 and 2006 – India and Pakistan nearly agreed on demilitarising the Siachen Glacier. Note that all these attempts were made by the Congress government.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was first to take initiative, within five years of the Indian occupation of Siachen Glacier, in 1989. Saran says that his initiative failed because of Pakistan’s disagreement over the deal. (Maybe, some powerful person was pressurising Rajiv Gandhi.)

(However, according to a Wikileaks report in 2017, the agreement almost finalised by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi could not be sealed due to opposition by the Indian army.)

(During ‘his’ rule, Rajiv Gandhi took other decisions also against the interest of the country. Read: Westland Helicopters: recalling Gandhis’ deadly deal with Mrs. Thatcher; link: https://www.devendranarain.com/westland-helicop…ith-mrs-thatcher/)

The second attempt – to withdraw forces from the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) – was made in 1992 when the P.V. Narasimha Rao government was Prime Minister. However,  the decision was deferred.

Before looking into the third attempt, it would be relevant to look into the attempts to create an environment in favour of demilitarisation.

On June 13, 2005, addressing the soldiers at the Siachen base camp, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that living in Siachen, the highest battlefield was very difficult. He added that ” Now the time has come that we make efforts that this is converted from a point of conflict to the symbol of peace.”

In 2007, a paper titled  “Demilitarisation of the Siachen Conflict Zone: An Idea Whose Time Has Come”, written by a strategic analyst, Brigadier (Retired) Gurmeet Kanwal of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (available on internet https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep09054), prepared a case for demilitarisation of Siachen. He argued that “To justify a prolonged conflict, a piece of land must provide significant military advantage and open up options for seeking major military gains. Siachen does not qualify as an of strategic importance on any of these grounds though it has now become a politically sensitive issue.”

The strategist gave a very naïve suggestion that  “After demilitarisation is successfully completed, the Siachen DMZ can be declared a ‘science park'” as if our neighbours are very gentle persons who would visit the science park for pleasure and knowledge!

Surprisingly, a retired brigadier was considered a strategist should underestimate the importance of natural defence.

Before as well as after him, suggestions were made to demilitarise or financial consideration. It was argued that the Indian Army was unnecessarily spending more than ₹ 3000 cr. every year to maintain a hold over the Glacier where hundreds of soldiers died due to extreme cold weather.

The Army’s stand has been (except, as discussed below, when an Army Chief had temporarily become soft) that what it had captured the force cannot be allowed to be handed over to Pakistan. After 2003, there has been very little casualty due to hostile weather. The Indian soldiers are well protected.

As Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran was directly involved in the third attempt. On the order of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he prepared a proposal with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan to take back Indian troops and give away Siachen Glacier to Pakistan. Singh had also asked him to obtain a consensus of all stakeholders for which he held series of meeting with officers and ministers of defence, home, and finance ministries, and also Army Chief JJ Singh and all chiefs of the Intelligence Agencies. He writes that the Army gave its consent.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the Cabinet Committee on Security met to consider the proposal. Perhaps, what happened in the meeting was beyond the anticipation of the FS.

  • The then National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan strongly opposed it. His reasons were: (a)India’s military position in the northern sector vis-à-vis both Pakistan and China would be compromised, (b) Pakistan could not be trusted, and (c) there would be political and public opposition to any such action.

 

  • General J. K. Singh who had happily agreed to the proposal before, had now decided to join Narayanan. He agreed that the Siachen deal was not safe and would put India in grave danger.

 

  • Initially, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, stayed quiet. However, when the NSA suggested that the issue of Siachen should be taken off the agenda in the India-Pakistan talks on the border issue, Mukherjee supported the militarisation on the ground that as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had acted to include Siachen in the Indo-Pakistan dialogue.

 

  • Shyam Saran who had authored the proposal along with his Pakistani counterpart supported the proposal.

 

  • Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kept quiet throughout the meeting.

The CCS could not approve the proposal.

(The common knowledge is that India and Pakistan had major differences. While India wanted Pakistan to authenticate the 110 km actual ground position line (AGPL) along the Siachen-Saltoro ridge, Pakistan insisted on reverting to the pre-1984 position. How Saran and his Pakistani counterpart prepared agreed proposal is not known.)

Shyam Saran has covered the attempts only up to 2006.

The attempt was revived in 2012. On April 30, Defence Minister A. K. Antony told the Lok Sabha that the Government was “holding meaningful dialogue with Pakistan to demilitarise the Siachen Glacier.” According to a write updated May 05, 2012, in India Today “Siachen demilitarisation: Could PM gift away to Pakistan what Army has won?”  (available on the internet:https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20120514-siachen-glacier-demilitarisation-indian-army-pakistan-758307-2012-05-05), after that statement, the then Army General V. K. Singh pressed the panic button. ”officers of the military operations directorate in Army Headquarters had prepared a  presentation t to brief the National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the strategic disadvantages of demilitarising Siachen.”.

What the UPA government was planning was not demilitarisation but handing over of Siachen to Pakistan. (May visit: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-when-mk-narayanan-stalled-siachen-deal-2543556;  http://postcard.news/congress-had-struck-deal-to-give-away-siachen-glacier-to-pakistan-but-this-man-saved-india-from-the-deal/

More sensational disclosures were made by Wikileaks.

May 18, 2006

‘We cannot rule out the possibility of a surprise deal emerging, except to note that if it does, it will probably come not from the negotiating teams themselves but from the senior-most political levels, Were any deal to crystallize, PM Singh would need buy-in from the Army and the BJP to avoid handing himself a political firestorm. (Reference was to the deal considered in May 2005)’

‘Fortunately for the PM, Congress’ coalition partners are unlikely to obstruct a Siachen deal. The most vocal and difficult to manage UPA partner, the Left parties, generally favor policies that promote Indo-Pak rapprochement and cutting the defense budget; demilitarizing Siachen would likely advance both these goals. … ‘

In a release dated September 9, 2013, Wikileaks stated:

  • In November 2006, the American view was that “India has repeatedly come `very close’ to an agreement on the Siachen issue in 1989, and again (less so) in 1993…The Indian army is resistant to giving up this territory under any condition for a variety of reasons – a strategic advantage over China, internal army corruption, distrust of Pakistan, and a desire to keep hold of advantageous territory that thousands of Indian soldiers have died protecting.”

 

  • NSA MK Narayanan told American officials in May 2005 that “the PM had instructed all his subordinates that `we need to accept Musharraf’s bona fides, even on Siachen’.

 

  • According to the US confidential diplomatic cables released recently, the Indian Army was held responsible for the ongoing deadlock with Pakistan over the Siachen dispute.

 

  • In 2006, the US Embassy in New Delhi sent a cable that “PM Singh would need buy-in from the Army and the TDP to avoid handing himself a political firestorm.” The cable sent by the embassy added that “India would not make a deal on
    demilitarisation without Pakistan signing a map laying out Indian andPakistani troop positions before the withdrawal. The primary purpose of this would be to justify action if Pakistan reneged (went back) on the withdrawal.”

 

  • In September 2008, the US embassy in New Delhi informed (the US administration) that the Indian Army’s stand was that withdrawal from Siachen was tantamount to ceding the area to Pakistan due to the difficulty of retaking it should Pakistan occupied it.”

 

In 2017, the Wikileaks had revealed a sensational document that showed how the UPA government under Sonia Gandhi and  Manmohan Singh had decided to give away Siachen Glacier to  Pakistan. 

 Conclusion

Manmohan Singh being just a puppet of Sonia Gandhi, who owed the high office of Prime Minister to her and held for 10 years due to her continued pleasure, could not have taken such a crucial decision on his own. He must have acted on the order of his boss Sonia Gandhi. There are reasons to believe that Rajiv Gandhi also acted under Sonia Gandhi’s pressure. I cannot say who pressurised or influenced Narasimha Rao.

With the change in the government in 2014, Sonia Gandhi’s desire to present strategically crucial Siachen Glacier to Pakistan on a silver platter remained unfulfilled. I wonder if the politicians have received a strong message that when the political leadership acts against national security, the armed forces would not keep quiet. Had the armed forces (and NSA in 2006) not taken a firm stand, India would have lost the strategically crucial Siachen Glacier to Pakistan.

Any suggestion that Siachen Glacier should be demilitarised or given to Pakistan because it was very costly to maintain it, was suicidal. A nation’s security, a nation’s honour, armed forces’ honour cannot be subjected to cost-benefit analysis.

The bottom line is that the Congress party that was once in the forefront of the freedom movement has declined so much under Sonia Gandhi that what is in the interest of the Congress (read, Gandhi-Vadra family) is not in the interest of the country and what is in the interest of the country is not in the interest of the Congress

Devendra Narain

July 05, 2020

@narain41

 

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Written by Devendra Narain
Date of birth: January 1, 1941 Educational qualification: Master of Arts (First Class) in Political Science Visiting Fellowship (one year, 1978-79), University of Oxford, UK. Job Experience Teaching job: Lecturer in Political Science, Patna University (February 1963 to October 1965) Indian Revenue Service: November 1965 to December 2000. Important positions held in Government of India: Head of the Project Appraisal Division (Planning Commission), Head of the Project Monitoring Division and Joint Secretary/Additional Secretary (Department of Programme Implementation) and Member, Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property. Retired from Government of India on December 31, 2002, as Member, Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property. Experience as trainer: more than 50 national and international training programmes on project management International Experience: Indian member of Inter-governmental committee on project management system by the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1985; Member of Indian delegation to the (erstwhile) Soviet Union (1986) Area of expertise: Project Management (ex-ante Project Appraisal, CBA, Monitoring, ex-post evaluation). Author of more than two dozen articles on different aspects of project management. Experience as author • Co-author of a book on Indian Constitution. • More than two dozen articles on different aspects of project management. • 11 stories (10 satirical and one serious) in English and Hindi, published in leading magazines and newspapers • More than 250 write-ups available on Internet Presently writing articles on social, political and economic issues. Website: https://www.devendranarain.com Present on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)