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Indian army hampering Siachen solution: WikiLeaks

02 June, 2011

Indian army hampering Siachen solution: WikiLeaks
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KARACHI: The Indian army, and not just the civilian government, has played a role in the ongoing deadlock with Pakistan over the Siachen dispute, according to American and Indian assessments contained in confidential US diplomatic cables.

On Siachen, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) T. C. A. Raghavan, who has also served as the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan, reported that the Indian army has drawn a line with its political leadership. It has told the government of India that withdrawal was tantamount to ceding the area to Pakistan due to the difficulty of retaking it should Pakistan occupy it,” wrote the New Delhi embassy in September 2008.

While talks held on Siachen this week between the two countries’ defence secretaries may have been inconclusive for a variety of reasons, cables reveal that the Indian army has historically had a role to play.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is described as having to fight intense domestic pressure, and not just from political hardliners. “Were any deal to crystallise, PM Singh would need buy-in from the army and the BJP to avoid handing himself a political firestorm,” noted a 2006 cable in anticipation of talks on Siachen scheduled for May that year.

The cable also noted that Gen Singh’s position on the issue “is reflected in the Foreign Ministry as well”: India would not make a deal on demilitarisation without Pakistan signing a map laying out Indian and Pakistani troop positions before withdrawal. The primary purpose of this would be to justify action if Pakistan reneged on the withdrawal agreement.

Any deal, the cable implied, could only come after a go-ahead from the army: “The most telling signpost indicating the GOI is preparing the country for [a deal] would be Gen Singh publicly adopting a neutral (or supportive) position on a Siachen deal to signal in advance that the Army is on board, and that the GOI no longer needs to point to Army concerns to explain why a deal is not possible.” This pressure is seen as holding back Prime Minister Singh, who is described as being in favour of a deal — former National Security Adviser M. K. Narayan tells 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’ … With this guidance in mind, the Ministry of Defence has been instructed ‘to take as flexible a position as possible’”.

A comment written in November 2006 sums up the American view of the matter. “India has repeatedly come ‘very close’ to an agreement on the Siachen issue in 1989, and again (less so) in 1993.

“Each time the prime minister of the day was forced to back out by India’s defence establishment, the Congress Party hardline, and opposition leaders. The Indian army is resistant to giving up this territory under any condition for a variety of reasons — 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.”

According to at least one Pakistani government official, Prime Minister Singh had admitted to this pressure in talks with Gen Musharraf.

End.

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