Indian Army

Many good reasons to demilitarise Siachen. But India-Pakistan ties too torn to allow it

By The Print

The Chief of Army Staff’s annual conference on 12 January was mainly focused on the ongoing military standoff between India and China in Eastern Ladakh. However, it was General MM Naravane’s statement on Siachen that attracted a lot of media attention.

In response to a question, General Naravane stated: “We are not averse to demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier, but a precondition to that is to accept the AGPL [Actual Ground Position Line]. Pakistan has to accept what are their positions and what are our positions, and both of us have to sign on the dotted line before any kind of disengagement takes place.”

The AGPL currently lies along the Saltoro range that rises west of the Siachen Glacier, with the India Army holding most of the heights in a tactically advantageous position. There have been 13 rounds of talks on the demilitarisation of Siachen, the last one at Rawalpindi in June 2012.

After almost a ten-year hiatus, are we to read more into General Naravane’s statement beyond a normal factual response to a question? Is the current environment conducive to a move forward on the Siachen issue?

Views on importance of Siachen
There are sharply divergent views on the strategic importance of the Siachen area. One side points to the futility of maintaining soldiers in terrain that precludes the launch of large-scale operations. Lt General V R Raghavan, who served as the Director-General of Military Operations, wrote in his book Siachen: Conflict without End: “It is apparent that neither India nor Pakistan secures a strategic advantage by contesting the possession of the Saltoro range.

Neither also faces a military threat to the territory it occupies in Jammu and Kashmir from over the Saltoro range…A strategic veneer is given to what is actually a political necessity for continuing the conflict.”

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