Did I hear it right? Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani recently surprised the international community when he called for peaceful coexistence with India and demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier.
Does his statement indicate a change in the mindset of the Pakistan Army towards India? What happened to the traditional stance the Pakistani Army has adopted on India? Why a sudden departure? Are anti-India statements not evoking enough sentiments back home? So Mr Kayani thought of trying something different this time.
I think the recent avalanche tragedy has pushed Pakistan into a state of introspection as the country is paying a heavier price than India in Siachen as far as human and financial costs are concerned.
His remarks came a day after Nawaz Sharif, the chief of the main opposition party PML-N, urged the Pakistan government to take initiative on resolving the Siachen issue with India.
Undoubtedly, both India and Pakistan spend heavily on their military while millions of their people languish in poverty. The tragedy in Siachen has sparked a debate about the human as well as financial cost the two sides are bearing.
After visiting the site of the avalanche in Siachen that buried 124 Pakistani soldiers on April 07, General Kayani told reporters: “The world knows why we are in Siachen… World knows India first sent troops to Siachen which subsequently prompted Pakistan to do so.” However, he added that this conflict should be resolved.
The Pakistan Army Chief played it smart when he endorsed the idea of peaceful coexistence between the nuclear-armed neighbours, but tried to put the blame on India for Siachen impasse. It seems that his statement in the wake of the tragedy is aimed at building pressure on India to reach an agreement with Pakistan on the Siachen issue.
Reports suggest that the simmering rebellion in Gilgit-Baltistan against Islamabad is pushing the Pakistani Army to think of demilitarisation.
India should not enter in any deal with Pakistan on Siachen without understanding the repercussions of China’s presence in Gilgit-Baltistan. Reports have suggested that China has over the past decade become increasingly involved in Gilgit-Baltistan, strategically as well as economically.
Gilgit-Baltistan in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is an important region in terms of its geo-strategic location. Since it is a resource-rich region, China cannot afford to leave it for exploitation. The “all-weather friend” of Pakistan seeks this region to assure unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf. In fact, China’s projects like mega dams are a threat to environment as they could accelerate glacial melting and lead to flashfloods.
Keeping in mind the developments, India needs to be cautious enough while drafting its stand on Siachen vis-à-vis Pakistan.