Military & Aerospace

Why China and Pakistan want demilitarization of Siachen
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 May , 2014

Siachen and Sir Creek are back on the menu again. The Track II diplomacy to bring about a rapprochement between India and Pakistan is interesting in many ways. Official bilateral conclaves having failed to make much headway in ‘confidence building measures’, the Track II peace initiative is now joined by those who have fought fierce battles against each other – the military veterans from both sides of the border and the Line of Control (LoC). Sworn enemies and acclaimed warriors then, they now realise futility of war and advise India to abandon its defences to ‘demilitarise’ Siachen complex at one end and reconcile to Pakistan’s idea of border alignment at Sir Creek.

Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield of the world, is at the northern extremity of the LoC in J&K. Sir Creek is the lowest point at its southern end where the Indo-Pak border meets the Arabian Sea. There is no human habitation at either location. Siachen, they say, is a wasteland bereft of life and resources taking avoidable toll of soldiers besides being a huge burden on the defence exchequers. Sir Creek, likewise is a mass of uninhabitable marshlands where the alignment of the IB is in dispute for about 100 kilometres.  India believes it runs along midcourse of the stream; Pakistan believes it runs along the eastern edge of the creek.

 No doubt, for twenty years since 1984, numerous attempts were made by the Pakistan Army to wrest control of these heights but in vain.

Since an unresolved terminal point of Indo-Pak border at Sir Creek estuary controverts alignment of maritime boundaries and EEZs, there have been problems like fishermen and trawlers straying into disputed areas.  Clearly, there is a case for amicable resolution of the alignment of the border that actually exists but is being interpreted differently. In the case of Siachen, on the other hand, its present status does not affect life of common people on either side of the border in any way. Logically, since it lies beyond point NJ 9842, the Indian Army deployment violates neither the LoC nor any Treaty or Agreement. No doubt, for twenty years since 1984, numerous attempts were made by the Pakistan Army to wrest control of these heights but in vain.  Saltoro ridge and heights dominating the complex are under Indian control while the Pakistan Army is holding lower western reaches of the range. The situation has been quiet since the ceasefire agreement of 2003.

Ideally, as civilised progressive societies of modern world, India, Pakistan and China should have no need to hold their borders militarily. Economic cooperation, technology exchange, trade and cultural exchange and development programmes should have been the hallmarks of good neighbourliness instead of an atmosphere of animosity and suspicion. It is strange that eminent media houses like Times of India, Jung and the ‘freelance’ Track II group of senior military veterans have ignored issues that are far more vital and notorious for derailing every peace move in the past and continue to be the main threat even now, for instance, Anti-India Terrorist Camps in Pakistan, Role of ISI in sponsoring terror attacks (Mumbai 26/11 gave ample evidence), Pakistan harbouring some of India’s most wanted criminals, ignoring evidence given by India to substantiate such claims. When seen in the light of such momentous issues, ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen becomes too tiny and insignificant to be traded for larger objectives like peace and friendship between India and Pakistan.

There is a value difference in the perceptions of people and authorities in the two countries over the issue though. In Pakistan, the Government, the Army and the media perceive withdrawal of the Indian troops from Siachen a great strategic advantage over India.  This is quite understandable because this way they would be achieving peacefully what they could not by force.  In India, however, the perception is somewhat squinted – the Army does not want to lose its vital ground of Siachen which they have fought for valiantly and kept since 1984 having sacrificed nearly a thousand precious lives. But the government, a section of media and, ironically, a small group of military veterans are verily inclined in favour of the Pakistani proposal to ‘demilitarise’ (read ‘hand over’) the region and declare it as ‘Peace Park’ – an idea that was first mooted at the 5th World Parks Congress held in Durban in Sep 2003. The thought would be noble and praiseworthy if only there were not a history of Pakistan betraying all previous peace initiatives from India.

A History of Killing Peace Initiatives!

There is enough in the living memory that feeds these suspicions in the Indian mind

Responding from the syndrome of ‘once bitten twice shy’, many Indians suspect this noble looking package of peace and tranquillity from Pakistan of containing something sinister to dispossess India of her vital assets. There is enough in the living memory that feeds these suspicions in the Indian mind.  The chronology of peace initiatives between both the countries substantiates these suspicions because nearly every move has been followed by a sinister move against India – almost always.  Here is how India’s confidence has been consistently shattered in the past:-

  • The first ever conflict between India and Pakistan in 1947-48 was rooted in sheer deceit. Within eight weeks of the Partition, Pakistani irredentist forces including Army and para-military forces infiltrated into J&K to annex it by force. Had the Indian Army not been restrained in December 1948 by India’s own Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, the J&K problem would not have festered through so many wars and terror to remain what it is now. As per the UN resolution of 05 Jan 1949, Pakistan was required to ‘withdraw its forces, both regular and irregular’ from the occupied territory. Even so, Pakistan has not only ditched those resolutions and agreements but also has continued to fuel insurgency and terrorism unabated ever since.
  • President Ayub Khan and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had first agreed and signed for peace in June 1965 bringing the Kutch conflict to a halt.  Yet, Pakistan launched ‘Op Gibraltar’ infiltrating combatants in the guise of marauders into J&K in Aug 1965.  It led a shocked Shastri to whine, “Even before the ink of Kutch Agreement had dried up, Pakistan has raised its hood to strike again.” At Tashkent, Prime Minister Shastri signed an agreement with President Ayub agreeing to withdraw from all Pak territories captured by the Indian Army – an overarching generosity that took Shastri’s life.
  • At Kargil, defences were only temporarily vacated – say, ‘demilitarised’ (for the time being at least) – by Indian troops every winter trusting their Pakistani counterparts would not violate the Shimla Agreement and established norms. But India’s trust was betrayed by Pakistani troops infiltrating and occupying these positions surreptitiously in the guise of local shepherds. What’s more, Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were singing peace and harmony in Lahore in February 1999 even as the Pakistani troops were infiltrating and occupying Indian positions.  We signed for peace but were served War at Kargil that cost us over 500 youthful lives.
  • In 2001, although the Agra summit failed to reach a formal agreement, President Parvez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave a joint call to ‘burry the bitter past’ and move towards peace. Musharraf had even invited Vajpayee to visit Pakistan.  As if all good initiatives must be followed by sinister inimical teasers, the roller-coaster journey to peace was once again blasted by the LeT/JM attack on India’s Parliament on 13 December 2001 – an audacious attack on the sovereignty of India bringing both the countries on the verge of war with both the armies mobilised and remaining deployed along borders for almost a year.
  • An important landmark in the process of confidence building measures (CBMs) was opening of historic trade route (Srinagar – Muzaffarabad) across the LoC in 2008. The process of Confidence building measures (CBMs) between the two countries was just gaining momentum. Economic cooperation and trade between the two countries was just picking up when a fully trained band of terrorists struck Mumbai on 26 November 2008 creating havoc in the city.  Revelations by Kasab and David Headley confirm that Mumbai 26/11 was the handiwork of ISI.
  • Even as the eerie lull of incident free times continues, the ‘demilitarisation’ proposal from Pakistan and its advocates raises uneasy curiosity: Wow! Is Pakistan really meaning it this time?

A Stratagem or Philosophy of Peace? 

Now, in the realm of this realpolitik, let us analyse what has driven Pakistan to seek demilitarisation of Siachen. Anybody who controls Siachen will influence life in the Nubra and the Shyok valleys. Freedom of unhindered movement between Aksai Chin and Baltistan, Shaksgam valley will also be very restricted.  Siachen Complex may also serve as a suitable firm base for developing operations northwards (Karakoram highway) if required.

Anybody who controls Siachen will influence life in the Nubra and the Shyok valleys. Freedom of unhindered movement between Aksai Chin and Baltistan, Shaksgam valley will also be very restricted.

China continues to hold Aksaichin and, in collusion with Pakistan, it has steadily increased its presence beyond Shaksgam Valley into Baltistan. It has also been developing surface communication network in this region to facilitate all weather transportation of goods and military between West Tibet and ethnically sensitive province of Xinjiang. In fact, the road connecting Lhasa to Kashgar in Xinjiang province runs almost parallel to India-China border and cuts through Aksaichin. India’s presence at Siachen and enhanced influence in the region is naturally a cause of concern for China in such a scenario.

In southward expansion of China’s interests, it has invested heavily in developing Pakistan’s Gwadar into deep-water port. With most of the ‘Friendship Highway’, another name for the Karakoram Highway, having been upgraded in width from 10 m to 30 m enhancing its transport capacity by three times, China’s access to West Asia by land route will now be speedier and more economical – a great strategic and commercial gain indeed. Indian presence near Karakoram and Aksaichin would be naturally irksome not only for Pakistan but also for China. Demilitarisation of Siachen is therefore a strategic necessity for both.

The region holds other attractions too. Not yet fully explored though, the region is potentially rich in natural resources including minerals, precious stones, metals, oil and hydrocarbons. The Glacier itself is vast reservoir of fresh water – a resource that will be critical for survival in the future. These resources are valuable assets to attract all and sundry. Naturally, Siachen assumes strategic significance for India, Pakistan and even China because it forms a hub between Shaksgam Valley, Karakoram pass and Aksai Chin. Therefore, holding Siachen is vital for India to prevent ingress not only from Pakistan but also from China.

All these attributes add to Siachen’s military value. Having failed to capture these dominating heights militarily, Pakistan has also attempted to isolate Siachen by infiltrating and occupying heights in Kargil Sector in 1999. Since that attempt also failed, it now plans to get it through a currently more fashionable non-military route like rallying support from the environmentalists and innocuously clothed peace vendors, military veterans and media on both sides of the border. Incidentally, it was an Italian ecologist Giuliani Tallone who first proposed setting up of the ‘Siachen Peace Park’ at the Durban Conference in 2003. With Ottavio Quattrocchi still haunting the Indian memory for his hideous role in Bofors scam, could it be yet another fiddle playing ominous ball with Pakistan to beat India at Siachen?

Indian presence near Karakoram and Aksaichin would be naturally irksome not only for Pakistan but also for China. Demilitarisation of Siachen is therefore a strategic necessity for both.

The hyperbole of pious intentions is deeply intriguing. Whole world knows that it was the Pakistan Army that had first planned to occupy these heights in summer 1984.  The Indian Army only pre-empted and occupied strategic heights before the former could reach there in April 1984.  The Pakistan Army has since then launched many attacks to dislodge the Indian Army from Saltoro ridge in the longest fought military conflict for 20 years. They now call it ‘futile’ to hold these chilly hills and want the area ‘demilitarised’. Were they fighting all this while to capture and hold these heights or to bestow serenity on these mountains? Nothing can be more preposterous than this proposal of ‘demilitarisation of Siachen’ coming from an Army that has fought longest to gain control of the same positions.

Cost of National Security?

In support of their argument for ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen, the lobbyists have inspired emergence of a school of thought in the Indian media and military veterans who question the high rate of casualties and prohibitive maintenance costs involved in holding defences as one of the reasons for the Indian troops to vacate Siachen. However, the argument that Siachen is a very costly battlefield in terms of money as well as human life is also no longer true today. In the initial stages when there was no infrastructure on these heights, casualties and costs were undoubtedly high.  More casualties were suffered due to unexplored hostile terrain and extremely severe climatic conditions where mercury dips as low as minus 58 degree Celsius making soldiers vulnerable to chilblain, frostbite, pulmonary oedema and accidents – a phenomenon that claimed lives and limbs more than combat.

With essential infrastructure now in place, the costs of maintenance have  gone down considerably. It is now comparable with any other high altitude areas in J&K.

That was until the infrastructure was built to match the harsh conditions of weather and terrain. With essential infrastructure now in place, the costs of maintenance have  gone down considerably. It is now comparable with any other high altitude areas in J&K. Consequent to the ceasefire agreement of 2003 between the opposing forces, battle casualties are also now negligible.  Moreover, Siachen is not the only air-maintained forward position in our context. There are many other posts in inaccessible high altitude areas in the East, North and other locations in J&K where forward posts are maintained by air even today. We cannot factor natural calamities in our reckoning of costs to life and property. Catastrophes can befall anyone anywhere from tsunami at sea level to avalanches in high mountains.

Above all, nothing is ever costlier in terms of life and money than wars for nations. It is therefore necessary to keep war at bay or win it decisively if and when thrust upon us. And the best way to keep war away is being always prepared for it.  No financial cost is, therefore, too high for keeping national security intact and maintaining our Armed Forces at the peak of their operational preparedness at all times, which at present has many holes that need to be plugged.

The question that arises in this scenario is: If peace, friendship and cooperation between India and Pakistan were the genuine aim, why limit the idea of ‘demilitarisation’ to Siachen alone? Why not make entire South Asia a ‘Continent of Peace and Prosperity’. The first step to proceed in that direction is to dismantle all Terror Training Camps and facilities, lock up the likes of Hafiz Mohd Sayeed, LeT and other terrorist gangs transparently and effectively.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Karan Kharb

The author is a retired Army Officer, author of two international best sellers.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left

22 thoughts on “Why China and Pakistan want demilitarization of Siachen

  1. Hello Mr. Karan Kharb

    Since your article above in 2014, what new things have happened? One thing I noted was that you mentioned Chinese route to the port in Arabian sea. In 2017 CPEC was announced that supports what you wrote about that the area has to be and will go thru demilitarization for safety reasons which is good for India as the attacks on Indian soil across LOC may drop down.

    One youtube video shows (Akhilesh Yadav — I think) talks about the only reason of Pakistan to have ambitions to occupy Kashmir is the valley that has number of rivers giving water to the land of Pakistan from the East. Does India not have any plans to hold water and build dams there and put gates which would scare Pakistan for flood or scarcity of water? I think India should and must do so.

    Please respond to d i l i p m e e n a at yahoo dot com. Thanks

  2. Nehru’s lack of strategic vision is clearly visible in his statement that ” not a blade of grass grows in Aksai Chin,therefore it’s of no use and let China keep occupying it ” after the 62 defeat . As long as we have Siachen then both China and Pakistan are severely restricted in their malicious ambitions. Giving away our strategic advantage will be foolish. It must be never done

  3. The Pakistanis are hypocrites & liars. They have made their country a global terrorist hub. The entire world knows this when Osama Bin Laden was found there. They have made terror an industry over there. Modi is an elected Prime Minister in India unlike the Generals in Pakistan who captured power through various coups. They had made genocide in East Pakistan in 1971 which is only comparable to Nazi holocaust . They know that their army are no match with India Army, hence this wild suggestion of demilitarization of Siachen

  4. I think your proposal is good. To start with we should lock up Mr Moodi, who is a internationally recognised terrorist as banned by the US from entering into the United States on account of the thousands of people killed by him in the Gujrat Massacre. I think this is the major difference between India and Pakistan, that a gangster like Moodi can gain a premier govt. position only in India. It can never happen in Pakistan.

  5. I think pakistan is always in dilema to understand any thing, this Mudabber belives everything is correct in pakistan, what a shame,All these years you have tried to destroy india and hence ur left beggers in front of the world, but india on the other hand,always tried to grow as a country and all these issues with respect to the border and an idiotic,mental neighbour creating noises any time in the day have just been treated and given befitting answer, but we have never gone for your head else the INDIAN ARMY can rip your head off and an existense of Pakistan on the World map would be redrawn, In all these yeard India has grown as a country we have INDIANS named in the Most rich people of the world, we have grown in to all the facets of Life despite of a neighbour whose existence is just to destroy us. what a shame!!!We have poverty because pakistan has always created issues and we have to spend a considerable amount of money for defence.The time as changed the government has spine, Mr Modi can take the entire pakistan but you know what the indians are not interesed in crap nation like pakistan where life seems to be rigid with self drawn and belived ISLAM rules, no religion say fight, kill, human bombs,what crap,what ISLAM you guys talk about, its shit, read you quran and understrand the essense of life,enough is enough, I just hope with all these infiltartion by the weak pakistani force happening on the border, Mr modi doesnt go after your existence,bouyy you will be destroyed a country of terror has hardly any thing in place, your own country ment dont respect the law of the land, I guess ur love for AK-47 is more than your hate for India, and that is where the problem Is. You want Kashmir, Asholes we will rip u apart even if you dare to take a square inch of land from us.u have tried it in the past and have taken bullets left,right and centre.Its time up for pakistan as country.
    A Country full of terror is a shame for the world. You Will be Lost in the Worl Map

  6. The general has been dishonest on “the UN resolution of 05 Jan 1949, Pakistan was required to “withdraw its forces”. It was both for Pakistan & India to withdraw there troops from J&K and give people of J&K the right of self-determination. Was that right ever given to the people of J&K?

    Post 1965 war, while licking its wounds, didn’t India started conspiracies in the East Pakistan that eventually caused the separation of the Eastern part?

    You Indians think of yourselves as the only ‘angels’ in the universe.

    • Remember that in 1947-1948 you pakistani invaded J$K not Indians.
      The king of Kashmir sounds for a help and we always know to help others , not to invade .
      If we withdraws our toops from j$k and give them the write of self determination . Pakistan and china make it a slice of brade.
      And in the matter of east pakistan , thanks your allah that we only make it seperate not make it our. It is also very little that you do to us . Yes we know that we are not only angles but also knows that every pakistani is not a terrorist but all terrerist who invades my Great Country is a pakistani.
      Go and read your history and shut ur mouth.

    • What wounds from 1965? Goodness, did your army brainwash you into believing you actually ‘won’ a war with India!!!??? Never man. if it had, then the borders wouldnt be like it is now! India is the softy here, if pak had won anything at all, it would have remained pakistans! whereas the indians always allowed you a gracious exit. Wounds!? lol. Many of you do think you actually won anything at all from india!? Even that azad kashmir is a charity from india the softie my friend due to softy leaders from congress. else…Else i dont want to say what wud have happened!

  7. its easy to comment in such patriatic manner by supporting futtile mission at cost of beloved men of their mothers. Its so unfortunate that indians still willing to thrust their country into stone or for that matter ice age where world is increasingly moving towards borderless world.

    • hey dude,

      seems like u are from some stupid human rights group or from pro pakistani/chinese minded school.

      Do you think Pakistanis or chinese would envisage a borderless world ????
      Do you want us to embrace them by telling ” please take our motherland, we don’t own it anymore ?”

      go and preach this to Pakistanis or Chinese. We don’t take your bullshit.

      It is guys like you who ruin this great country of ours…….

      “Know ur role and shut ur mouth”

  8. It is very good detailed explanation about this issue,I hope our peace loving leaders and media will also understand the cost of this part of our motherland. I believe that talk should not be made on “Demilitarisation of Siachen” but the talk should be made on Vacating our holy motherland from POK and Aksai Chin by Pakistan and China…………………………….Without any other argument and Tibet issue must be raised again…………………………………..Jai Hind

  9. A well very analysed narration. As an wife of an army officer who served at siachen at the last manned post I know what life is up there. I simply don’t understand why media and indian govt should give such importance of gen kayanis comment on demilitarisation post the death their men on an avalanche. China and pakistan are adopting the age old tactics of your enemy is my friend. Why should pakistan illegally ceded shugkam valley to china and fight with india for siachen. There is a upright sinister motive. Demchok and aksai chin under chinese occupation already. Pok under pakistan . It is already enough of troubles waiting from all sides. Don’t welcome the let and al queda by the wakhan valley. If demilitarise this region then it won’t take enemy to capture j and k and ladakh in hours. But holding on to siachen india is at advantage. Don’t make it a deuce and advantage opponent and loose the game.

  10. INDIA
    Shouldn’t forget the teachings of The Great PANCHA-TANTRA.
    Which tells how a common man was cheated by three culprits.
    One by one the culprits mis-guieded the man & forced the man to believe that its Not a goat but a dog, which he brought from he market. Eventualy he lost the goat by believing the culprits.
    Here the culprits are 1).PAKISTAN 2).China 3).Remaining World.

    Myself i urge India not to go with this mischief & loose its strong hold Over SIACHEN Glacier.

    Finally, Its INDIA which wasted so many years to convince the whole world to Declair PAkistan a Terrorist Country, which were never fruitfull. it will be very unfortunate, if INDIA doesn’t understand the politics of PAKISTAN &
    CHINA behind the De-Millitarization of SIACHEN.
    Lots of Thanks to the Author for this beautiful article.

  11. we know what this Chinis n Pakis want. By agreeing to them is like giving your Main door key to looters . China backing Pak for its Planned Mischief , which is unable to fruit Coz of Indias presence in Siachin. thats why china is backing Pak & keeping itself silence to avoid susspision. Again chinas strategic planning s are haltted due to indian position at siachen.It is upto Pak whether it want to guard their border or not. U f@#@##@king b@#@#hs who give you power to say this to us. we will never Demillitaries Siachin for our Startegic interest.

    • two nuclear power with Million+ men army followed by billion+ people will go to war. 1962 was a misadvanture but today there is a parity of power between India and China. Wars are not fought with quantity. India is now enough big in defence force, technology and economy to resist Chinese aggression. Also as far as economy is concern, in next 10 to 15 years, India will be 3 largest economy (real GDP) in the world. Also Chinese growth rate will now drastically slow down to not more then 6% where as India’s will pick up and thus GDP gaps will now onwards be closed.Not to forget India will have better diplomatic advantages in case of Chinese aggression. US/West/Russia/Japan/Aus/Asean will suppport India in this case as all these parties have issues with Chinese aggressive militarty postures.Only negotiations which can happens are:1. Chinese withdraw their claim from AP.2. India stop asking for Aki Chin in J&K which Chinese captured in 19623. China stop supporting Pakistan on J&K and offically recognise J&K as part of India.4. India stop supporting Dalai Lama.

  12. The sentiments expressed by you are fair and are worth considering. I would like only to say that if Pak does dismantle all camps of terror in POK, adheres to already on going cease fire and executes those responsible for 26/11 as also shares existing status of positions on map then we should agree to de militarize siachen. If any violation takes place at any later date then pak is to be held accountable in international fora such as UN and Indian Army will not be pushed to get it back by fighting a war for its recapture

  13. when I see and read such articles on net I always wonder that if people like Shri.Karan and others are so well informed then how it is possible that people in media,government,ngos etc are so ill informed about these situations.Either they are so dumb to play in the hands of enemy or they betray the country for money.

  14. The current noises being made over the ostensible “demilitarization” of Siachen should be seen and recognized for what they actually mask – a sinister Sino-Pak effort to remilitarize Siachen in their favour. Trusting countries like Pakistan is out of the question. Deceit and betrayal are an intrinsic part of the mindsets of Islam and the Chinese mind, which is conditioned by its ancient strategist Sun Tzu. As Pakistan cannot stand up to us in the battlefield, it is now trying everything else, through its hidden friends in the Indian media and anti-national ‘secular’ intelligentsia, some of whose celebrity members were exposed not too long ago as being in the pay of Pakistan’s ISI, post the Ghulam Fai expose.

    The history of our subcontinent is littered with innumerable instances of gullible Indian kings who naively trusted the seeming peace overtures of their Islamic enemies, only to find themselves betrayed and waylaid. The price for these betrayals has been catastrophic, beginning with the tragic end of Prithviraj Chauhan of Delhi, who prebailed over Shahbuddin Ghori in the Tarai battlefield but duped himself into letting off his snake-like foe alive. We’re still paying for it. A section of the Indian media, in cahoots with the anti-national Nehruvian Congress seems eager to hand over India to the Sino-Islamic axis. It is all the more critical that the people of this nation are watchful and united. Our armed forces have a crucial role to play in this regard and must thwart any ideas of a sellout on Siachen by bluntly scotching any discussion on Siachen or elsewhere. All talk of demilitarization as regards China and Pakistan are nonsense, as these aren’t civilized entities, unlike India.
    Jaganniwas Iyer

    • India is not interested in pidrodng the Dragon . Nor, does India think that China would have more to lose in a nuclear exchange. India’s nuclear weapons are there as a deterrent to prevent dragons and other assorted reptiles/creatures from pidrodng her I am assuming India’s nuclear deterrent is credible.

  15. Dear Sir,

    I don’t how many times I should thank you as an Indian citizen for this highly informative piece! Let me say a million thanks to you first!

    I’ve been reading this article and tweeting the moot points you have raised on my twitter@bharatjohnson!

    Thanking one million more times,



More Comments Loader Loading Comments