Home / Opinion / Siachin is NOT the Stopping Point [ By Hania Rehman ]

Siachin is NOT the Stopping Point [ By Hania Rehman ]

Nature is rich with treasure trove of wonders to offer. However, not all of its treasures are laid bare and some are not entirely understood for their worth and importance to both the environment and humanity. The glacial melts are the lifeline of the ecosystems that rely on perennial sources of water. Our river systems underscore this point, with Indus being the grand daddy of all. Its origins are owed to the glacial domains meandering across the very northern rim of Pakistan. Here lies our lifeline, across the absolute desolateness of the frigid zone…where not a blade of grass grows! For want of a better parlance, these corridors are the gateways to our culture, our habitat and the very heart of our economy stamped by the unbroken span of the Indus Basin.
Over the last 40 years, this economic resilience is being overcome by dark shadows that have tailgated the land of the pure since its origins. And indeed it is the origins of these water melts that trouble our eastern neighbor. There is no better way to overcome an unbecoming neighbor than to starve the nemesis to death. For the Indians, it’s the most consistent line and length that their successive governments have maintained. And Siachin is one important nexus of the strategy.
Since the mid 1950s, our military-dominated government has known the Indian intentions to cut off river supplies and induce famine within Pakistan. Back then, the borders were not sealed and our routine brigade staff meetings with Indian counterparts were a cup of tea affair. Here, the pronouncements of military dominance took the back seat as the Indians honed in on the larger plan to subdue Pakistan. And they made it an open secret.
So then what on earth would the Indians dig on the heights of Siachin? It was unfortunate for the Indians that Pak Army slipped down from the slopes of the opposing Saltoro range and proved a vanguard to what would have been a progressive march to secure the terrain as far as Khaplu. There was no need to go any further as the course of the Indus would have been sufficiently secured from the vantage on towering heights. At present, the Indian border in its present disputed form is a mere 40 kms upstream of Indus from Khaplu, the first major town enroute to Skardu. Up to the border, the Indus takes in flows from two major outfalls, the Siachin and the Shyok river notwithstanding other smaller glacial melts along the corridor.
The dispute over the border dates back to the 1965 war when Indians occupied a few villages within the corridor of the Indus. The refugees are in limbo to the present day and took shelter along the northern bank of Satpara Lake outside Skardu. The 1982-83 incursion by Indians was the Act-I of this egress that was reciprocated by Pakistan in Kargil during 1998. The only difference was that Siachin could not be brokered to a withdrawal in a manner deemed fit for Kargil. These are pensive milestones for our Foreign Office and those with first hand knowledge.
So what will India do next? While the tributaries further south in the Plains of Punjab are being gagged through sly and wit, it would be nice to muscle control over the grand daddy and use the waters for a power potential between 2,000-3,000 MW, enough to drive the Indian settlements from the northern scape of Occupied Kashmir all the way to Ladakh. This would portend disastrous consequences for Pakistan’s premier hydropower source, the 7,500 MW potential at Bunji located downstream of Skardu.
For Pakistan, success in Act II at Kargil would have meant a cut off of Indian supplies to this strategic rim from Srinagar and the discontinuation of staging operations for military equipment and logistics airlifted from Leh and Kargil to Siachin, a mere distance of 60-70 km.
So the face saving at Blair House on that fateful day of 4th of July, 1998 meant that India got the lifeline to find yet another day for adventurism over and across the hills of Siachin. Its true our politicians have bargained our lifelines to expediencies and it is also true that the game play awaits what would be an ACT III in the doctrine of surgical strikes.
With a history of wars between the two combatants, Siachin is yet another peg stone to be nailed by the enemy in fulfilling the decades old doctrine now brusquely advocated by the Modi Sarker. It has come to every drop of water that flows into Pakistan. The state of events reminds about a Hollywood movie anticipating the horrors of thermonuclear conflict in the context of a war game. One cannot forget the baritone of the war simulation machine “would you like to play a game?” For Pakistan, it is important to know our real gateways before we lose sight of their protection.

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