The latest round of Siachen talks concluded on Tuesday without any breakthrough. Hopes were high because the avalanche tragedy seemed to have borne in on both the neighbours that it was useless keeping the militaries stationed in a harsh terrain whose financial fallout was also disastrous.
Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi’s seriousness in having the glacier vacated was made light of by the Indian team that was not able to get out of its ideological straightjacket. It asked Islamabad to legitimise the prevailing ground position of the two armies, which is to make a travesty of the talks. This is the negation of our demand of withdrawing the troops to their pre-1984 position which was formally conveyed during the talks. However, the conference ended on a not so negative note as seen from the joint press conference that expressed the resolve to continue the peace process aimed at an amicable resolution of the conflict. It was agreed that the next round of talks would be held in New Delhi. It is obvious though, that a golden opportunity has been missed. Islamabad this time around had tried its best to move forward, manifest through statements from across the political divide as well as the military stressing that demilitarisation was in the interest of both the countries. It is noteworthy that in line with global warming concerns, the Pakistan side also impressed upon its counterpart the environmental impact on the glacier, mainly fast melting of ice as a result of military activity. The prevailing lack of trust has come in to obstruct a likely resolution. However, if trust is to be gained first, these outstanding issues would need to be resolved centring on an approach of giving up something and getting something in return. If not, the issues would drag on endlessly – a spectre which is very much dreadful given that both the countries are nuclear powers.
And since the Indians have been constantly harping on the theme of resolving the smaller issues first as a stepping stone to the core issue, they have contradicted themselves. Pulling back the militaries from Siachen might also have acted towards Kashmir’s settlement. Sadly, these fault lines of bilateral equation have yet again made their presence felt to the detriment ofSouth Asia’s peace.