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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Siachen: Pak banks on PM to deliver after Gen Singh’s exit

On Friday, Pakistan managed to delay the liberalised visa pact on specious grounds. Even though Home Secretary RK Singh went to Pakistan for the explicit purpose of signing the agreement, the Pakistanis managed to delay it.
According to The Indian Express, Islamabad wanted the visa agreement to be signed by Home Minister P Chidambaram even though it was explicitly agreed during talks between President Asif Ali Zardari and Manmohan Singh in April that the home secretaries would sign it.
Knowing full well that Chidambaram was not going to be part of the visa pact delegation, the Pakistanis still insisted that he should come at least for a few hours to sign the agreement, which the home minister declined. They thus held the visa agreement hostage.
Says the Express quoting Ranjan Mathai on the visa pact delay: “We also have reports that the Pakistani side referred to some delay in its procedure and the Pakistani Interior Minister’s (Rehman Malik’s) desire for political participation in signing of the visa pact.”
Earlier, the Pakistanis decided to postpone talks on Sir Creek – where agreement is at hand – from the 14 May date scheduled earlier.
Nobody in the external affairs ministry should be fooled. All these are Pakistan’s excuses to get India to move out of Siachen – something it has been desperate to achieve since India holds the high ground on that glacier.
The Indian army has been very clear – from Gen VK Singh downwards – that an advantage obtained with so much sacrifice of men and material cannot simply be gifted away through so-called “demilitarisation” for no advantage at all.
However, the weak link in the Indian position is the Prime Minister himself, who seems to be scrounging around for a diplomatic victory to pull off when his reputation is otherwise in tatters.
According to a report in India Today, as early as June 2005, the PM told soldiers at the Siachen base camp: “Siachen is called the highest battlefield, where living is very difficult. Now the time has come that we make efforts that this is converted from a point of conflict to the symbol of peace.”
But the magazine also notes that Siachen is what the PM may be willing to sacrifice for personal achievement. “Demilitarisation is his CBM (confidence building measure) offer to Pakistan. Cynics suggest that he, too, has become a victim of the Nobel Peace Prize syndrome, trapped by the desire of temporary personal applause at the cost of national interests. It is his ticket to history.”
India holds the advantage on the Siachen glacier. AFP
underlines the fact that while Sir Creek is close to a solution, Siachen is not since the Indian army is dead set against it. It says “Indian army chiefs starting from Gen AS Vaidya and continuing to Gen VK Singh have refused to support what they perceive will be a major concession to Pakistan, as it is India which will have to withdraw.”
The Pakistani decision to delay talks on Sir Creek and also the visa agreement could be clearly related to Gen VK Singh’s retirement by end-May, when he will be replaced by Gen Bikram Singh, who, the Sunday Guardian suspects, “is expected to lead the reversal of the army’s position in order to help Dr (Manmohan) Singh achieve his dream of leaving a ‘peace mark’ on Indo-Pak relations.”
The Pakistani reference to “political participation” is probably a veiled reference to getManmohan Singh to hand them a lolly.
One hopes the government is not foolish enough to not see through the Pakistani ruse. Manmohan should be seeking to leave a legacy of peace based on real trust with Pakistan, not by allowing them to hoodwink us once again. As in Kargil. As on 26/11. As in the Shimla Agreement. As always.

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