The issue in Siachen is a microcosm of India-Pakistan relations. Can Pakistan be trusted?
Gen Musharraf as assured Manmohan Singh that Pakistani troops will not seize vantage points on Siachen if India were to demilitarise the glacier. A positive signal, considering Pakistan believes it is causing the Indian army to bleed money and lives by keeping the conflict alive in those god-forsaken heights.
But a lot depends on whether Gen Musharraf can be trusted to keep his word. As Kautilya writes, not only is the General’s record of keeping promises unfavourable he is also the architect of Kargil. In that last conflict, it was Musharraf who thought he had a clever idea when he sent ‘mujahideen’ militants to occupy positions left vacant by the Indian army when it retreated for the winter.
It is more difficult to send ‘freedom fighters’ to Siachen, but Musharraf’s credit rating must be judged by his past payment records. And those dont look very good. So while it may make financial sense for India to climb down from the Siachen glacier, it may well be remembered that wars are not fought for purposes of thrift.
Demilitarisation of Siachen is also a good military confidence-building measure. There were 72 other confidence-building measures that India last proposed – it may be more prudent to ask Pakistan to demonstrate good faith on some of those non-military ones before the more ambitious Siachen issue is tackled.
“I have no reason to doubt his sincerity,” Musharraf told Newsweek in an interview when asked if Singh was as committed to peace as former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. [IE]