Is Siachin issue soluble?

K.N. Pandita, (written on 23.5.07),

Some time back the European Parliament assigned to Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the task of preparing an updated report on the situation in the strife – torn State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Baroness visited both parts of the State, conducted her study and observations, and, after working studiously on the project, drafted a report that was submitted to the European Parliament.

The discussion on the report in the European Parliament invited strong objections from the Pakistani official delegation on the findings and reporting of the Baroness. It countered all the items that cast aspersions on Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir issue. Pakistani foreign office launched a stout anti-report campaign inside and outside the European Parliament aligning many members to its version of the story and discounting the facts stated in the report. As a result the report got politicised and pulls and pushes marked its history.

Finally, the European Parliament, succumbing to great pressure exerted by the Pakistani lobby, agreed to ask the Baroness to revise the report in the light of what Pakistan objected to and stated as facts of the case from its viewpoint. Then began the task of watering down the report, and by and large, the basic assertions made by the Baroness were scrapped and Pakistani version of the story was incorporated. The European Parliament gleefully returned to its basic policy of maintaining parity between the two contestants over the Kashmir logjam.

On 21 March 2007, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament adopted the report titled ‘Kashmir, present situation and future’ Deliberations on the report focused on many side issues that came up in the course of the debate and the Baroness added notes and footnotes to the report with the objective of accommodating the conflicting views of the contesting parties.

In this connection, the Ambassador of Pakistan in Belgium, sent a letter to the Baroness on May 8, 2007 inviting her attention to para 2 of the explanatory statement annexed to the report. The statement deals with legalities, historicity and geography of Gilgit and Baltistan regions under the control of Pakistan. In his letter the Ambassador of Pakistan has tried to distort historical facts in a manner so as to prove that these regions were neither the part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State nor were these under the suzerainty of the monarchical regime in Srinagar. He has tried to justify annexation and integration of these areas into Pakistan by virtue of a mutual agreement of 1953. It is important that calculated distortions made by the Pakistani senior official are repudiated and set right.

He states that “division gave Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh and Siachin Glacier accession to the Republic of India.” The division of India left all princely states free to decide their future. It did not give any state or any region any accession to either one or the other dominion. J&K State was never divided. It was the Pakistan sponsored tribal invasion of Kashmir in October 1947 that made Pakistan hold a part of the J&K State territory. Siachin Glacier is the name of a glacier and not a region and it never figured in any document of accession or agreement.

The term “Northern Areas” is coined by Pakistan for the region of Gilgit and Baltistan that remain under her illegal occupation.. Nothing like the term ‘Northern Areas’ is to be found in the pre-independence records of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The area was generally called Gilgit and Baltistan, and no distribution into district was made by the Maharaj’s administration. The treaties of Lahore and Amritsar (1846) did not restrict Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of Dogra ruling dynasty of Jammu and Kashmir, from extending the boundaries of his nascent kingdom to the north, north-west or north-east of Indus. Lahore and Amritsar treaties only set forth the territories to the north (south of Indus) that were to pass into the hands of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Gilgit, Baltistan, Zanskar to the north-east and north-west of the Indus were annexed by Maharja Gulab Singh’s celebrated commander, General Zorawar Singh of Riasi.

Gilgit and Baltistan remained annexed to the Dogra kingdom. It has to be mentioned that the British Indian Government carved out the Gilgit Agency from Gilgit Wazarat around 1935 as part of Lord Curzon’s ‘Great Game’ policy to contain southward march of Imperialist Russia. The British arranged the Gilgit Agency Commiserate. The remaining portion, continued to be called Gilgit Wazarat and was administered from Srinagar.. Dogra durbar called the chief executive of Gilgit Wazarat as Governor and at the time of the tribal incursion in October 1947, Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Dogra State forces was holding that post. He was taken a captive by the invading tribesmen and was later on repatriated to India as a result of negotiations following cease fire. This clearly shows that Gilgit and Baltistan, including the eastern range that holds Siachin within its fold was part of the J&K State territories in 1947.

If the Cease Fire Line (CFL) is actually to e defined according to sub-para B2(d) of the Karachi Agreement of 1949 between India and Pakistan, then Pakistan ceding more than five thousand square kilometres of J&K territory to China is a blatant violation of that agreement. The actual problem that surrounds Siachin lies not in Siachin but in Pakistan ceding a chunk of Jammu and Kashmir territory to China. Having violated the Karachi Agreement and having allowed China a vantage position along the Karakorum, India had to take care of her security and territorial integrity and hence her movement towards Siachin in 1984. This means that any solution of the Siachin Glacier is closely linked to the retrieval of five thousand kilometres of Kashmir territory ceded by Pakistan to China. No Indian authority or security strategist will allow Pakistan to have brought in India’s neighbouring rival close into the fray and then pursue her to abandon her vantage position. This puts any solution of Siachin into cold store, no matter whatever the cost.

It may be that some British or Australian and other mountain expeditions sought Pakistan’s permission to scale some heights on the Karakorum. That does not in any case lend any strength to Pakistan’s claim to Siachin. Karakorum is a vast mountain range and much of it lies within the control of Pakistan also. Naturally mountaineers desiring to use the Pakistani trekking route have to obtain formal permission of Pakistan government. Likewise many mountaineering expeditions that scaled the heights of Siachin from Indian side did seek India’s formal permission.

True, Tashkent and Shimla agreement/accord did not alter the position along the cease fire line (CFL) in J&K. That CFL has left areas as not delimited beyond a certain point on military maps does not mean that Pakistan will be allowed to reap the benefits of violating 1949 Karachi Agreement.

India strongly protested Pakistan’s 1963 Agreement with China, by virtue of which five thousand sq. kilometres of Aksaichin were ceded to China. Pakistani Ambassador’s letter claims that this agreement left Pakistan with the control of North and North and North East of NJ 9842. Pakistan’s occupation of Gyong La, overlooking the Nubra Valley poses serious threat to India’s security to Ladakh region extending to the Tibetan border. Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Gyong La has also dangerously increased security threat because it gives a safe passage to the movement of Chinese army, arms and ammunition along the link road to Tibet.

Pakistani Ambassador has, as usual, once again tried to mislead the Committee on Foreign Affairs by distorting historical facts and by stating unsubstantiated positions. It is time that the record is put straight. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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