New Delhi: In a significant statement, Army chief General M.M. Naravane Wednesday said India “is not averse” to the demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier, on the condition that Pakistan accepts the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) dividing the two countries’ positions.
The Army chief said the militarisation of Siachen was a result of an attempt by Pakistan to unilaterally change the status quo in late 1984, forcing India to take countermeasures.
“This situation occurred once again due to a unilateral attempt by Pakistan to change the status quo. The Line of Control had been delineated to a point called NJ 9842, and thereafter ,the understanding was that it will remain unoccupied,” Gen. Naravane said as he addressed his annual press conference ahead of Army Day on 15 January.
He said Pakistan had made an attempt to occupy territory and “we were forced to take our countermeasures”. Since then, the two countries’ forces have been face-to-face all along the Siachen Glacier, he said.
More than 800 Indian soldiers have lost their lives there due to extreme cold and difficult terrain, without a single shot being fired since 1984 when India carried out Operation Meghdoot, which led to the capture of the glacier.
“We are not averse to demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier, but the pre-condition is to accept the AGPL. Pakistan has to accept what are their positions and has to accept what are our positions,” Gen. Naravane said.
He added that both armies have to sign on dotted lines before any kind of disengagement takes place.
“This is quite parallel to what is happening in eastern Ladakh. You have to first disengage, only then you can de-escalate or de-induct, which is another way of saying demilitarisation,” he said.
Gen. Naravane underlined that acceptance of the AGPL is the first step of this process and “that is something Pakistanis I think ought to do”.
Attempts made in the past too
Discussions of possible demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier had been going on in Track 2 talks between India and Pakistan, and former foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said in his 2017 book that the two countries had come close to an agreement in 1989, 1992 and 2006.
Saran said in 2006, then-National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Army chief General J.J. Singh had made last-minute interventions to cancel the proposal.
Former Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had, in 2012, called for a resolution to the impasse following a devastating avalanche that killed 124 Pakistani soldiers.
However, the Indian Army feels that Pakistan cannot be trusted. In 2019, Army sources had told ThePrint that it would be a colossal mistake to withdraw from the heights and give Pakistan a chance to capture them, just as it did in Kargil.
“It would be just impossible to recapture the heights from Pakistan,” a source had then said.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)