The Indian intelligence agency RAW’s founder chief, Vikram Sood wrote an article some years ago in which he suggested to the Indian government and military establishment to shun the popular-among-Indian-strategists the idea of launching an offensive against Pakistan through its armoured divisions from Rajasthan’s side in order to invade Pakistani Punjab and Sindh. Instead, he suggested, India should occupy Gilgit-Baltistan with the help of the RAW-funded Balwaristan movement, and cut off Pakistan’s Karakorum Highway link with China by keeping vigil from the Siachen heights. Penetrate into NWFP via Swat and Kohistan. Clear the supply line to Afghanistan via Wakhan and encircle Pakistan from east and west. Of late, a similar kind of strategic advice has been given in the context of changing paradigms in war tactics, including the use of ‘water-terror’ at the time of need, about which the International Crisis Group has warned.

Those in Pakistan proposing a unilateral withdrawal from Siachen among politicians like Nawaz Sharif and columnists like Ikram Sehgal and Imtiaz Alam, have food for thought here. This shows the importance of continuing the occupation of the Siachen heights for the Indian army in order to gain military objectives in this region. Equally important is for Pakistan to keep its presence to keep an eye on the Saltoro heights occupied by the Indian forces.

It is a war of Pakistan’s survival. By withdrawing from the region, Pakistan would lose not just the world’s second highest mountain, K-2, but also the entire strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region, the Karakorum Highway and its borders with China. With India already occupying over 1,200 sq miles of Pakistani territory in the region, a unilateral withdrawal would mean a complete encirclement of Kashmir and a most disastrous national security crisis for Pakistan. India is engaged in massive defense construction in the glacier regions and does not intend to pull back while it brings more and more hardware to consolidate its position. The leaders and populations of India, Pakistan and China should realise the importance of glaciers to each neighbouring nation and leave them alone as a territory owned equally. In essence, it should be cordoned off as an international preserve where only civilian explorers are allowed with permits from the UN. This can only be achieved through negotiation and cultivation of trust and camaraderie. This applies equally to India, Pakistan and China.

F Z KHAN,

Islamabad, May 7.