COAS General Kayani, while calling for solution of the Siachen dispute and peaceful conditions to prevail between Pakistan and India, has expressed the view that economic strength and people’s welfare are as important in securing the borders of a country as armed preparedness. And, in the ultimate analysis, security depended on these two requisites. “Only in that case will a country be truly safe,” he stressed. Siachen solution was, the General thought, also necessary for saving the environment from the effects of climate change and conserving the shared water resources. He was proffering this argument while at Skardu on Wednesday, against the backdrop of the recent catastrophic incident at Siachen and the untenable human and financial cost of keeping military presence at such a glacial height by both the countries.

The adverse weather conditions have been responsible for a far higher death toll than the engagements of armed forces. Similarly, keeping military garrisons has been a bigger drain on financial resources than the actual fights. And this was being done to the neglect of the teeming millions steeped in poverty in Pakistan as well as in India. General Kayani also accompanied President Zardari on an aerial view of the rescue operation at Gayari, the site of the tragedy. Mr Zardari praised the valour of the soldiers, prayed for their safety and pledged all available resources to expedite the search.

The incident has brought into question the very rationale of stationing armies by both Pakistan and India in the harsh climate of the Siachen Glacier. Leaders of political parties have come out with their ideas about clearing the place of troops by both the countries. To the utter dismay and astonishment of the people, PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif has proposed unilateral withdrawal by Pakistan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and PTI chief Imran Khan have opposed the idea and urged vacation of the dangerous site by both.

Coming to General Kayani’s view on the deployment of troops one cannot find fault with this statement that Pakistan sent its forces there in response to a move by India. He vowed to defend the country at all costs. There is no denying the fact that risking one’s life is no joke, but that is in the soldiers’ line of duty. Whether it is mountains laid thick with snow or plains exposed to strikes by the enemy, the soldier has no choice but to stay  the ground and defend the country. Pakistan has to be wary of its neighbour and not fall under the illusion that withdrawal of troops first from Siachen would prompt India to do the same. The territory has to be secured and, though in economic power lies the real strength of a country, the situation in which Pakistan finds itself would not permit lowering defence preparedness.