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Will sanity prevail?


Tourism industry of Pakistan and India demanding Peace Park for 20 years

Agha Iqrar Haroon, eTN Correspondent, Pakistan  Apr 19, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (eTN) - The Chief of Army of Pakistan, Gen. Kiyani, along with the President of Pakistan, during a visit to the Giyari sector on Wednesday, talked about the fact that Pakistan and India should withdraw forces from the Siachen Glacier. The recent avalanche that buried more than 139 Pakistani soldiers, has given a chance for army generals to think about the demand for peace. For years, critics have considered this war zone one of world's most pointless military deployments, where two developing nations are engaged in a costly standoff over an uninhabitable patch of mountain and ice.

Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said on Wednesday that Pakistan followed the doctrine of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, especially India. “We want peaceful co-existence with India as amicable neighbors; however, our desire should not be misconstrued as weakness," the COAS remarked.

Talking to media, after reviewing the search operation that is underway to unearth
the 139 martyred troops in the Gayari sector who aer buried under tons of snow, the COAS said Pakistan was open to talks with India to de-militarize Siachen.

He said, "Both countries should sit together to resolve all the issues including Siachen." He said the reason why was the Pakistan Army was on the Siachen was not a secret to the world. “It [was] Indians who carried the war onto Siahcen, forcing us to get up there and stop them in their tracks; we only mounted a natural tactical response," Gen. Kayani said.

COAS also made it clear that the army was protecting the country's borders on Siachen. "We are only manning the border on this frigid outpost in the line of duty."

"Siachen consumes a mammoth amount of national exchequer, which must be diverted to the people of both countries respectively,” General Kayani said. The country's armed forces do not want more spending on defense due to disputes.

On the Gyari rescue operation, he said, "We are trying to reach the bodies of the martyrs with all we are worth in the face of inclement weather; no stone has been left unturned, we are not far from them now.”

The statement of the Pakistan Chief of Army has born a hope for the possibility that at last sanity may prevail and both countries may withdraw forces from Siachen Glacier and make it a Peace Park - a very old demand of peace lovers of both countries. Both countries lost more than 3,000 young soldiers and millions if not billions of US dollars on this pointless and some say useless war. Retired generals from both of the countries believe that the Siachen issue is one of the easiest to solve, but it is hostage to general mistrust and hard-liners on both sides who don't want to give up their claim on the territory.

The Siachen war is being considered an ego problem between the two armies, instead of a tactical or operational problem. The region is just east of the world's second-highest peak, K-2, which has killed far more than artillery fire, due to its temperatures as low as -60 C, vicious winds, and altitude sickness. Casualty figures have not been released by either military, because both are sending very young soldiers that they call “Green Soldiers,” because the environment and weather is so unfriendly, that only young boys can survive there.

Analysts say resolving Siachen should be possible before the much more difficult dispute over Kashmir is attempted. Because no one lives in the region and it is of no strategic value, a joint or even unilateral withdrawal from one side could break the logjam.

In a survey and interviews conducted by eTN to know the viewpoint of the general public, experts, academia, and former personnel of the Pakistan Army, it was understood that majority of all wish to complete demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier and make it a tourism spot and Peace Park to promote harmony in the region.

These people were of the view that that Indian development in the trade sector was marvelous and Pakistan needed to worry about its economy.

India could afford the boarding and lodging of its army at Siachen, but it was hard for Pakistan to sustain its presence in the region, and both countries should solve the issue, and the billions of US dollars being spent on the war should be directed towards people's prosperity.

Prof. Hassan Askari Rizvi, who is one of the most important experts of regional studies, was of the view that said deployment of troops at Siachen was wastage of money and resources. He said that the issue started in 1984, and later it became a matter of ego and pride for India and Pakistan. The professor said the ceasefire line was demarked and it ended exactly near Siachen, making the area a disputed territory.

He said India and Pakistan had signed two “understandings” - one in 1987 and the other in 2007 - in which relocation of troops was suggested but nothing happened afterwards. He said the armies of both countries should withdraw and make Siachen a culture spot, jointly organized by India and Pakistan. Rizvi said the people of the two countries and especially the social sector should pressure their governments to end the conflict that was consuming millions of rupees daily.

Tourism industry of Pakistan and India demanding Peace Park for 20 years
Siachen Glacier / Image via greendiary.com



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