OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.

The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan get down to business on Tuesday as they begin two-day talks in Delhi. This is first time the two officials are meeting since the Mumbai blasts in July. It was then when the talks expected to be held that month were indefinitely postponed. Terrorism is India’s focus however Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has gone on the record on a television interview that believes a solution to Siachen is possible within days. Meanwhile some in the Indian media have reported that success of the made-in-Havana proposal for a joint India-Pakistan anti-terror mechanism will depend on “conclusive evidence” that Islamabad is taking steps to dismantle terrorist infrastructure operating on its territory. The Indian Express on the other hand has reported that  7/11 and Malegaon serial blast cases will not be on the Indo-Pak talk table tomorrow is because there’s very little yet in terms of concrete evidence to substantiate the claims of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad which is investigating the two cases.

The Pakistani claims on Siachen and the diffidence from the Indian side on raising 7/11 and Malegaon raise questions many questions on the The Manmohan Singh lead UPA Government’s willingness and ability to secure and further Indian strategic interests.

To further put this into perspective consider the following narrative:

– As dawn broke over the Himalayas one chilly morning in, thousands of crack Chinese troops swarmed south through 14,500-foot-high passes along Thag La Ridge

– At the same time, more Chinese forces sprang into action 900 miles to the west in a wasteland known as Desert of White Stone

-  between China’s Sinkiang province and Tibet, the Desert of White Stone was really important to Peking;

– The overriding theory in the West was that neither area meant much to India and hence the Chinese attack was not an unprovoked act of aggression but “a giant punitive expedition” that India brought upon itself by not settling its borders 

That was the Time Magazine in 1971 analyzing the 1962 war with China when Indian Border Patrol discovered a road China built in Aksai Chin 2 years after the fact. The credibility or lack of  the Indian claim to Aksai Chin is immaterial, what is material is how these series of events exposed what the lack of forward looking Strategic Thinking can do to a Nation and how much little we have learnt from history when it comes to the present day Government’s responses to terrorism.

So how is Siachen related to Aksai Chin. India believes that if Pakistan takes the glacier it could link up with Chinese troops in Aksai Chin. The 50-mile-long glacier could not be a more unlikely battlefield. Located at altitudes of 18,000 ft. to 20,000 ft., the area is so inhospitable that when Kashmir was split between India and Pakistan following the war in 1971, peace negotiators did not bother to draw the line through it. Patrols from the two countries skirmished on Siachen in 1982. Since then, Islamabad and New Delhi have decided that vital strategic interests, particularly the control of mountain passes bordering the glacier, are at stake. India was the first to deploy troops on the Siachen Glacier. In April 1984 the Indian army launched Operation Meghdoot (Cloud Messenger), placing forces at two key passes of the Saltoro Range, which runs along the Siachen Glacier’s western edge toward the Chinese border.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee has since refused to comment on the Siachen deal. Upping the ante from the Chinese side, Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi claimed yesterday that the east Indian state was “Chinese territory“ ahead of the Hu Juntao visit to India.

So the question is should India make a concession to Pakistan by striking a deal on Siachen under the pretext of securing Pakistani assurances to act on India’s terrorism concerns ? If so what kind of a signal would that send to China and the Rest of the World ?

The frequent sound bites from the Pakistani side on this issue and silence from the Indian side raise questions on what exactly is going on behind the scenes. It is unimaginable and confounding how the Manmohan Singh Government could be negotiating territorial deals with Pakistan without first holding it accountable for the act of war that 7/11 constituted.

Offstumped Bottomline: The Manmohan Singh Government must come clean on what it believes are Indian Strategic Interests in the region and how it intends to secure them. It must demonstrate how it intends to make good on its vow of Zero Tolerance on Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism. Any territorial deal on Siachen in exchange for empty assurances on Terrorism should be unacceptable.

The blood of 200 dead Mumbaikars is on the Manmohan Singh Sonia Gandhi lead Congress Government’s hands. If it cannot demonstrate tangible action from Pakistan on 7/11 then the BJP must bring a No Confidence Motion and call for a vote on the floor of the house.

Every UPA Ally will have to stand up and be counted on whether they hold the Government accountable or not for 7/11/.

Come elections next time around We will not forgive and forget !

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