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Monday, April 9, 2012

Zardari visits Ajmer ; over 135 Pak soldiers feared missing at Siachen

First some headline news and then some political thoughts on them :

The 11th President of Pakistan – Asif Ali Zardari visited India in a private capacity – that hit the headlines but was stormed more by the other news -   Zardari  travelled to Ajmer Shareef to pray at the shrine revered of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti after a gap of eight years. He  announced a donation of $1 million for the dargah.

The name of this place would mean abundance of a particular variety of rose –  humans are scarce but the cost of controlling this has been exorbitant.  Some lose limbs due to extremities to frostbite. Altitude sickness kills or disables others.  "The land is so barren and passes so high that only the best of friends and fiercest of enemies come by.''  It is touted as the highest battle ground on earth where there have been regular skirmishes from the other side and a war was also fought arising out incursion and subsequent regaining control, albeit at a high cost.  The conflict stems from not so clearly demarcated territory.  Being at a very high altitude, it has bone-chilling, avalanches, harsh sun burns, thin air, sub-zero temperatures – single man out posts with the next person kilo meters away, food supplies rationed and possible refilling not so frequent – one of the toughest of assignments and there have been reports of soldiers losing their mental balance often.

It is Siachen Glacier.  "Sia" in the Balti language refers to the rose family plant widely dispersed in the region. "Chun" references any object found in abundance. Thus the name Siachen refers to a land with an abundance of roses.  The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains- at 70 km (43 mi) long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas.  There are places with attitude ranging 5500 m to 7700 m (closer to 25000 feet approx)  

Fresh in Indian minds, is the Siachen Conflict (Siachen War) fought and won against Pakistan  in 1999.  The capture of Tiger Hill with the concomitant battle for the adjoining peak of Tololing, culminated  the war.  India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres (43 mi) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La,Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately west of the Saltoro Ridge.

Siachen has caught worldwide attention again with the reported loss of life of Pakistani armed forces arising out of an avalanche engulfing an army facility at Gavari, Siachen. The avalanche reportedly struck early in the morning and initial reports spoke of up to 150 men of the Northern Light Infantry missing, this was later revised downwards by ISPR to 117, but definitive clarity on the number of dead or missing is impossible at this early stage.  The difficult terrain made resuce hard.  There are news of Pakistani soldiers digging through the remnants of a massive avalanche searching for 135 people buried when the wall of snow engulfed a military complex in a mountain battleground close to the Indian border.  Hundreds of troops, sniffer dogs and mechanical equipment worked at the scene but struggled to make much headway into the avalanche, which crashed onto the rear headquarters building in the Gayari sector early in the morning, burying it under some 21 meters (70 feet) of snow.

An enemy closer to the border of a Country is always a threat.  Still the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Sunday (8th Apr 12)  offered assistance to Pakistan to find survivors of the avalanche.   The Pak President Zardari was in India, offering prayers at Ajmer.  He was accompanied by his 23 year old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari amidst tight security. 

There were some rounds of official talks also and routinely, the two leaders were reported to have been happy  in their discussions on the steady progress in the dialogue process.  New Delhi had suspended the peace process between the two sides after the commando-style militant attacks in India's commercial capital Mumbai in 2008, by Pakistan-based militants, which caused the death of 166 people.

Elsewhere, China on Sunday lauded Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India, saying better ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours will benefit both countries and bring stability in the region.  Notably, China and Pakistan have been all-weather friends over the past decades.

And back at home in Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan slammed President Asif Ali Zardari for visiting India at a time of a tragedy afflicted on Pakistan Army in Siachen. Addressing the reportedly largest political gathering held in Abbottabad, Imran said: “The nation will not forgive leaders who have no respect for the nation and its institutions, and who do not know how to stand by the state in trying times.”

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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