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Re: good point here
[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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I disagree, this shallow analysis, contrasting
cricket with war completely ignores other
alternatives to avoiding war and finding a lasting peace.
The loss of life and the huge expense of the border war is
tragic, and I consider it criminal that this state of affairs has
been allowed to come to pass.
While patriotic slogans to rally around the flag, to spend more
on military operations and equipment, and admiring the
bravery of the soldiers trapped in the unfortunate position of
facing death and injury in this situation produces a
nice adrenaline rush, and a satisfying afterglow, it does not
begin to address the causes or explore the long term solutions
to the hostilities that lead to this terrible waste of life and
resources. Moreover, it tends to throttle any discussion as
"we're too busy fighting a war, there is no time for idle discussion".
One possible solution I can think of that is at least worth
consideration, is a diplomatic initiative to demilitarize the border
areas with jointly operated monitoring equipment to keep
both sides honest. The monitoring could consist of low tech
joint patrols, and high tech unmanned video cameras and periodic
satelite images. The benefits would be huge reductions in military
expenses that drain resources from other projects and
reduction of the tensions produced by soldiers constantly
facing each other with loaded weapons- with any incident as a
possible trigger for shooting to begin. Of course this does NOT
benefit politicians on either side as it would rob them of excuses
to grab more power and even further reduce accountability and
transparency ini the name of the god of 'national security'
I may sound naive, but no more so that the assertions that
the solution lies in increasing military spending, parrotting slogans,
and blindly following orders from our fearless leaders in the name of
unity and patritiosm.
As for cricket- I've written about the irrelevance of spectator sports
to public policy before. It should be in the archives.
For perspective I've attached a recent news report about the
border situation in Kashmir, that IMO is much more relevant
than the comparison of cricket to warfare.
India and Pakistan: Frozen in Fury on the Roof of the World
Area of Dispute: Siachen Glacier
NYT: May 23, 1999
By BARRY BEARAK
SIACHEN GLACIER, in the Western Himalayas -- For 15 blustery, shivering
years, the Indian and Pakistani armies have been fighting a war along
frigid peaks of the western Himalayas -- in an area named for the
Glacier and known as the battleground on the roof of the world.
For a soldier, this is where hell freezes over, a 46-mile river of slow
moving ice surrounded by stupendous towers of snow. Temperatures swoon
50 below, and sudden blizzards can bury field artillery in minutes. Men
sleep in ice caves or igloos and breathe air so spare of oxygen that it
sends their hearts into a mad gallop. Fainting spells and pounding
headaches are frequent. Frostbite chews its way through digits and
The enemy is hard to see in the crags and craters in the vast whiteness
and harder to hit. Rifles must be thawed repeatedly over kerosene
and machine guns need to be primed with boiling water. At altitudes of
18,000 feet, mortar shells fly unpredictable and extraordinary
swerving erratically when met by sledgehammer gusts.
While some troops fall to hostile fire, far more perish from avalanches
missteps into crevasses that nature has camouflaged with snow. This is
especially so now in springtime, as the sun licks away several feet of
and opens new underground cracks and seams.
But for all these logistical peculiarities, the Siachen conflict might
thought of as just another low-intensity border war -- were it not being
fought between the world's two newest nuclear powers. Their combat over
barren, uninhabited nether world of questionable strategic value is a
forbidding symbol of their lingering irreconcilability.
"This is like a struggle of two bald men over a comb," said Stephen P.
Cohen, an authority on the Indian subcontinent at the Brookings
Institution. "Siachen is the epitome of the worst aspects of the
relationship. These are two countries that are paired on a road to Oslo
Hiroshima, and at this point they could go either way."
Since gaining independence in 1947, Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly
Muslim, and India, which is predominantly Hindu, have been enemies with
bent toward military confrontation. In 1949, after the first of three
the nations agreed to a cease-fire line that unfortunately stopped short
the remote massifs of north-central Kashmir -- a disputed area on the
where India, Pakistan and China rub shoulders.
The wording in the agreement merely said the line was to continue "north
the glaciers." For two decades, this vague phrasing was of more concern
map makers than soldiers, but then in the 1970's several groups of
mountaineers in down outerwear began trekking through the region. If
could survive the cold and elevation, so might an army. Siachen became
another reason for two nervous neighbors to be reflexively suspicious.
In April 13, 1984, the Indian Army made a "pre-emptive" move into
glacier and the peaks and passes around it. Within weeks, Pakistani
swept in to oppose them, but the Indians have been able to hold on to
tactical advantage of the high ground.
Most of India's many outposts are west of the glacier along the Saltoro
Range of the Karakoram Mountains. These pickets are reachable to an
only after a strenuous climb and then a frontal assault, a near-hopeless
task in such thin air. After 50 strides, even a well-conditioned man is
gasping for breath with his muscles in a tremble.
Fifteen years of refrigerated combat have brought only 15 years of
hardened stalemate. The Pakistanis cannot get up to the glacier; the
Indians cannot come down. "Nobody can win, no matter how long we
fight," said Maj. Gen. V. S. Budhwar, the Indian commander in Leh,
whose region includes Siachen. "But this is our land. It is a portion of
our nation-state, and we will not cede it."
Occasionally, some vital strategic importance is assigned to the Siachen
area, with hypothetical aggressors flooding across mountain highways.
often, the conflict is described as a simple matter of principle.
people say, how America would respond if the Russians overran even a
barren chunk of Alaska. "Siachen is an awful place where you can step
a thin layer of snow and, poof, down you go 200 feet," said Gen. Khalid
Mehmood Arif, the retired former vice chief of Pakistan's military. "But
nation ever wants to lose a single inch of territory, so Siachen has
psychological and political importance. Its value is in ego and
Arduous to live in, the Siachen area is beautiful to look at. Some of
world's tallest mountains fill the landscape, their snowy tops giving
to rivulets of white that glitter against the black and purple rock. It
a moonscape of mesmerizing pinnacles and ridges and drops. Ice
rise a mile high. Clouds seem at arm's reach.
The Indian base camp is at the very start of the glacier, which gently
curves upward like a giant white tongue. Barracks, helipads, supply
satellite dishes, a hospital and Hindu shrines are spread across several
acres. It is clear the Indians have been here awhile and are ready to
The command post is carpeted. Curtains hang along the windows.
"We have the heights," said Brig. P. C. Katoch, who runs the operation.
contrast with the superior vista those heights afford, he said, the
Pakistani soldier sees nothing: "He hears a helicopter and shoots. He
artillery and shoots. It's stupid. He doesn't know where he's shooting."
But being king of the hill is costly. The Pakistanis can resupply most
their posts by road and pack mule. At their forward positions, some as
as 21,000 feet, the Indians must rely on helicopters. The whirlybirds
strain against the altitude like oversized bumblebees. Many an airdrop
swallowed by the snow.
Both sides deploy about 3,000 soldiers. While the Pakistanis refuse to
divulge how much they spend in Siachen, the Indians estimate the cost at
about $350,000 to $500,000 a day, said Lieut. Gen. R. K. Sawhney, the
army's director general of military intelligence.
Transporting kerosene is one major expense. Some Indian soldiers live in
igloos made of fiberglass panels. Six soldiers can sleep in jigsaw
configurations, crowded into a room the size of a king-size bed. Others
live in ice tunnels gouged out with a pickax. Either way, small kerosene
stoves are the hearths they huddle around. The hissing competes with the
howling of the wind. Black smoke seems to color everything, including a
The highest perches are occupied by only a handful of soldiers, and
sleeping is rarely done at night, for this is the most likely time for
enemy to sneak up. Sentry duty is bleak work. Hot water bottles do not
hot for long. A relay must be set up to exchange frozen rifles for
During storms, the heavy snowfall seems as thick as long, white drapery.
The wind does pinwheels, and the basics of a hard life gets that much
harder. "At my post, you have to use a crawl trench to get to the
said Cpl. Joginder Singh. "When it snows, the trench fills up and you
to stand. The enemy can see you and that's how you die." It is
to know how many men have been killed. Some local news reports put
totals for both sides in the thousands, but this seems based on
The Pakistanis do not release such details, and the Indians say they
lost only the 616 soldiers whose names appear on a stone memorial at the
The inscription reads:
"Quartered in snow, silent to remain.
When the bugle calls, they shall rise and march again."
A Question of Control: Disputing Borders, Armed With Scorn
Since they were separated at birth, India and Pakistan have fought
the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, a stunningly lush area that touches
both of their borders. In the complicated and emotional give-and-take
that accompanied Partition in 1947, Kashmir, a state with a large Muslim
majority, ended up within India. To Pakistan, this seemed unreasonable.
infant nations were drawn into combat.
To this day, Kashmir is the issue that most heats the blood. The Indians
claim the area while the Pakistanis argue that the Kashmiris must decide
their own future through a plebiscite. Both countries maintain
armies near the cease-fire line that splits the territory in two. The
killing may slow but it never stops.
Ownership of the mountainous and sparsely-populated northeast is a
particular conundrum. From the Indian point of view, the language of the
1949 agreement is eminently clear: "north to the glaciers" means a line
going slightly northwest along the natural watershed of the Saltoro
The Pakistanis are equally sure: the phrasing intends for the line to
continue northeasterly as it does through the rest of Kashmir.
"The roots of the Kashmir problem are very tangled, but as far as the
glacier goes, this is simply a matter of Pakistanis sneaking their way
a place that doesn't belong to them," said India's Lieut. Gen. M. L.
Chibber, retired, who is central to the Siachen saga.
An amiable man who left the army in 1985, General Chibber now follows
guru Sai Baba and speaks easily about the futility of war. In 1978,
however, he was a commander with responsibility for Siachen. He was
to learn that the Pakistanis were accompanying mountaineers to the
Just as troubling were maps printed in the West. They showed Siachen as
part of Pakistan.
By the early 80's, both armies were sending expeditions into the area,
suspicions accumulated like fresh snow. In late 1983, the Indians became
convinced the Pakistanis were about to seize the glacier, General
said. This was inferred from intercepted communiqués. If further
was needed, he said, it came when India sent procurers to Europe to buy
cold-weather gear. They ran into Pakistanis doing the same shopping.
A Military Novelty: Fighting Frostbite and Altitude
India's "pre-emptive" takeover of Siachen was called Operation
after the divine cloud messenger in a Sanskrit play. It soon came to
burdensome success. Like over-eager chess players, the Indians had
to plan several moves ahead.
"No one had ever carried out military operations at these
and temperatures, so we figured after the summer ended, we'd have
pull out," General Chibber said. "But with the first snows, we
realized it was possible to stay up there all winter. If we left,
Pakistanis would take the glacier and then we'd never get it back."
In the conflict's first years, with the armies inexperienced at such a
war, the number of casualties mounted quickly. Valiant, if foolhardy,
assaults were attempted. Frostbite, snow blindness and pulmonary and
cerebral edema took a huge toll.
Daring raids are now rare, the Pakistanis say, though the Indians often
boast of victorious defensive skirmishes, killing three here and a dozen
there. Each side makes claims the other vigorously denies. These days,
the blasts of artillery and mortar shells are the war's steady cadence.
fire at them and they fire at us, but this is not a place where the
calculations of trajectory and distance apply," said Capt. Hamid
Pakistani artillery officer.
Captain Mukhtar was serving at a forward post at 18,000 feet, near a
line known as the Conway Saddle. "There are crevasses on either side of
these paths," he cautioned as he walked. "Step into the wrong place and
will go to meet God beneath the snow."
Daily patrolling is necessary, if for no other reason than to tread on a
marked trail so it will not disappear. In February, in a typical
catastrophe, an avalanche crushed 13 Pakistani soldiers tethered
with rope. A single survivor led the search that later recovered the
pristine dead, their bodies preserved as if locked in cold storage.
Melting leads to snow slides. The noontime temperature in early spring
10 below, but the sun was bright enough to rapidly turn an exposed nose
color of a radish. Sweat is a problem because it becomes ice in a
gloves and socks. Frostbite is then quick with its work.
Even after a day's exertion, most soldiers have little appetite at these
heights. Rations come out of tin cans. Fresh produce is rare. An orange
freezes to the hardness of a baseball; a potato cannot be dented with a
Despite the hardships, both sides report an oversupply of volunteers.
Stints in Siachen usually last three months or less. "This is my
soil, and whether something grows here or not, I would gladly die to
protect it," said Cpl. Mohammad Shafique, a Pakistani.
The Options: Peace by Rocket or by Bus Ride
Few soldiers know much about the other side's territorial claims,
they seem untroubled by doubt of the enemy's murderous skulduggery.
many people in India and Pakistan hope for rapprochement, others merely
heap fresh animosity upon the old. Evil is presumed. General Budhwar,
Indian regional commander, said Pakistanis suffer from a "deformed
becoming brainwashed in school "with all the dos and don'ts" of Islamic
fundamentalism. "Their very existence depends on being inimical to
One of his counterparts is Brig. Nusrat Khan Sial, who commands
Siachen operation from the city of Skardu. He called the Indians
whose Hindu beliefs lack reverence for human life. He said he suspects
have used chemical weapons in Siachen, which the Indians vehemently
"It will be the Indians, not us, who will trigger this situation up to
level where both sides resort to nuclear weapons," he said. Last month,
both nations tested ballistic missiles as they develop enough
firepower to give an adversary pause. Following the example of
they are pursuing peace through nuclear deterrence, their leaders say:
Smaller disputes are less likely to provoke all-out wars when the
outcome includes annihilation.
At the same time, a less costly path toward peace is being undertaken.
Earlier this year, with brass bands and polite embraces, India's Prime
Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, made a heralded bus trip to Pakistan and
met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
More talks are in the offing, but optimism is in irregular supply.
Over the years, Siachen itself has been the subject of seven "major
of talks," said Robert G. Wirsing, a scholar at the University of South
Under various Governments ruled by various parties, negotiators have
that the conflict is futile -- and some have even called it lunatic. But
one side or the other has always been too afraid of a double-cross to
complete a deal. Domestic politics are also a hitch. Any compromise
involving Kashmir looms like a lit fuse, especially to unstable
So the two armies fight on, proud of conquering the elements if not each
other. Their doctors have become experts at high-altitude medicine,
helicopter pilots adroit at skirting the cliffs. Solar panels are
to some igloos. On the Indian side, a kerosene pipeline is being
completed. A ski lift will ferry soldiers across the canyons. A pulley
system has begun to hoist supplies up the mountainsides. Bacteria are
eating human waste in machines called biodigesters.
"We have become specialists at high-altitude fighting -- probably the
in the world," boasted General Sawhney, sounding as self-congratulatory
his Pakistani counterparts. "We can tolerate the harsh elements. We have
made livable conditions."
We are prepared, both sides say, to battle on the roof of the world
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