Diverse perspectives on Siachen
Till this day, questions of the Nation-State still plague us, arguably to a higher degree than before. We are still clueless about the politics of such and we are left in the dark by obscurities relating to many democratic and social commitments that we have. Wars and suffering are a common occurence in the border areas of Kashmir and Ladakh and yet, we plow through with the wars because Pakistan and China won’t ever stop, will they? Philosophical and spiritual considerations about universal brotherhood and love have done very little at dismantling decades of enmity and hatred. In such a frustrating atmosphere, the discussion on the Siachen Issue as part of the larger Military History and Strategy sessions, can be made sense of. The relevance and genuineness of the discussion was further deepened by the presence of panelists like Air Marshal Arjun Subramaniam, Lt Gen Parakash Katoch and Shiv Kunal Verma who have either had experience with planning out strategies and tactics relating to the Siachen area or written extensively on Siachen.
It started with a poem, “Prelude on the Battle of Namkachu” recited by Schulu Duo, a VoW volunteer. It set the tone for the whole discussion as it centred around how soldiers end up becoming the victims of wars, caught up as scapegoats in the conflict between the central government and the military establishment and even within the military establishment itself. The discussion mirrored the same emotion. Lt Gen Parakash Katoch took us through a ride into the military history of the Indian Army, through the tumultuous times during the Siachen War 1984 (Operation Meghdoot) et cetera. His words evoked strong emotions of anger, frustration and pity in the audience as he recalled how soldiers had to battle through a plethora of conflicting emotions as they sought to keep to the ideal: fight for their motherland. The Siachen War of 1984 was one of the most audacious top 5 military operations. The site witnessed intense fighting and bloodshed for almost 2 decades. The good news, for the Indian Army, was that they managed to occupy strategic points along the war zone successfully. But even then, there was a sense of fear and desperation in the air as there was a deep political divide within the strategic establishment about whether Siachen really had strategic significance. Arjun Subramaniam helped swerve the conversation to a balanced view of diverse perspectives as he sought to maintain the middle ground. The audience could be seen nodding their heads at times, agreeing to the discussion but at times, it did get very tense as opinions, considered “controversial” were expressed.
The conversation ended on a well note, with the panellists admitting that the Siachen issue is too complex and intricate for a single perspective to encapsulate everything.
By SCHULU DUO, St. Stephens College, New Delhi