iconimg Monday, August 03, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 14, 2014
Former army chief General JJ Singh on Monday said the UPA-I government's position on Siachen was based on strategic considerations and advice given by the army and there were no differences within the government over it. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's former media adviser Sanjaya Baru has claimed in his book ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ that General Singh would privately say that a deal with Pakistan on Siachen was doable but in public he would support a contrary view.

Baru has written that the PM's peace initiative did not get support from defence minister AK Antony, his predecessor Pranab Mukherjee and General JJ Singh.

Rubbishing Baru's claims, General Singh said the army's position had been consistent that there could be no action on "disengagement" until Islamabad agreed to authenticate troop positions on the ground and on maps.

"It is irresponsible on Baru's part to make such claims. There was no rift within the government as far as I know," he said.

As long as the glacier is under India's control, the Pakistani army can't link up with the Chinese and pose threat to Ladakh. It acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan.

General Singh, who was army chief during 2005-2007, said he had advised the government that if Pakistan agreed to authenticate troop positions, the Indian Army could consider falling back to agreed positions in the zone of disengagement in phases.

“The thinking was no side should get an unfair advantage in terms of response time to scramble to original positions if the pact were to be broken,” he said.

The army had launched Operation Meghdoot in 1984 to secure the glacier, a 76-km river of slow moving ice, from Pakistani aggression. Several rounds of talks between India and Pakistan on demilitarising the glacier — an old sore in bilateral ties — have failed.

“The PM and his advisers did discuss various steps to improve ties with Pakistan. As chief, I made the army's position very clear,” he said.  PM Manmohan Singh had famously said that Siachen could be converted into a "mountain of peace."

The army's view remains that it would be a formidable task to reclaim the glacier if Pakistan resorts to mischief. India currently occupies dominating positions, with Pakistani posts located 3,000 feet below.