The madness of Siachen

This Article appeared in Daily Dawn on April 13th, 2012.

THE avalanche under which 124 soldiers of the Pakistan Army and 11 civilians have been buried at Gayari in Siachen is nothing less than a catastrophe.

While rescue efforts are still under way, given the realities of the region there is little chance of any of these men being found alive. In all the years that troops have been stationed in Siachen, the weather and inhospitable terrain have claimed more lives than actual combat. Yet this is probably the most tragic event where so many lives have been lost in one go.

The disaster should serve as a wake-up call for Pakistan and India to revisit the Siachen issue, and delve into the logic of why troops are there at all.

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Afghanistan beyond 2014

This Article appeared in Daily The News on April 10th, 2012.

The US plan for a drawdown from Afghanistan by 2014 had always appeared to be dictated more by US domestic political compulsions, rather than the on-ground situation in that country, which is why its success looked doubtful. These plans have hit serious snags lately. President Obama and his advisers thought that by increasing the number of troops in his “surge” they would be able to bomb the Taliban to the negotiating table, and at the same time, enable the Afghan army and police to take over the country’s security responsibility by the drawdown deadline. The Americans are nowhere near these ambitious objectives.

Recent events like the killing of French and British soldiers, the desecration of the Quran, the shooting of two senior US officials by an Afghan intelligence officer and the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by Staff Sgt. Bales have shaken the US, even though Washington is putting a brave face. There are differences among Mr Obama’s political team, the Pentagon and the State Department, and deeper ones between the United States and Nato countries on the Afghan issue.

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