the-south-asian Life & Times                       Oct - Dec 2011




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  Siachen - A Hymn
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 From Battlefield to
 Peace Park?


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A Battle Like No Other

By Aamir Ali

For seventy million years the gods lived in peace on the longest mountain glacier of the world.  Then, all of a sudden, it became the world’s highest battle field; the world’s coldest battle field; the world’s oldest battle field; relatively the world’s costliest battle field; the most awesomely polluting battle field.

It is a battle that should never have happened; having happened, it should not be allowed to continue. It has been on the brink of a solution more than once. It is on the brink again; perhaps it is awaiting just one final push.

The proposal to end the conflict by establishing a Transboundary Peace Park was made almost twenty years ago; it is more timely than ever. It is a solution where no one loses honour and both sides gain it.

Is the Time Propitious?

Any time is propitious for peace.  But the present is particularly so.  A cease-fire has held since 2003. In a situation overwhelmed by mistrust and suspicion, this is a major achievement. While the last three summers saw much conflict, turmoil and bloodshed in the Vale of Kashmir, this summer has been different. There have been encouraging signs.  The military presence has been less visible, bunkers at cross roads have been less obtrusive, and tourists have come in greater numbers.  Shikaras glide on the Dal Lake; houseboats flaunt their creatively quaint names again. Indeed, one might dream again that if there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here. 

On July 27, 2011 the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan met and announced several positive measures.  Easing traffic across the Line of Control may seem a minor step but politically and practically it is a giant one. And all this a bare fortnight after three bombs were exploded in Mumbai, and a bare three years since the killer attack in Mumbai when some 160 people were killed.  That these grisly terrorist attacks didn’t prevent the meeting or the agreement to several positive steps speaks a great deal for the more accommodating atmosphere that prevails.

The Foreign Ministers decided to meet again in the first half of next year (2012) to monitor progress.  And, why not, to consider the proposal for a Transboundary Peace Park?  It was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who declared the Siachen a Mountain of Peace. The Mountain is there, can Peace be on the way?

Read the entire article in the print edition of The South Asian Life & Times




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