Urging analysts to take a “holistic view of relations with Pakistan,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh guardedly said the 3 year old peace process was making “progress” but acknowledged that it was “premature” to conclude to claim success. Singh pointed out that both sides had “several rounds of composite dialogue” on “Siachen, Sir Creek and other issues” and vowed to “sustain the momentum.”
Talking on the sidelines of the Asian leaders conference in the Philippines, Singh hinted that there was more progress on Siachen and “holding negotiations” on “authentication of ground positions.” Siachen is an unclearly marked glacier at 20,000+ feet above sea level that overlooks the Karakoram Pass connecting China with Pakistan and also provides a gallery view to the Shaksgam Valley—an area in erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir that was illegally ceded by Pakistan to China. On actionable intelligence that Islamabad was planning to take over these heights, India moved to occupy the high points in 1987. He also sounded positive insisting that there “are hopeful features in the present dialogue.”
Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had met on the sidelines of the Commonwealth meeting at Havana to fast-track the peace process. Despite political willingness, practical considerations and history is stopping any progress on critical disputes. For example, the lack of trust and historical violation of bilateral commitments by Pakistan is stopping New Delhi from accepting Islamabad’s position on Siachen. India wants the authentication and verification of ground level positions on the glacier because it fears that Pakistan will quickly move to occupy the high-ground that India occupies. Islamabad balks at the suggestion. Indian Army officials have been insistent on such verification being a pre-condition for any movement on Siachen.
After fighting pitched battles to take these posts, Pakistan has given up trying to take the positions by force and agreed to a ceasefire in November 2003. Further, the increased pressure arising from cost of operations and the near civil war conditions in the tribal areas to the west is motivating Pakistan to consider a tactical withdrawal without sounding like it has lost.