Fight On The Roof

Click here for the MP3 soundtrack to this article.

First, some history. After all, how can we repeat past mistakes if we don't know what they were ?

In the beginning, the world was without form and darkness lay upon the ...well, lets fast forward a bit.

First, the stage. The area in question, the northern Kashmir border is some of the most spectacular on earth, and is arguably the most difficult terrain to fight over. The valleys have certainly been continually inhabited for thousands of years and today elements of the Islamic,Hindu, and Buddhist cultures are well intermixed throughout the region. Some notion of its antiquity may be gleaned from the words of Col. John Taylor (retd.) who served in the Indian Army in the region in 1969:

The beautiful Nubra valley is the place where you take off to the Siachen Glacier or walk to Baigdandu to face the Pakistanis. Baigdandu is a unique village. You suddenly find beautiful people -- boys and girls with startling blue eyes, auburn hair and ruddy cheeks as against the typical mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. You wonder, 'Have I lost my way?' The answer is no! -- they have. Local lore has it that they were a Greek tribe who came in search of Jesus Christ's tomb and settled here.

Local lore is apocryphal at best, but it is established that Alexander (predating the Christian Messiah by a few centuries) did penetrate into the Indus Valley...

When The Hated Colonial Oppressors (aka the British) left the subcontinent (sparking the greatest human migration and some of the greatest human massacres ...but i digress) in 1947, they left Kashmir in the rule of a Hindu maharaja. Actually they left lotsa lil rajas all over India, all of whom were promptly "assimilated" into the new Republic of India. In Kashmir, where there was an Islamic majority, and a serious infiltration problem from Pakistan (Operation Gibraltar) was mounted , the maharaja asked for and received Indian armed assistance to crush the insurrection. Pakistan, not at all averse to mixing it up, promptly seized the northwestern third of the state and named it Azad Kashmir (the word Azad means free).

Thus matters remained until 1965, when another war broke out over Kashmir, and Pakistan cut off a road link between Srinagar and Leh at Kargil, which was later retaken by the Indians. Bear in mind that there is another road from Manali in Himachal Pradesh (south of Kashmir) to Leh, which though longer, can be, and was, used in 1967 as a resupply route to Leh.

In 1971, there was another Indo-Pak war which resulted in (among other things like the formation of Bangladesh) the Indians taking some territory in the Chalunka area.

In 1983 the Indians occupied the Siachen Glacier for no apparent reason. (20kilofoot, 200mph winds, mortar shells that fly for ever in arbitrary directions, supplied only by chopper when weather permits...) People who should know better argue that this confers some kind of mystical height advantage for the Indian side.. but this is really taking it too far. In any event both sides lose many more men to the conditions than to each other. The Indians cannot come down off the glacier and the Pakistanis cannot get up. They sometimes do blunder into each other in spite of the excerable weather, and attempt to inflict harm. But mostly not.

Right about this time (actually 14 years ago) there was assigned to this sector a Brigadier Azizuddin, who concieved of a plan to cut off the Srinagar-Leh highyway once more. Fortunately, he was recalled before he could start a war. In 1994, he was promoted and sent back as the head of the Northern Command. (All this from a Karachi newspaper, so the veracity of this tale is ... not so well founded...)In 1998 , Maj Gen Azizuddin became Chief of General Staff. He seems to have spent the last four years setting up his little war. Beware a man with a plan. The military in Pakistan have never been as well controlled by the civilian government as their Indian counterparts.

Stay tuned for more... we have met the Abominable Snowman, and he is us.

The Index
Back To The Membrane Domain

1999 The Glistening Web Communications Corporation
These graphics, images, text copy, sights or sounds may not be used without our expressed written consent.