He attained Supreme Enlighten or Buddha hood, beneath the Bodhi-tree at Boddha Gaya. Forty-five years later at the age of eighty, he finally passed away after completing his Sahasra Chandra Darshana i.e., 1000 full moon days, in Parinivana on the same day of the year at Kushinagar. Vaisaka Purnima is celebrated especially in Boddha Gaya, Lumbini and in Kushinagar as they are the holy places that were connected with the blessed one's birth, enlighten and the Parinirvana. Buddhists in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Tibet, China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Nepal, Japan and quite a number of western Buddhists participate 'Vaisaka' Purnima Day religious activities in a festive mood. Sarnath the capital of Buddhism too celebrates Vaisaka Purnima day in a grand way.
The spiritual and moral forces generated by Buddha have strengthened and enriched Hinduism and helped to wean it from perversions which had set in at that time. And Buddha himself has been revered as an Avataar of Bhagwan by Hindus.
2. NGOs, TEESTA SPICED UP GUJARAT RIOT INCIDENTS - SIT: The Special Investigation Team responsible for the arrests of those accused in Gujarat riots has severely censured NGOs and social activist Teesta Setalvad who campaigned for the riot victims.
In a significant development, the SIT led by former CBI director R K Raghavan told the Supreme Court on April 13 that the celebrated rights activist cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings. Many incidents of killings and violence were cooked up, false charges were levelled against then police chief P C Pandey and false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents, the SIT said in a report submitted before a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam.
The SIT said it had been alleged in the Gulbarg Society case that Pandey, instead of taking measures to protect people facing the wrath of rioteers, was helping the mob. The truth was that he was helping with hospitalisation of riot victims and making arrangements for police bandobast, Gujarat counsel, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, said quoting from the SIT report.
Rohtagi also said that 22 witnesses, who had submitted identical affidavits before various courts relating to riot incidents, were questioned by the SIT which found that they had been tutored and handed over the affidavits by Setalvad and that they had not actually witnessed the riot incidents.
The SIT also found no truth in the various incidents widely publicised by the NGOs:Rohtagi said: "On a reading of the report, it is clear that horrendous allegations made by the NGOs were false. Stereotyped affidavits were supplied by a social activist and the allegations made in them were found untrue."
3. NUCLEAR CAPABLE 'PRITHVI-II' TEST FIRED: Bharat on April 15 successfully test fired the indigenous surface-to-surface ballistic missile, 'Prithvi-II', from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) here, 15 km from Balasore.
Prithvi-II, a version of nuclear-capable, has a range of 350 km. The missile was launched from a mobile launcher at around 10:20 a.m. as part of a user trial by the army, defence sources said.
The entire trajectory of the trial was tracked down by a battery of sophisticated radars and electro-optic telemetry stations positioned in different locations for post-launch analysis, they said.
Prithvi II is a short-range, road-mobile, liquid-propellant ballistic missile. Similar to the Prithvi I in many ways, Prithvi II trades a smaller warhead for a longer range.
4. 2nd AUSTRALIAN HINDU CONFERNCE: The 2nd Australian Hindu Conference with the theme "Sustaining Australia through strengthening bonds amongst communities" organised by Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) of Australia Inc., was held on 11-12 April 2009 at the University of Western Sydey, Parramatta campus, Sydney.
The conference brought together Hindus in Australia coming from different countries as well as guests from across Australia, Dharma civilization group (Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Aboriginal) and Australian host community. There were over 250 attendees at this 2 day conference.
Swami Dayananda Sarswathi inaugurated the conference and presented the keynote address of the conference, in which he pointed out that human conscience and values are universal. Swamiji emphasized the message from the Vedas. "Ahimsa Paramo Dharma" - that non-violence in thought, deed and action - is the highest and most basic of all values and all else are derivatives of this universal value.
Mr. Cheenu Shrinivasan made a presentation on 'Hindu Contribution to Australia' based on Australian Census 2006.
Among the immigrant community, Hindu community is the third largest Australian population, on a percentage scale, of those who are non-Christians in Australia.
Hindus are a major contributor to Australia's talent pool in : Health Services, Teaching, Research, IT Services, Public Services, Business Services (Accounting, Legal etc.). A number of our fellow Hindus won national recognition with Order of Australia Medals, Prime Minister's Science Award etc. In our own way we recognize their contribution to Australia and the country acknowledging their contributions.
Federal Parliamentarians, the Hon Mr. Philip Ruddock and Hon Mr. Laurie Ferguson (Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs) also addressed the conference. Other dignitaries who attended the conference were The Hon. Ray Williams MP representing the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mr. Dilip Chopra, Councilor of the Hormsby Shire Council and Professor Michael Adams, Head of the School of Law and Provost of UWS Parramatta.
There were 6 paper presentation sessions and 3 workshops. The workshops focused on issues, which were common to all the Hindu organization, and also to the wider community, such as "Harnessing the dynamic spirit of youth", "Providing social services to Hindu community" and "Networking among Hindu organizations, associations, temples and institutions".
With speakers drawn across a wide cross-section of the Dharma traditions - Hindu, Jain Buddhist, Sikh - that grew out of the spiritual homeland of India, participants were able to learn the different hues of a common culture that binds them all.
A highlight of the conference was the powerful dance of the 'Purusha Suktam and Aboriginal Dreamtime Spirituality' choreographed by adopted Aboriginal Elders, Kumaran and Jennifer Pather representing the Goomeroi Aboriginal Community of Toomelah.
The 1st Australian Hindu youth conference with the theme "Dynamic Spirit of Youth" was announced to be held in April 2010, and 3rd Australian Hindu conference to be held in April 2011. Delegates expressed their appreciation at the way the conference was organised with a human and personal touch for looking after the needs of the delegates.
5. FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF SYDNEY VEDA PATHASHALA was grandly celebrated at Scout Hall, North Carlingford, Sydeny where more than 150 people attended to hear, participate and appreciate a unique Veda chanting programme. Veda chanting is an ancient concept to invigorate the higher senses.
Sydney Veda Pathashala has taken Sydeny by strom since its launch last year by Swami Vigyananand as more than 100 students regularly attend the Pathashala (school) to memorize and practice the hymns for wisdom and knowledge. Now, there are five such schools in the suburbs of Sydeny- Baulkham Hills, Carlingford, Homebush, Liverpol.
While speaking on the importance of studying Vedas, Swami Vigyananand said "Without expecting anything Vedas must be studied, and practised" quoting from ancient scriptures. He mentioned that there were 29 women Rishis (latter known as Brahmavadinis) among the 407 Sages associated with the revelation of the Rig Veda - world's oldest book. During the anniversary celebrations, a drama/skit "Sirapoli Nayanmar story" was played by Denistone East Balar Malar Tamil School, which was very much appreciated by the audience.
6. HSS CELEBRATES HINDU NEW YEAR IN BANGKOK: Unity and devotion to Dharma keys to Hindu rejuvenation -Tarun Vijay
Grand celebration of Hindu new year was organized in Thailand under the banner of the Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS) in Bangkok on 3rd April 2009. Shri Tarun Vijay, Director, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation and a veteran journalist was the chief guest. Shri Chintamani Tripathi, Sanghchalak, HSS, Thailand, and President, VHP, Thailand presided while Shri Ashok Bajaj, President of the largest Hindu temple Dev Mandir was guest of honour. Several senior leaders of Hindu community and organisations were present on the occasion with a special presence of the cultural secretary from the Indian Embassy Subir Datta.
The programme began with hoisting of Bhagwa Dhwaj and offering flowers at the portraits of King Bhumibal Adulyatej Rama the ninth, Bharat Mata, Dr. Hedgewar and Shri Guruji. In his baudhik Shri Tarun Vijay gave details of the significance of the Hindu New Year, which is also celebrated in Thailand as Songkrem (13th April to 15th April). He said that Hindus world over are respected for their intelligence, loyalty to the adopted country and peaceful nature.’ Hindus don't bomb the country they adopt' he said amidst the roaring applause.
He said that Thai King Bhumibal Adulyatej has set a glaring example of devotion to culture and Dharma by naming the Bangkok International airport as Suvarnabhumi, which is an old Sanskrit name of the region. At the aiport the first most gracious and inspiring sculpture of ocean –Churning (Sagar Manthan) by Devas and Asuras with Shri Vishnu in the middle symbolizes the deep cultural affinities of Thai people with Hindus. Shri Dinesh Mani Dubey, Bauddhik Pramukh (incharge intellectual activities ) said that it’s a great day for the Hindus in Thailand as all the major Hindu organizations have come together to participate the Hindu new year-so rare for the Indian community abroad. Leading stalwarts of the Indian community from different sections of Thai society including Sushil Sarraf, Rajkumar Mahta, Satish Pahwa, Lalit Kishore, Sushil Dhanuka, President of Hindu Dharma Sabha and Chairman Vishnu Mandir Krishna Datta Upadhyaya, and its secretary Om Prakash Mishra, President of Thailand International Gita Ashram Mahesh Agarwal, Tejasvi Shukla, Coordinator of Hindu Buddh Samanvaya Rajkumar Dubey, Parmatma Tripathi, Suresh Dube, and Pramod Dube were amongst the distinguished gathering.
7. ‘RAM TEMPLE IMPORTANT ISSUE’: RSS Sarsanghchalak Ma. Mohan Bhagwat on April 7 said that the forthcoming election should be fought on national issues and the Ram Mandir issue should be among these.
Talking to mediapersons, he said that all political parties should focus their campaign on national issues like terrorism and national security.
When asked whether the RSS would support the BJP as the latter had promised Ram temple at Ayodhya in its manifesto, Bhagwat said that the Sangh had been favouring the temple even before the BJP took up the issue.
Shri Bhagwat after addressing an impressive gathering of the RSS volunteers, was the chief guest at a function of the Pathey Kan, a fortnightly being published by the State unit of the RSS. The magazine has a circulation of about 1.5 lakh copies and reaches in about 22,000 villages of the State.
Bhagwat asked the management of the publication to increase its circulation to 35,000 villages in its silver jubilee year. He advocated that the publication should create awareness among members of the public on national and social issues.
8. BRING BACK BLACK MONEY FROM FOREIGN BANKS, SAYS BABA RAMDEV: Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev on April 13 said that he will campaign for the party which promises to bring back the black money stashed in foreign countries by Bharatiyas. "In Swiss bank there are crores of rupees and this should be used for development", Baba Ramdev, who was in Raipur to head a voters' awareness rally, told reporters.
He said that he would be willing to side the party that would fulfill this promise.
If the same is promised and not done then the country should boycott that government, he said.
"Rs 73 lakh crore have been stashed in the Swiss bank, which is willing to disclose the information. We should get the money back even if it meant waging a war with Swiss government," he said.
He requested voters to vote on the basis of the individual standing and not on the basis of party.
He asked to vote for the most honest candidate or a candidate with the least possible dishonesty.
The progress of the nation is possible when honest representatives are elected, he said adding that he has no interest in politics and would continue to perform his duty towards the nation.
9. VARSH PRATIPADA CELEBRATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY: Present an example through your conduct - Bhaiyaji Joshi
"Dr Hedgewar never preached rather he always presented an example through his personal conduct before the people. Only shouting the slogan of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ will not make the people patriotic. That feeling should develop in the heart. The society divided into so many castes, sections, etc. has to be united. This was the objective of Dr Hedgewar when he formed the Sangh. Our all activities should focus on this objective,” said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi.
He was addressing a gathering of uniformed swayamsevaks in New Delhi on Varsh Pratipada on March 27. Former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan also addressed a similar function at Kanjhawala in Delhi the same day. Before the formal inauguration of the function, ‘Adya Sarsanghachalak Pranam’ was offered at all the functions.
Shri Joshi further said the nation would become strong only when even an ordinary person of the society stands with self-respect. “All kinds of divisions in the society should be eliminated and the entire nation should stand with one voice. Playing patriotic songs on Independence Day or Republic Day would not develop the feeling of patriotism. Every countryman should work hard and give prominence to the national interest,” he added. He said the forces, which are weakening the country have to be dealt with iron hand.
There are reports of organising similar functions in other parts of the country also. A pathsanchalan was taken out in Varanasi the same day. The pathsanchalan culminated at Madhav Udyan after passing through many places of the city. Addressing the gathering at Madhav Udyan, RSS National Executive Member Shri Indresh Kumar stressed the need to have a joint resolve on this day to make the country terror-free. He said the RSS had been working for making the nation strong.
He pointed out that Dr Hedgewar was against vyakti puja and he never allowed the swayamsevaks to celebrate his birthday. Prof. Ramashankar Dube, former Vice Chancellor of Gurughasi Ram University, presided over the function.
A function was held in Bhubaneswar also at the premises of Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti. Speaking at the function Dr Sachidananda Chhotray urged the gathering to follow the Hindu way of life instead of the western culture.
10. SECOND PHASE OF PATANJALI YOGAPEETH INAUGURATED: RSS Sarsanghachalak Ma. Mohan Bhagwat said the RSS fully supports the issues raised by the saints for the betterment of the nation. He was speaking at a function held at Patanjali Yogapeeth in Haridwar on April 1. Ma. Bhagwat lauded Baba Ramdev for the campaigns he launched and said, “You continue with the yoga and yagya and we will see that no demon harms it.”
The three-day function marked the inauguration of second phase of Patanjali Yogapeeth, a world-class institute set-up for promotion of yoga and Ayurveda. Saints from across the country, representing various sects of Hinduism, supported Baba Ramdev’s efforts to rejuvenate Bharat and to restore its past glory.
The Dalai Lama, former RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan, newly elected Sarkaryavah of RSS Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi and VHP president Shri Ashok Singhal also promised their full support to the campaigns to safeguard Indian values and culture.
11. INSULT OF HINDU DEITIES IN HISTORY TEXTBOOK: DU VICE CHANCELLOR SUMMONED: Dr Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, was summoned by the court of Sub Divisional Magistrate Shri Rakesh Kumar in Dera Bassi, Punjab. Dr Pental has to appear before the court on April 22. He has been summoned for hurting the sentiments of Hindus in an article, ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’, being taught in Delhi University to the students of BA (Hons) second year as part of a history book Culture in India: Ancient.
The article contains highly objectionable contents insulting Sri Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshman and other Hindu gods and goddesses. The complaint in this case had been filed by Shri Anil Bali of Dera Bassi on June 13, 2008.
“From the allegations contained in the complaint and the preliminary evidences led by the complaint in support thereof, a prima facie case is made out against the accused (Dr Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor of Delhi University) for alleged commission of an offence punishable under Section 153-A, 295-A and 298 of the IPC. Accordingly, the accused is ordered to be summoned to face trial for the alleged commission of an offence for April 22, 2009,” the Magistrate said in his order announced on March 7. According to sources, the summon order has been served to Dr Pental.
The controversial book contains very abusive and libellous language used for divine Hindu deities by addressing Lord Hanuman as ‘Henchman’ and ‘Tiny Monkey’, etc. The names of other Hindu deities have also been changed like as humiliated language. The contents were un-authentic, malice and banned under the law. Sita was stated as ‘unfaithful’.
“The intention of the article was predetrimental. The complainant was also aggrieved to know that many false stories were quoted under one pretext or the other. This was matter of concern that popular beliefs and prevailing traditions of Hindu culture are projected in distorted manner,” the Magistrate states in his order.
12. 47 INDIAN COMPANIES AMONG FORBES GLOBAL 2000 LIST: As many as 47 Indian companies, led by corporate behemoth Reliance Industries and the country’s biggest lender, State Bank of India, have made it to the list of world’s biggest 2,000 companies by US magazine Forbes.
Four Indian companies, Hero Honda Motors, Sun Pharma, Indian Bank and Jindal Steel & Power Ltd are the new entrants to the list.
Mukesh Ambani-promoted RIL, State Bank of India, and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation are among the top 200 companies ranked 121st, 150th and 152nd, respectively, on the list, improving their ranks considerably from their last year’s positions, wherein RIL had been 193rd, SBI at 219th spot, while ONGC was ranked 198th.
13. TAMILS IN UK STAGE PROTEST OUTSIDE COMMONS: Several hundred Sri Lankan Tamil protesters are staging an ongoing protest outside the Houses of Parliament urging the UK Government to act to end the conflict in Sri Lanka.
They shouted and carried banners condemning the Sri Lankan Government’s offensive against the LTTE and alleged human rights abuses. Around 100 police officers boxed in hundreds of demonstrators to move them off the roads, sparking minor scuffles.
Most of about 3000 protesters including women and babies, slept overnight on the streets around Parliament Square after beginning their protest April 6 afternoon.
14. THREE-FOLD RISE IN GIRLS AT IIM-A: They were rare at these premier B-schools of the country. Few girls made it to the Indian Institutes of Management. But this year, girls comprise nearly 16 per cent of the total students’ intake in IIM-Ahmedabad, which is over three times last year’s figure.
The final admission list on the basis of Common Admission Test (CAT) and personal interviews were declared on April 10 and IIM-A is happy that more number of girls will be part of the Post Graduate Programme (PGP) for year 2009-11. The total number of girls getting into IIMs had never crossed five per cent so far and this shift has come about because of a new admissions criteria.
15. US SIKHS PROTEST ARMY BAN ON TURBAN: Sikh organisations in America are launching protests and a signature campaign in favour of two Sikh military trainees who have been asked to remove their turbans and cut their hair to become eligible for active duty in the US Army.
Captain Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, and Second-Lieutenant Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, have just completed an army programme that pays for medical education in return for military service. The two turbaned Sikhs, who were set to join active duty in July, have been asked by the US Army to remove their turbans and hair to become eligible for active duty.
But at the time of their enrolment, the army had assured them that their turbans and unshorn hair "would not be a problem", according to Sikh Coalition which plans a signature campaign to get 15,000 people to write to the US Army to stop discrimination against the two Sikhs.
"After four years of training in army facilities, I was shocked to learn that the army would go back on its promise, and expect me to choose between my faith or my service to my country,'' the coalition statement quotes Captain Kalsi as saying.
16. IISc, NIMHANS SCIENTISTS IDENTIFY GENE CAUSING BRAINDISORDER: In a breakthrough that could allow detection of brain defects in foetuses, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and NIMHANS have discovered a gene that causes microcephaly, a disorder in which the brain is of reduced size, affecting mental and intellectual faculties.
The finding will help thousands of expectant mothers in detecting the deformity (by identifying the gene) at the foetal stage, something that can prevent children with brain disorders from being born.
This is the first time that the gene, named STIL, has been shown to cause microcephaly. The discovery comes after nine years of research collaboration between teams of Satish C Girimaji, department of psychiatry, Nimhans, and Arun Kumar, department of molecular reproduction, development and genetics, IISc. The findings have been published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Human Genetics.
17. BHARAT-BORN IS TOP PAID CEO IN US: Mobile phone maker Motorola's Bharat-born chief Sanjay Jha has emerged America's top paid CEO, while Citigroup's Vikram Pandit tops the league among bailed out banks, a survey said on April 3.
Another Bharatiya on the list is PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi at the 36th slot with a pay package of USD 13.98 million. With a total payout of over $104 million in 2008, Jha is the only CEO to get a compensation package exceeding $100 million, with Occidental's Ray Irani at a distant second with USD 49.9 million.
Irani is followed by Walt Disney's Robert Iger ($49.7 million) at the third slot. In the overall ranking, compiled by the Wall Street Journal, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit comes at the fourth position with a payout of $38.2 million.
18. HSS PRACHARAK IN SRI LANKA RAMESH BABU DIES IN AN ACCIDENT: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) Pracharak in Sri Lanka Ramesh Babu died in a road accident. He was 39. He was travelling in a van near Candy in Sri Lanka on April 5, carrying material for a proposed camp. Around 5 pm the van met with an accident and he was injured along with a fellow Samiti worker. He arranged a transport for the injured Samiti worker and was himself carried to the military hospital in another vehicle, which too tragically met with another accident and he died on the spot. “In Ramesh Babu’s death we have lost a simple, sincere and dedicated karyakarta. In a short span of five years he took Sri Lanka Sangh work to a very high level and the shakha number soon touched the 50 mark,” said Dr. Shankar Tatwawadi, International Coordinator, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS).
19. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Ratilal Shah from UK; Shri Dinesh Mani Dubey from Thailand. Pravaas: Dr. Shankar Tatwawadi, Samyojak, Vishwa Vibhag is on pravaas of African countries. Shri Ram Madhav, National Executive Member of RSS, will leave for Nepal by this weekend for a couple of days.
20. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Inward calm cannot he maintained unless physical strength is constantly and intelligently replenished. -- Bhagwan Buddha.
JAI SHREE RAM
THE DEATH THROESEthnic cleansing of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh continues unabated, writes Richard L Benkin,
OF MINORITY HINDUS
OF MINORITY HINDUS
I just returned from India after a month during which time an incredible number of significant events were occurring. My primary mission in going was to document and raise awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus. I found plenty, including evidence of ongoing attacks on them both in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, India. The border between the two is so porous that terrorists and contraband move freely with and without the help of India’s Border Security Force or West Bengal Police. But I also witnessed the tragic beginning of the end for Pakistan’s Hindus. Once one in five Pakistanis, they have been reduced to one per cent of the population.
But as the Taliban take over ever larger chunks of that country, that remnant of a people is streaming across the border into Indian Punjab. The stream became a torrent with the Taliban’s seizure of the Swat Valley earlier this year. Hindu refugees report attacks and threats by the Taliban, as well as officials telling them to leave the country “or else...” The February agreement between the Taliban and the Asif Ali Zardari Government in Pakistan ceded the area to the former and allowed Sharia’h law to be imposed on Swat’s 1.2 million inhabitants.
US President Barack Obama has used this agreement as a model in his stated quest for “moderate Taliban.” But not only does the agreement countersign ethnic cleansing, it also failed even before Mr Obama’s anticipated speech on US policy in the region. Just hours before the President spoke, one of the Taliban parties to the agreement, the Tehrik e Taliban, abrogated it with a terror attack on a mosque in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, and has engaged in other terrorist attacks subsequently.
One Hindi news channel quoted a Taliban spokesman confirming that his group was pulling out of the agreement not to attack elsewhere in Pakistan because, he said, it would be contrary to Allah’s wishes to limit Sharia’h to the Swat Valley. Yet, no major media in India, the US, or elsewhere made this connection.
Even more shameful, no media or Government has protested the ethnic cleansing of Pakistan’s Hindus, who are being finished off by the Taliban. All Governments involved in the region are just allowing it to happen, too. What kind of a world do we live in when India will not defend Hindus attacked for being Hindus; when the US ignores the atrocity; when not a single human rights group or the UN utters a word of protest?
What is happening to Pakistan’s Hindus is a crime, but a crime that is largely accomplished. There remain 13,000,000 Hindus in Bangladesh subject to the same attacks, the same racist laws, and the same intention to eradicate them. Worse, the battle is spilling across the open border into India, and it is changing the security arrangements between the two countries, the demographic balance, and continuing the ethnic cleansing there, too. It is also allowing terrorists into the country whose intention is to undermine the very nation of Hindustan.
My mission is to prevent that, to prevent the murders and other atrocities, even if I am the only voice of protest to cry out about this crime against humanity. (The writer is an American Jewish human rights activist.) -- The Pioneer 8 April 2009
BREAKING THE ICEApril 13, 2009, Indian troops mark 25 years of their presence on the Siachen glacier, which has been described as the world's highest,
coldest and perhaps the most demanding frontline. The glacier holds 100 million acres of fresh water resources that both India and Pakistan need. India's military presence on the icy heights around Siachen was set up by the government in April 1984, on the recommendations of Lt General Chibber, then India's northern army commander. According to him, "The strategic importance of the area was not a major consideration, nor was our purpose to capture any territory. It was simply to ensure that we were not presented with a fait accompli like that in Aksai Chin in the early fifties." Since the Chinese invasion of 1962, New Delhi had been understandably sensitive to cartographic ambiguities near its borders.
In fact, the origins of the Siachen dispute lie in a cartographic controversy. The Line of Control (LoC, previously the Ceasefire Line) begins north of Jammu and ends abruptly at a mountain height called NJ 9842. Beyond that lay the glacier in no man's land as per the Indo-Pak 1949 Karachi and 1972 Suchetgarh agreements. But since the 1970s, several international maps had begun to depict the Siachen glacier as part of Pakistan. This included the National Geographic Society's Atlas of the World, University of Chicago's A Historical Atlas of South Asia and The Times Atlas of the World, published in London. All of these showed the Ceasefire Line (now the LoC) clearly extending from NJ 9842 in a north-easterly direction right up to the Karakoram Pass and onto the Chinese border. Until then, not even Pakistani maps had done this!
Apparently, the source of this cartographic confusion was some maps initially produced by the US Defence Mapping Agency, depicting the LoC running from the vicinity of NJ 9842 north-east to the Karakoram Pass, in the 1970s and 1980s. The best explanation for this error by America's map-makers appears to lie in the possible "translation" of Air Defence Information Zone (ADIZ) markings, which provides zoning boundaries for air controllers in civil/military aviation. This showed the extension of the LoC from NJ 9842 to the Karakoram Pass, and thus became an article of faith for the Pakistanis. However, several ADIZs could pass through one country, and these need not identify a boundary line. But the publication of such maps by many of the world's leading Atlases further encouraged the Pakistani army to contest the LoC's sanctity.
General Zia-ul Haq planned to occupy the glacial heights. But Indian troops were rushed into the Saltoro Ridge, which marks the western wall of the Siachen glacier. Lack of acclimatisation led to hundreds of casualties but India's infantrymen held on to every inch of those fierce heights. And, in due course, they even battled for and gained complete dominance over the glacier. All this took Pakistan by surprise and its many attempts to dislodge Indian troops, from then on, were unsuccessful.
As Pakistan cannot take back what the Indian army holds, a section of the Pakistani press has sought to create the impression that the cost of maintaining troops along the glacier is unbearable for India. On the contrary, India can well afford it. At a cost of about Rs 700 crore per annum, Siachen takes up a small part of India's Rs 1,00,000 crore defence budget. The current debate is, therefore, centred on India's insistence that Pakistan must acknowledge the gains Indian troops have made along the glacier and accept the 110-kilometre-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) before any troop withdrawal takes place.
Following the Kargil experience, India's army now wants iron-clad guarantees from Pakistan, including verifications of Indian troop positions, signed on maps that confirm India's military gains along the glacier. But the Pakistanis are unwilling. In fact, India's military brass hats have made it clear that they will stay on for as long as it takes Pakistan to recognise India's gains. Herein lies the heart of the problem. The Pakistani army has led its people to believe that they are positioned on the Siachen glacier, when in reality it is the Indian army that dominates the glacial battlefield. There are actually no troops on the glacier per se.
One view is that if a pullout from the Siachen glacier could help us seal a deal over the LoC as a permanent border with Pakistan, then it may be worth it. As India's entire border with China is not physically manned, we could go back to the pre-1984 days even at Siachen, but only if the Indian government does not ask the army's brass hats to regain those icy heights once troops are ordered to withdraw. India could keep a watch on any intrusions, by active patrolling along the AGPL.
Another view is that this is India's single biggest military victory over Pakistan since the 1971 war, and it must be used to extract an appropriate bargain from Pakistan when peace talks are initiated again. It must not be squandered away like the gains of the 1971 war. Remember, over 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war were handed over for nothing but false reassurances from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto! (The writer is a Delhi-based defence analyst.) --The Times of India, 13 Apr 2009.