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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Frozen Turbulence

Reasoned analysis of why wars are fought even when they don't need to be

Frozen Turbulence
Frozen Turbulence
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
After many years comes a book about one of India’s many wars that goes beyond the tactical narrative. For a country that has fought three wars, a half-dozen insurgencies, one major operation and one minor one abroad and innumerable peace-keeping operations involving the loss of lives, the literature that has come out of these experiences is most unsatisfactory. The Indian army is a world-renowned force and the fact that practically every infantry battalion in it has been shot at in the last five years makes the army the most combat-experienced force in the world. If this force is to progress into the highly uncertain world of international security management of the 21st century, it can only do so on the basis of the lessons learnt in losing as many soldiers as it has in 50 years.

Siachen is not a battle on a grand scale. As the author explains, at the cutting edge of the war is a section of 8 or 10 men holding on to an iced-up bunker at 21,000 feet against the numbers the enemy can organise at the end of his stretched logistic chain. Simply being on the mountain at that altitude demands strong reserves of self-discipline and character. To fight and give one’s life, unseen and unknown, on the roof of the world requires a level of motivation that is heroic. Is Siachen worth the loss of such gallant lives? Obviously not, the author concludes, but the failure to disengage from Siachen has not been for want of trying. In the first few years, the drive to militarise the glacier came from the as-yet unproved strategic implications of a giant Sino-Pakistani pincer to take Ladakh, matching Pakistani fears from an imagined Indo-Soviet pincer to isolate the Northern Areas.

Both sides have now matured beyond their irrational fears, but peace is still elusive and the reasons Raghavan gives for the failure of the peace talks are what takes the book into a most...

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