By Ali Hassnain
Pakistanis know little about a small piece of heaven in our backyard: the Deosai Plains. It’s a national park these days. What even less people know about is the military importance of the area. China was a no go area like North Korea in the 50s and 60s. Before the Sino Soviet split and even after that, the US was desperate to contain China or even bring it in its sphere of influence. Rumour has it that US asked President Ayub of Pakistan for a military base. Deosai Plains would have been a very effective outpost against China back then. Thankfully under a great visionary leader, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistan declined. It’s an area where a military base can be built in the very difficult terrain of Kashmir.
India has a small air base in Leh. We, on the time of our choosing, can build an airbase which would dent the Indian doctrine on Kashmir badly. It is perfect for spying and a great potential asset with places to build natural bunkers for command and control. In case of a limited war we can cut the Manali Leh highway which originates from the very difficult terrain of Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the most difficult roads in the world. If we decide to block their other highway at Kargil again, in war time we can block it with the help of drone or helicopters. Their only road to Kashmir besides Manali-Leh road is already in the range of our long range artillery at many places. A bunch of well-placed Special Forces units can do wonders there. Even well placed long range artillery might be able to block it. The link is very fragile. That road is already barely functioning for six months under very difficult circumstances and is the only other road to Kashmir other than the highway that passes from Akhnur. The whole plan of Operation Grand Slam in 1965 was to cut off India from Kashmir by capturing it. India ended up pressing the all-out panic button and invaded Pakistan.
India has been working silently building infrastructure that can help in war. Railway in Kashmir is one example. They are planning a railway all the way from Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) to Leh. The project is “proposed” at this stage and we can beat them to the task. India’s BRO (Border Roads Organization) has been working on such projects since the Nehru government created it.
In future if we can connect Deosai Plains to Kashgar Railway and purpose-built roads, it can be a great military asset and would out-manoeuvre India in a subtle way. It would give us a much needed military edge in Kashmir. It can even be the decisive factor, all things considered. I hope and pray that our policy makers are working on it. In case of a border skirmish it can give us a defining edge and we can threaten Ladakh from there.
However we do need to protect the eco-system while building roads and railway for military purpose. Tourists who love nature can easily camp there. No need to build hotels or luxury resorts. Our FWO (Frontier Works Organization) is not sleeping either; in the 1960s to go to the valley of Naran, for example، was life threatening. Korean era Jeeps were used (still available). Now you can go by car to Chilas, Hunza and Gilgit from there very easily. We, as our US friends used to say in the 2000s, need to “do more”.