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HindustanTimes Thu,27 Nov 2014

PM Modi may visit Siachen with army chief

Rahul Singh , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 06, 2014
First Published: 20:14 IST(6/8/2014) | Last Updated: 20:23 IST(6/8/2014)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Siachen during his Ladakh tour this month to boost the morale of troops deployed at the world's highest battlefield.

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His predecessor Manmohan Singh had made a historic visit to the glacier nine years ago and famously said it should be converted into a "mountain of peace".

Army chief General Dalbir Singh is expected to accompany the PM to the glacier, a 76-km river of slow moving ice. Dalbir Singh, who was planning to visit the glacier on August 11, is likely to rework his tour following the PM's desire to travel to Siachen.

The army has deployed around 3,000 soldiers on the glacier where temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees and almost 80% posts are located above 16,000 feet, with Bana post towering above the rest at 21,753 feet.

Holding on to Siachen has cost the army more than 860 lives over the last 30 years, with extreme climate and terrain chiefly to blame. Guarding the glacier also costs Rs. 5 crore daily. Soldiers have to trek for almost 28 days covering a stretch of 128 km to reach some of the farthest pickets.

Several rounds of talks between India and Pakistan on demilitarising the glacier - an old sore in bilateral ties - have failed with Islamabad refusing to authenticate troop positions on the ground.

Successive army chiefs have warned against withdrawing from the glacier until Pakistan authenticates troop positions, as it would be a formidable task to reclaim Siachen. India currently occupies dominating positions on the Saltoro ridge, with Pakistani posts located 3,000 feet below.

As long as the glacier is under India's control, the Pakistani army can't link up with the Chinese and pose threat to Ladakh. It acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan.


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