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In pics | Siachen: The world’s highest and coldest battlefield

A look at the world’s highest and coldest militarised zone and some facts about the glacier region.

Siachen Tragedy Updated: Feb 09, 2016 17:49 IST
Operations by the specialized teams of the Army and the Air Force in progress to search for the bodies of the soldiers hit by an avalanche, in Siachen.
Operations by the specialized teams of the Army and the Air Force in progress to search for the bodies of the soldiers hit by an avalanche, in Siachen.(PTI)

Nine army personnel, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and eight other ranks of Madras Regiment, died on February 3 after an avalanche struck the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir.

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, who is critical and on a ventilator, is the only soldier to have survived the incident. He was buried under 25 feet of snow for six days in the glacier’s sub zero temperature.

Here is a look at the world’s highest and coldest militarised zone and some facts about the glacier region.

An Indian army soldier keeps vigil at the Indo-Pakistan border at Siachen. (AFP)

Situated on the northern edge of the Himalayas in Kashmir with altitudes reaching as high as 22,000 feet, the glacier is an icy desert and has become more prone to avalanches after recent snowfall in the upper reaches of the Valley.

Indian army soldiers prepare to climb a glacier as they undergo a training session at the Siachen base camp. (AP)

Indian and Pakistani forces, estimated to number between 10,000 and 20,000 troops combined, have faced off against each other in mountains above the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram range since 1984. The strategic importance of the glacier is debatable, military experts say. Until 1984, neither side had troops there.

Indian army soldiers climb an ice wall at the Siachen Base camp. (AP)

The no-man’s-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level. Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

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Soldiers returning from border posts get a briefing at the Siachen Glacier base camp. (AP)

On April 7, 2012 at least 130 Pakistani soldiers and 14 civilians were killed when a giant wall of snow crashed down on one of the neighbouring country’s defence headquarters.

Indian army soldiers muster at their base camp after returning from training at Siachen Glacier. (REUTERS)

At least 242 soldiers were killed in the Valley during between January 2007 and March 2012, of which 180 lost their lives fighting militants. The rest were consumed by natural calamities, mostly snow deluges.

An Indian army soldier stands guard near drums of oil at an army camp in Siachen Glacier. (AP)

India controls the heights and is not willing to withdraw for fear Pakistan might walk in. India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold.

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Photo taken on February 22, 1995 shows an Indian Army soldier guides an IAF chopper bringing in supplies and medicines to one of the highest posts in the Siachen Glacier. (Dinesh Krishnan/HT File Photo)

Pakistan has said it is willing to do so on the condition that it is not a final endorsement of India’s claim over the glacier, a source of melt water for Pakistan’s rivers.

Photo taken on February 22, 1995 shows Indian Army personnel receiving supplies in one of the highest posts in the Siachen glacier. (Dinesh Krishnan/HT File Photo)

Both countries agree on a need to demilitarise the glacier, but neither side wants to take the first step.