Back in focus: No headway in demilitarising killer glacier
The killer avalanche that trapped more than 100 Pakistani soldiers at a military camp near Siachen on Saturday and President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India have brought the contentious Siachen glacier issue back to the centrestage.delhi Updated: Apr 10, 2012 00:28 IST
The killer avalanche that trapped more than 100 Pakistani soldiers at a military camp near Siachen on Saturday and President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India have brought the contentious Siachen glacier issue back to the centrestage.
The tragedy has brought the question of demilitarising the world's highest and most treacherous battlefield back into focus.
Several talks between India and Pakistan for demilitarisation of the glacier have failed because of Islamabad's refusal to authenticate troop positions on the glacier.
A senior army officer said on Monday India could not risk withdrawal of its troops there until Pakistan authenticated troop positions on the ground, as it would be a formidable task to reclaim the glacier.
Indian soldiers have endured war at heights of over 21,000 feet since the army made a pre-emptive move on April 13, 1984 to secure the glacier from Pakistani aggression under Operation Meghdoot.
The guns have been silent since the November 2003 ceasefire with Pakistan on the 110-km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), but a soldier's task is cut out and the peculiarities of weather and terrain pose a formidable challenge. The daily cost of holding on to the glacier is around R5 crore.
The army has deployed around 3,000 soldiers on the glacier, a 76-km river of slow moving ice. Soldiers have to trek for almost 28 days covering a stretch of 128 km to reach some of the farthest pickets on the glacier. The army has lost at least 700 soldiers.
Strategic affairs experts say the barren battlefield is crucial for India’s security because its occupation will not allow the Pakistani army to link up with the Chinese and pose threat to Ladakh.