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India allows civilians to trek to Siachen

Unfazed by Pakistan's protest, India announces the first group of trekkers would set off for the glacier on Wednesday as planned, reports Jatin Gandhi.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2007 01:03 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times

Marketing professional Mukund Deodhar was a morose man on Monday night when the army put the civilian trek to Siachen on hold.

But on Tuesday, when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) cleared the trek, he boarded the flight to Delhi, bubbling with enthusiasm.

A special Indian Air Force (IAF) plane will take the 42-member-team to Leh on Wednesday. The ministry made it clear that the three-week expedition will go ahead as planned despite Pakistan protesting0 against the Indian army’s move to allow civilians to trek in the area. “We consider it a routine mountaineering activity which should not be viewed in any other way. The expedition is taking place in an area which is ours,” the ministry spokesperson said.

The day saw some hectic file-pushing to get ministry clearances to ensure the trek proceeds as scheduled.

Three members of the team from Mumbai – Deodhar, Charuhas Joshi and Balakrishna Pillai – were on their way to the airport when they were asked not to board their flight to Delhi. “We were feeling terrible yesterday,” Deodhar said.

“Only VVIPs like ministers and celebrities have been to Siachen so far. The thrill of being in Siachen is what I am really looking forward to. From the longest glacier to the highest battlefield to the third pole--so much has been said about it,” said Charuhas Joshi. The 51-year-old management professor claims to be the first Indian to climb Mt Kanchenjunga (27,000 feet) without oxygen, in 1988.

The expedition members include National Cadet Corps (NCC) and Indian Military Academy (IMA) cadets. The team “will undergo a an acclimatisation camp at Leh,” ministry sources said. After this, the trekkers will move to the Siachen base camp--12,235 feet above sea level. They will then be trained at the Siachen battle school for four days.

First Published: Sep 18, 2007 20:19 IST