Siachen is all over the News in last one week. Why Siachen is Important to us? Why just we can’t afford to give up Siachen? What is the Strategic Importance of Siachen?
This Article is going to answer all your questions!!!
Why Siachen is Important for India?
What is Siachen Glacier?
The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayan Mountains. It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world’s non-polar areas. The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, is currently under the administration of India since 1984. The average winter snowfall is more than 1000 cm (35 ft) and temperatures can dip to −50 °C. Including all tributary glaciers, the Siachen Glacier system covers about 700 km2 (270 sq mi).
What is Siachen Conflict?
The Siachen Conflict, sometimes referred to as the Siachen War, is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir.
The conflict began in 1984 with India’s successful Operation Meghdoot during which it gained control of the Siachen Glacier (unoccupied and undemarcated area). India has established control over all of the 70 kilometres (43 mi) long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier—Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. The Saltoro Mountains are a subrange of the Karakoram Range.
How did the disagreement over the glacier start?
India and Pakistan have a disputed border in Jammu and Kashmir, most of it delineated as the Line of Control (LoC) with troop positions on either side. While most positions were delineated as per the 1972 Shimla agreement, the boundary line was specified to only a point called NJ 9842, till the area from where Siachen starts.
The agreement stated that after this point, the boundary would proceed “north to the glaciers” without specifying which nation would have control over which area. The matter remained non-controversial until the 1980s when the Indian Army discovered that Pakistan was issuing permission to foreign expeditions to trek in Siachen.
Indian intelligence agencies found out that Pakistan army under orders from General Zia was planning to conduct a military operation to capture Siachen. Thus the Indian army launched Operation Meghdoot and Indian troops belonged to the Kumaon Regiment were air-lifted and moved into the glacier.
The Saltoro Ridge overlooks the area of Gilgit–Baltistan of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) that is under dispute with Pakistan.
It guards the routes leading to Leh, the principal town and capital of Ladakh.
It overlooks and dominates the Shaksgam Valley, which was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan.
The peak, located east of Siachen, overlooks the eastern areas of the Aksai Chin. The Indian military believed that expeditions by their counterpart would provide a link for the western and eastern routes – the trade route leading to Karakoram Pass and China – and eventually provide a tactical advantage to both Pakistan and China.
Military experts believe that it drives a wedge between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and China, and is the only tenuous link India has with Central Asia.
How much does India control today?
As India managed to get the upper hand, it currently controls all heights along the glacier on the Saltoro ridge and uses the glacier as a logistics base. Since 2007, India has been promoting treks and expeditions by civilians and foreigners in the vicinity of the glacier to reaffirm its claim on the region. The Army has given permission to several groups of mountaineers to climb peaks in the Eastern Karakoram range that adjoins the glacier. The Army also holds a civilian Siachen expedition every year.
What is the Current situation?
The Indian Army controls a few of the top-most heights, holding on to the tactical advantage of high ground, however with Pakistani forces in control of Gyong La pass, Indian access to K-2 and other surrounding peaks has been blocked effectively and mountaineering expeditions to these peaks continue to go through with the approval of the Government of Pakistan.
The situation is as such that Pakistanis cannot get up to the glacier, while the Indians cannot come down. Presently India holds two-thirds of the glacier and commands two of the three passes including the highest motorable pass – Khardungla Pass. Pakistan controls Gyong La pass that overlooks the Shyok and Nubra river Valley and India`s access to Leh district.
Through innovation, hard work and sustained effort to improve the situation, the Indian Army has established such strong, controlling position where it enjoys overwhelming operational and psychological superiority in Siachen.
Every year more soldiers are killed because of severe weather than enemy firing. The two sides have lost close to 4,000 personnel primarily due to frostbites, avalanches and other complications.
The Indians rely on helicopters made indigenously, which are probably the only choppers that can reach such heights, whereas Pakistan has simplified the logistical nightmare by building roads and paths to all of its positions across the glacier. India has also built the world`s highest helipad on this glacier at a place called Sonam, which is 21,000 feet above the sea level, to serve the area and ensure that her troops are kept supplied via helicopter support (adding to considerable cost).
Giving up a dominant military position on Siachen without iron-clad guarantees would be a fool’s errand, especially in view of the enormous sacrifices made by Indian soldiers over the past three decades.
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