By Shashank Bhasker:
Siachen Glacier is the world’s highest battle ground. For more than 17 blustery, shivering years, the Indian and Pakistani armies have been fighting a “No Win” war there. It is a conflict where records of human endurance, flying and technical competence are being set nearly every day. Let me take you for a walk down the memory lane and explain how this conflict started in the first place.
In 1949, India signed and ratified the Cease Fire Line Agreement (CFL). In the year 1963, Pakistan ceded Shaksgam Valley to China in a boundary agreement. At this time Pakistan started giving mountaineering expedition permissions to foreigners. Hence in the 1970s & 1980s several mountaineers applied for approvals with the Pakistan government. The US defense mapping agency and various other atlases started showing the Siachen area as part of Pakistan. When the Indian government and army took notice they decided to take action. On April 13, 1984, they launched a pre-emptive move into the glacier to defend the territory and the peaks and passes around it when it launched “Operation Meghdoot”. Pakistan also retaliated back by sending its forces but the Indians have been able to hold on to the tactical advantage of high ground.
Life in Siachen is nothing less than hell. Both the countries have lost more soldiers due to the extreme weather conditions and terrain than enemy fire. It is estimated that India spends around $350,000 to $500,000 on daily basis. Soldiers posted there often suffer from frost bites, headaches and memory loss due to prolonged use of oxygen masks. They are unable to bathe for months. It is indeed heart wrenching to see the pitiful state to which our soldiers are subjugated due to failed political relationships between the two countries.
There have been numerous attempts to demilitarize the area but none of them have come to any concrete conclusion. After Pakistan’s Kargil adventurism, such a demarcation became for the Indian side something non — negotiable. All wars are not sought. Mostly, they just happen, through accident, the play of unrestrained ambition or the march of folly. Still there is no justification to the madness being displayed by both countries. A border can be created along the current LOC and surveillance cameras can be set up to monitor infiltration activities. Both sides can keep their armies in such a position that they can be quickly deployed whenever the other side breaches the agreement. Having cameras will also account for documented proof for the International communities. The need of the hour is to display trust from both sides and come to a reasonable conclusion so that no more valuable human life is lost.
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