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Why Any Attempt To Demilitarise Siachen Will Be A Serious Security Threat to India

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By J Jaykris Gurucharan:

Indian army soldiers muster at the base camp after coming back from training at Siachen Glacier, October 4, 2003. For 18 years, Pakistani and Indian soldiers have clung to Siachen, which lies north of the end of the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir, and just below the border with China. [Siachen is 78 km (48 miles) long and lies at an altitude of 5,400 metres, the world's highest battlefield with temperatures as low as - 60ºC (-76 Farenheit). Picture taken October 4, 2003.] - RTXM8MF
Source: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski.
The recent Siachen tragedy which swallowed up nine brave martyrs (the condition of the tenth is critical) is a thorn pierced deep into our heavy hearts. Braving unbearably hostile conditions and freezing temperatures, unfriendly terrains at a jaw-dropping 19,600 feet above sea level keeps every Indian soldier sleepless for nights worrying about both Pakistan and the harsh environment as well. Such is the courage shown by our soldiers and army personnel and that too with just about 10% of the normal oxygen supply required to survive. There have been reports of pulmonary tumours, loss of appetite, sleeplessness and a wide range of health complications. A soldier can’t hold the trigger of his gun continuously for more than a few seconds and can end up even losing an arm if adequate precautions are not taken.

Unfortunately, these sacrifices have not been done justice to. The Siachen issue is extensively politicised and some critiques have started questioning the government and forcing it to demilatarise Siachen, thereby completely undermining its strategic importance. Several critics want Siachen to be converted into a mountain of peace and are constantly trying to push their ideologies down the throat of the government and civilians alike.

At this Juncture, it becomes imperative to seriously examine the intellectual fallacies of these idealists and the media’s selective journalism of preaching peace. Have these critics forgotten our bitter past. After the 1948-49 operations, the Karachi Agreement was signed where the boundaries were demarcated between Pakistan and India in Kashmir valley. There was a point demarcated as NJ9842 beyond which, it was declared that, no human being could navigate. The same got reiterated after the 1971 war. The line demarcating territory in this region is called the Line of Actual Control (LOC).

Pakistan started navigating the hostile areas beyond NJ9842 and started issuing passes, in effect claiming that they were the owners. Thanks to the efforts of Colonel Narendra Kumar, the mountaineer, we were successfully able to identify Pakistani intrusion in Siachen and its tributaries. After such an herculean task being carried out and countless sacrifices being made, there is pressure to withdraw from the region.

But many have failed to realise that controlling such heights are a huge tactical advantage and this the simple reason why Pakistan insists that the Indian forces withdraw from the Siachen glacier. But any moves to demilitarise the region can lead to negative consequences as we cannot rule out treachery on the part of our neighbours. Any withdrawal from the region will open up the Karakoram Pass through which the China-Pakistan highway passes and further increase China’s access to Leh which is where we have the maximum deployment in the Ladakh region.

Thus, it is clear that any attempts to demilitarise Siachen will in turn pose serious security threats to India and politicising an issue of extreme strategic significance is a very narrow minded approach. It can prove to extremely disastrous. The efforts taken by Modi to visit an ailing soldier in an army hospital is a welcome gesture. It demands appreciation instead of political rhetoric and blindfolded criticism.

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  1. D

    Very well articulated! Couldn't agree more.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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