Siachen dispute: India and Pakistan’s freezing fight

Siachen dispute: India and Pakistan’s freezing fight


Andrew North

Andrew North

South Asia correspondent

Indian soldiers are seen during a Forward Logistics Base. Indian infantry on a Siachen- a world’s initial “oropolitical” dispute

On 13 Apr 1984, Indian infantry snatched control of a Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, narrowly violence Pakistan.

Thirty years later, a dual sides sojourn sealed in a standoff, yet a Indian army mountaineer who desirous a operation says his nation contingency hang on whatever a cost.

Virtually dark from open view, a world’s top dispute is relocating into a fourth decade.

The onslaught between India and Pakistan over a Siachen glacier has even spawned a new term: “oropolitics”, or mountaineering with a domestic goal.

High-altitude war

Derived from a Greek for mountain, Indian army colonel Narendra Kumar can properly explain to be a complicated father, since his pioneering explorations paved a approach for India to take a glacier in early 1984.

But what started as a dispute with crampons and climbing wire has incited into high-altitude ditch warfare, with a dual opposition armies solidified – mostly literally – in flattering many a same positions as 30 years ago.

The immeasurable infancy of a estimated 2,700 Indian and Pakistani couple deaths have not been due to fight yet avalanches, bearing and altitude illness caused by a thin, oxygen-depleted air.

“It’s been a intolerable balderdash of group and money”, says a former comparison Indian army officer and Siachen veteran.

“A onslaught of dual bald group over a comb” is a outcome of Stephen Cohen, a US dilettante on South Asia, dismissing a Siachen as “not militarily important”.

This would maybe be comforting if a dual combatants did not both have chief weapons.

Surrounded by photographs and memorabilia of his climbing exploits, Col Kumar, now in his 80s, says a onslaught was vicious to preventing Pakistani intrusion into northern Kashmir.

Col KumarCol Kumar’s maps helped Indian infantry take control of a glacier

As with so many long-running conflicts, it began with an uncertain border.

In a late-1970s, a German mountaineer showed Col Kumar a US-drawn map of northern Kashmir imprinting a Indian-Pakistan ceasefire line many serve to a easterly than he expected. It seemed a Americans had cartographically ceded a vast cube of a eastern Karakoram to Pakistan, including a Siachen glacier.

“I bought a German’s map and sent it true to a executive ubiquitous of infantry operations,” says Col Kumar, afterwards in assign of a Indian army’s towering crusade school. “I pronounced we would organize an speed to a area to scold a map!”

But notwithstanding several ceasefire agreements India and Pakistan have never strictly demarcated a “Line of Control” in a impassioned north of Kashmir, including a Siachen. And both sides tell opposite maps depicting their chronicle of a geography.

With a fan China to a north, Pakistan was initial to see a intensity for oropolitics in this vital vacuum.

Throughout a 1970s, it gave permits to unfamiliar mountaineers to stand around a glacier, fostering a sense this was Pakistani domain – until Col Kumar sounded a alarm.

Indian soldiers unit a Siachen glacierThe impassioned conditions are a biggest foes for soldiers on a Siachen glacier

But when he got accede for a counter-expedition in 1978, it fast leaked opposite a border. “As we reached a Siachen, Pakistani helicopters were drifting over us,” Col Kumar smiled, “and they were banishment out phony smoke.”

This and balderdash left by prior climbing teams assured him a Pakistanis were secretly holding over.

But during first, he complains, Indian generals would not take him seriously. Then in early 1981, Col Kumar was given a go-ahead to map a whole glacier, all a approach to a Chinese border.

This time there were no leaks. And a following year he wrote adult his speed in a mountaineering magazine, in outcome staking India’s claim.

With a Indian army now clearly involved, a Pakistanis were dynamic to barricade their claim. They competence have succeeded if Indian comprehension had not schooled of some engaging selling in a UK in early 1984.

Indian army mountaineer on Indira Col above Siachen glacierAnIndian army mountaineer on Indira Col above Siachen glacier in 1981 above Siachen glacier in 1981

“We came to know a Pakistanis were shopping lots of dilettante towering wardrobe in London,” grins Col Kumar. A late Pakistani colonel after certified they had blundered by regulating a same store as a Indians.

India immediately despatched infantry to a Siachen, violence Pakistan by a week. By afterwards they had already got control of a glacier and a adjacent Saltoro ridge, regulating Col Kumar’s maps. One of a pivotal Indian installations on a Siachen now is named Kumar Base after him.

A Pakistani renew led by a Brig Gen Pervez Musharraf a few years after was one of several that unsuccessful to chase a Indians. Since a ceasefire understanding in 2003, a Pakistanis have given adult trying.

But yet both sides are now improved during coping with a impassioned environment, it still claims a lives of dozens of soldiers any year.

Because it occupies a harder-to-supply aloft ground, India pays a heaviest financial price, now estimated to be around $1m (£0.6m) a day.

“With all a income we have spent in Siachen, we could have supposing purify H2O and electricity to half a country,” says a former Indian army officer.

Both armies, he says, safeguard their “heroic narratives” of a dispute browbeat by tying media entrance to a Siachen.

Any hints of a thaw, many recently when Pakistan mislaid 140 soldiers in an avalanche, have always faded away.

The Siachen is only a coldest of several fronts in a solidified dispute over Kashmir, with conjunction India or Pakistan prepared to take a initial step.

“There will be no transformation on Siachen until there’s transformation on all else,” predicts a former comparison Indian comprehension officer.

In a meantime, Col Kumar says India should be consolidating a position on a Siachen, by permitting some-more unfamiliar mountaineers to stand there.

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