Siachen Glacier : The Highest battleground on Earth

Yusuf

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Facts vs bluff on Siachen
Kayani's suggestion worth pursuing
by B.G. Verghese

THERE has been a flurry of interest after Gen Ashfaque Kayani declared that India and Pakistan must live in peaceful coexistence as defence without development is neither viable nor acceptable. Hurrah! He saw all issues as capable of resolution and Siachen as an urgent starting point. This impassioned appeal followed the tragic death on April 7 of 138 Pakistani troops in an avalanche "while on Siachen". He said, "Everyone knows why the army is here "¦ because in 1984, the Indian Army occupied the area and in response to that the Pakistan army was sent in". The facts are otherwise.

General Kayani has also got the genesis of the problem wrong though he rightly asserts that both sides are paying a high price in blood, treasure and environmental costs. Pakistan's solution calls for an Indian withdrawal from the glacier. India in turn is willing to accept a mutual pullback and redeployment of troops to agreed positions provided Pakistan acknowledges the present "Actual Ground Position Line" (AGPL) that it holds. These are the proffered "solutions". The Indian Army, however, fears that Pakistan could renege on the agreement and send troops dressed as "mujahideen" to occupy Siachen as it brazenly attempted to annex Kashmir in 1947 and again in 1965 and the Kargil Heights in 1998.

The Siachen "solutions" overlook the problem. The critical date is not 1984 but July 29, 1949, when the Cease-Fire Line Agreement was signed in Karachi by ranking military representatives of India and Pakistan and the UN Military Observer Group. It delineated the entire CFL, demarcating over 740 km on the ground. With the CFL increasingly running through high mountains and glaciated areas as it traversed north, it often followed a directional path in the absence of clear landmarks. Thus, finally, "Chalunka (on the Shyok River), Khor, thence North to the glaciers", passing through grid reference NJ 9842.The segment beyond NJ 9842 was not demarcated, being an elevated glaciated, unexplored and unpopulated region that had seen no fighting. A plebiscite was soon to follow and the matter, it was assumed, would soon be settled.

The delineation of this segment of the CFL was, however, unambiguous: NJ 9842, "thence north to the glaciers". If everyone of 30 or more earlier directional commands were meticulously followed in tracing the CFL, there was no reason whatsoever for any departure from this norm in the case of the very last command. "Thence North" could only mean due north to wherever the boundary of J&K State lay. The very next section crucially directed that the line be drawn "so as to eliminate any no man's land". Therefore, the Line could in no way be left hanging in the air. Certain sectors along the CFL were also to be demilitarised but if deployed, troops would remain "500 yards from the ceasefire line."¦"

The CFL was ratified by both sides and deposited with the UNCIP. It was revalidated as the LoC after Simla, and incorporated the military gains made by either side in J&K in the 1971 war. In the Kargil-Siachen sector, all gains thereby went entirely to India which acquired the Turtok salient just south-west of NJ 9842.

Earlier in 1956-58, during the UN-designated International Geophysical Year, an Indian scientific team led by the Geological Survey explored the upper Nubra and Shyok Valleys, mapped and measured the Siachen and other glaciers and publicly recorded its findings.

No protest followed. Why? Locate NJ 9842 on a detailed physical map of northern J&K and draw a line "thence North" and much of Siachen will be found to lie on the Indian side of the CFL. Pakistani military maps (ref. Musharraf's Memoir, "In the Line of Fire". Free Press, London. 2006), depicting Pakistan's military positions during the Kargil operations, situate the entire Siachen glacier on the Indian side of the delineated line, NJ 9842, "thence north to the glaciers".

All Pakistan, UN and global atlases depicted the CFL correctly till around 1967-72. By then Beijing had commenced its creeping cartographic aggression in Aksai Chin and in 1963 signed a boundary agreement with Pakistan which unilaterally ceded the 5000 sq km Shaksgam Valley to China. Thereafter, Pakistan started extending its lines of communication eastwards and began licensing western mountaineering expeditions to venture east of K2. It was emboldened to extend this "eastward creep" when, between 1967 and 1972, the US Defence Mapping Agency, an international reference point for cartography, began extending the CFL from NJ 9842 to a point just west of the Karakoram Pass, unilaterally hardening what was possibly no more than an extant World War II air defence information zone (ADIZ) line into a politico-military divide. World atlases followed suit. So did Pakistan, which followed cartographic aggression with moves to occupy Siachen. Getting wind of this stratagem, India, pre-emptively occupied the glacier in March 1984.

In a US Institute for Peace conference on J&K in Washington in 1991, delegates were delivered a map at their hotel without the mandatory credit line regarding its origins. It was headed "The Kashmir Region: Depicting the CFL/LoC, Siachen and Shaksgam". This showed a hatched triangle NJ 9842-Karakoram Pass-K2, and Shaksgam in the north, with a legend reading, "Indian occupied since 1983". The conference organisers disowned what it surmised was "possibly" a CIA map that might be treated as "withdrawn"! The map not only confirmed Pakistan's claims but labelled India an aggressor.

As on present, I "protested" to friends in the US State Department and informed the Indian Embassy and the MEA at home to no avail. Years later, US Ambassador David Blackwill said the US Defence Mapping Agency had got its lines wrong and that the impugned maps would be amended. Nothing ensued.

Any unqualified redeployment from the Siachen glacier without asserting the correct delineation of the CFL/LoC from NJ 9842 "thence north to the glaciers", will mean accepting the Pakistan claim and throwing the August 1948 UN Resolution and derivative 1949 Karachi Agreement into the dustbin. Dr Manmohan Singh's 2005 peace formula would sanctify the LoCas an evolving international boundary, rendered porous as "mere lines on a map" across which movement and commerce increasingly flowed to bind the peoples of J&K and India and Pakistan together in friendship and cooperation. This is the only viable win-win solution for all in and over J&K. But unless the LoC is firmly anchored to a northern terminus, it will dangle loose and surely unravel, leaving everything for grabs.

Siachen has no intrinsic strategic value. Both sides should withdraw or redeploy from there once there is clear acceptance of the 1949 CFL-cum-LoC. Thereafter the triangle NJ 9842, K2 and the Karakoram Pass can be designated an International Glacier and World Weather Park, hopefully with Shaksgam as a partner, to study and measure climate change. India should, therefore, welcome General Kayani's second thoughts and pursue it without getting snow-blinded regarding the facts, larger perspectives and the national interest.

http://t.co/lwNYw2Ee
 

Ray

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It's time to melt frost in Siachen

The death of about 140 Pakistani army personnel in an avalanche at the battalion HQ at Gyari in the Siachen conflict zone has again brought to the fore the dangers of prolonged deployment on both sides of the actual ground position line, despite the fact that an informal ceasefire has been holding up quite well since November 25, 2003. In mid-March 2007, too, five Pakistani soldiers had perished in an avalanche.

Even at the peak of fighting in the 1980s and 1990s, maximum casualties on both the sides occurred because of the treacherous terrain, the super-high altitude - which affects the human body adversely, and the extreme weather. The lack of oxygen at heights between 18,000 and 20,000 feet and prolonged periods of isolation are a lethal combination and result in pulmonary oedema, frostbite and other serious complications. Besides, prolonged deployment at such heights takes a heavy psychological toll. While these casualties are now better managed due to early evacuation, improvements in medical science and the establishment of forward medical facilities, they can never be completely eliminated.

The economic cost of maintaining an infantry brigade group at Siachen to guard the desolate mountain passes and approaches leading to them from the western slopes of the Saltoro Ridge has been estimated to range between Rs 3-3.5 crore per day - Rs 1,000-1,200 crore annually. The costs are high because the logistics tail is long, the only road ends at the base camp close to the snout of Nubra river where the almost 80-km glacier ends and a large number of infantry posts can be maintained only by helicopters that air-drop supplies with attendant losses, as recoveries are often less than 50%. The frequent turnover of troops adds to the costs as a battalion can be stationed at the Saltoro Ridge for a maximum of six months.
....

Both governments have been finding it difficult to overcome deeply entrenched mindsets and are unable to look for innovative and creative approaches. India insists that the present forward positions of both the armies on the Saltoro Range along the AGPL should be demarcated after a joint survey so that there is a reference point in case a dispute arises in future. Pakistan's position is that by suddenly occupying the Saltoro Range west of the Siachen glacier, India violated the 1972 Shimla agreement and must, therefore, undo its "aggression" without insisting on legitimising its illegal occupation through the demarcation of present positions.

After Pakistan's intrusions into Kargil in 1999, the Indian Army's advice to the government that the AGPL must be jointly verified and demarcated before demilitarisation begins, is operationally sound and pragmatic military advice. However, if Pakistan's military capacity to grab and hold on to vacated Indian positions after the demilitarisation agreement comes into effect is carefully analysed, it will be found that Pakistan is in no position to occupy any of the posts vacated by India.

At a recent India-Pak Track 2 meeting at Bangkok, organized by Ottawa University jointly with the Atlantic Council and the National Defence University, Washington, it was agreed by both sides that the present military positions should be "jointly recorded and the records exchanged" as a prelude to the disengagement and demilitarization process. While this falls short of the Indian demand for demarcation, it should be politically acceptable.

However, India should insist on building a clause into the demilitarisation agreement that in case of the agreement is violated, both sides reserve the right to take whatever action they deem fit, including offensive military measures. Simultaneously with the withdrawal of its troops from the glacial heights, India should create and maintain suitably structured reserves for counter-action across the LoC at a point of its choosing. These reserves would also be handy for intervention on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China should it ever become necessary.

The demilitarisation of Siachen will act as a confidence building measure of immense importance. For India, it is a low-risk option to test Pakistan's long-term intentions. It is, therefore, an idea whose time has come. Indian and Pakistani leaders need to find the political will necessary to accept ground realities. It is time the Indian government began the process of building a national consensus around this important confidence-building measure.

It's time to melt frost in Siachen - The Times of India


Note the way the build up for MMS' Aman ke Asha is being canvassed.

The chap is a retired one Star man!

Our good man, JJ was batting for China that for the sake of peace, we should hand over our claimed territories to China.

The ideas are very noble, but then do we live in an ideal world?

Pakistan did a Kargil even though the area and LC was demarcated at Suchetgarh after the 1971 War.


If Pakistan did not honour that agreement, what guarantees will our good man.Kanwal, give that Pakistan will not surreptitiously take over the Siachen Ridge?

This statement of Kanwal shows that either he is dumb or he is nudged on his way to bat for an agenda of vested interests

India should insist on building a clause into the demilitarisation agreement that in case of the agreement is violated, both sides reserve the right to take whatever action they deem fit, including offensive military measures.
So, we reserve the right to take whatever action we deem fit, including offensive military action?

How daft can Kanwal be?

1. Do we still not have the option to take any action we deem fit, including offensive military action and do we need a clause in an Agreement to do so?

2. Even if we take military action if Pakistan occupies the Siachen Heights after we have vacated, will we ever be able to regain the Heights? If it were possible and that easy, then how come till today, Pakistan has not been able to recapture their Qaid Post which we captured and renamed as Bana Post? And has he read how the post was captured by India, taking it that he has never been 100 miles near Siachen?

3. If it were that easy to capture Heights there, how come there is no jockeying heard where the adversaries continue to improve their defence posture by capturing and recapturing, more so, when it has been made an internationally cause célébré?

India should create and maintain suitably structured reserves for counter-action across the LoC at a point of its choosing. These reserves would also be handy for intervention on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China should it ever become necessary.
Typical recourse to fanciful English with not an iota of knowledge of the reality (or is it being done by design?) to force an agenda.


handy for intervention on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China ?

Kanwal maharaj, I thought JJ was advocating we give away our claims. We will never intervene and so another part of India would be lost forever
 
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Bangalorean

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^^ These "Aman Ki Asha" retards will be the undoing of us. Stupid fools, talking about "signing an agreement with a clause to take military action". I have a better idea. Let us sign an agreement with a clause that if the Pakis go back on their word, the morons who are arguing for "agreements and withdrawal" now, will go to Siachen and fight to get it back, and will not return till it is back with India. Take it back, or perish in the attempt.

Let us see how many of these morons continue harping on Aman Ki Asha then.
 

Virendra

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Seriously, this is like giving the second cheek for another slap !! Do we never learn. Why are we talking about compromise on what is rightfully ours, all of it !!
 

panduranghari

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Seriously, this is like giving the second cheek for another slap !! Do we never learn. Why are we talking about compromise on what is rightfully ours, all of it !!
Blame Gandhi for the ills of non violence doctrine. MMS should follow the Bhagwad Gita instead.

Deciding to surrender himself to whatever Krishna advised, Arjun said,"O Krishna, I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure due to weakness of heart. Surely I am being consumed by miserly and selfish considerations, but I am not able to overcome them. In this condition I ask you to please tell me what is best for me. Now I am your disciple and a soul surrendered unto you. Please instruct me. I can see no means to drive away this grief. Even winning a prosperious kingdom equal to that of the gods will not assuage my sorrow. O Govinda, I will not fight."
 

Ray

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I cannot understand why we should give up our moral and territorial ascendancy to people who cannot be trusted.
 

SADAKHUSH

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With no American aid coming in, they sure are feeling the pinch.

Like I have said in other threads and also in tweets, we have to make it more costly for Pakistan in terms of men, material and money.

As the local coolie walas say "ek dhakka aur do". One more push as they will succumb.
As we all have pointed out the absence of will of the present Government is not going to yield any "ek Dhaka Aur Do". GOI is bending over by welcoming and granting them more favourable terms to Pakis citizens for investment in India. This has to be stopped.
 

SADAKHUSH

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^^ These "Aman Ki Asha" retards will be the undoing of us. Stupid fools, talking about "signing an agreement with a clause to take military action". I have a better idea. Let us sign an agreement with a clause that if the Pakis go back on their word, the morons who are arguing for "agreements and withdrawal" now, will go to Siachen and fight to get it back, and will not return till it is back with India. Take it back, or perish in the attempt.

Let us see how many of these morons continue harping on Aman Ki Asha then.
Why wait for that time to arrive. I will send two to three dozen MP and MLA's from each party to live with our troops for minimum of three months under minus 50 celsius and make them guard duty as well. I am wondering if you can put your words in Indian news media outlet what you have stated on this forum. I like your idea. We should forcefully push our agenda so that these politicians will think ten times before opening their mouth.
 

one

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i am for resolving issues with sir creek but for Siachen club with Kashmir and lets play waiting game.
 

mayfair

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An excellent perspective that should fully explain why Pakis are suddenly yearning for a withdrawal from those areas. I have quoted the relevant portions here, but the whole article is a must read and one for the archives.

Is the Pakistan Army brave enough to make peace?

By Sunil S


...
The landslide covered approximately a kilometre of the road west of the Goma garrison with 40-80 feet of snow and snapped a vital line of communication for Pakistani defensive positions on the Saltoro ridge line. At present, all Pakistani positions west of Ghyari – i.e. posts on the Bilafond, Grahmalumba, Ali Bragnsa and Chumik Glaciers are cut off from their supply route. The entire middle of the Pakistani defence line on the Saltoro ridge has been effectively hollowed out. Rescue and relief efforts at Ghyari are draining manpower reserves at the Goma garrison and at the Gyong advance base. The Pakistani posture on the glacier has never been weaker.
...
The military situation on the Saltoro ridge is often described as a stalemate. In reality Pakistan has so far had a very large logistical advantage. Having lost most of the heights to Indian Army operations, the Pakistanis sit on lower altitudes, and resupplying Pakistani posts is relatively easier than supplying Indian posts. Paved roads lead from the airport at Skardu to the Brigade HQ at Dansam and from there to the Battalion HQs at Ghyari and Goma. Goma acts as a support position for the advance base on the Gyong glacier and it acts as a way point for transit to Ghyari. Ghyari is the base camp for all Pakistani positions along the middle of the Saltoro Ridge. From Goma and Ghyari it is possible to use pack animals to reach the Gyong advance base and the Ali Bragnsa base camp. Typically it is a fifteen day trek from the Ghyari BHQ or the Goma garrison to Pakistani forward positions on the glaciers. As long as you can get supplies to the post, absent shelling from the Indian Army, for the Pakistanis life is easy on the Saltoro ridgeline.India has a much harder time resupplying the positions on the glacier as all lines of communications have to cross the Siachen glacier itself. Over the last two decades improvements and developments at the Dzingruluma camp at the southern tip of the Siachen glacier have greatly reduced the advantage of the Goma-Gyong advance base supply line. This has enabled India to secure its hold on the Gyong pass, and hold the southern end of the Saltoro range. However despite all this, the route to India's positions in the middle of the Saltoro range is much more tortured than its Pakistani counterpart and it costs far more in terms of lives and money – that is until April 7th 2012. With Ghyari gone, the Pakistani logistical advantage in the middle of the Saltoro range is gone.
...
After the avalanche at Ghyari, the cost to keep the Pakistan Army on the Saltoro ridge just went up ten fold and it unlikely that even the highly gullible people like Zaid Hamid in the Pakistan will be willing to buy into the Army's lies at this point...
...
If the Indian Army was feeling particularly bloody minded, it would simply start shelling the Pakistani positions at this time. The smarter Pakistanis on the ridge line would surrender or abandon their posts. The stupider ones would attempt to return fire on India's positions and exhaust what little fuel there remains at their disposal – and then die of thirst, hunger and frost bite. As the actual ground position line (AGPL) has never been officially demarcated, the IAF would be within its rights to launch air raids across it.
...
[Manmohan] Singh has offered to help Pakistan cope with the Ghyari situation. India has the HAA reserves and the Cheetah helicopters that Pakistan vitally needs to keep its army men on the ridge from dying. .
...
If the Pakistani Army officially accepts the offer, Pakistani troops on the ridge line will be able to approach Indian posts for assistance under a white flag.As the position at which such a contact will have to recorded per standard military protocols, the AGPL will be effectively demarcated and the biggest hurdle in the negotiations to peace in the region will be removed.
To summarise

1. Pakis had the initial advantage that came with softer terrain and lower heights, that ensured easier and more robust supply routes. But with the loss of Ghyari, much of this advantage is gone.

2. The avalanche makes it near impossible to re-establish another base at Ghyari and the Goma base must work overtime to supply the frontline Pakis sitting below Saltoro.They'll need special choppers, spend money on airlifts, pipelines and other infrastructure to reestablish the supply chain, which means their expenditure will shoot up.

3. If their soldiers surrender to us on the glacier, it means they recognise our positions there, Ipso facto, Siachen is formally recognised as Indian territory, which means Pakis acknowledge the horrendous losses they suffered during this conflict when they tried,in vain, to dislodge us from there. A big blow to their ghairat and image as Mard-e-Momin.

4. If the two sides withdraw as Kayani is suggesting, then no need to acknowledge the AGPL or the Indian control of the glacier. Pakis save their money and some tattered dignity, while waiting for a opportune moment to launch the Ghazwa-e-Siachen with enthusiastic support from their taller-than-molehill friend.

5. The Moral? Never trust a Paki bearing gifts.
 

Ray

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Th article Is the Pakistan Army brave enough to make peace?

Is the Pakistan Army brave enough to make peace? | The Broad Mind

is a real fascinating read and is worth noting by those who are following the issues of the Siachen Glacier.

It gives the real reason why Pakistan is crying so frantically to 'solve' the Siachen Glacier issue.

It will be silly if India acquiesces to Pakistan's whimpering with compassion and demilitarises.

One must never forget that Pakistan is a cash strapped nation and its cost to maintain its troops in Siachen, even at the lower heights that they are in, will go up Ten folds and that they cannot afford, even in their wildest of dreams.
 
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nitesh

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What else you expect from a special forces veteran :D

The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)

The Line of Control between India and Pakistan was originally drawn on a 1:250,000 map with a thick sketch pen that left a variation of hundred plus metres at any given point besides not always following ridgelines Рa source of constant acrimony. Then was the naivet̩ of not drawing any line beyond NJ 9842 that in 1984 led to the discovery of Pakistan creeping up the Saltoro Ridge, followed by its preemptive third dimension occupation by India. The Siachen issue is not about Siachen Glacier but the Saltoro Massif. Strategic significance of the latter can hardly be gauged by armchair warriors.

Before the euphoria for demilitarization of Siachen grips the country with visions of a peace prize and another 'landmark' agreement before the next general elections in 2014 eggs us to draw another foolish line on the map, there is need for serious strategic introspection – 'paid' media hollering to ignore military advice notwithstanding. Major fallouts of hurried demilitarization of Siachen are as under:

"¢ Widening the China-Pakistan handshake (collusive threat) to include Gilgit-Baltistan (reportedly being leased out by Pakistan to China for 50 years), Shaksgam Valley (already ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963), Saltoro-Siachen region (that Pakistan may reoccupy through "Kashmiri Freedom Fighters" or cede to China), own Sub Sector North (SSN) east of Siachen with Chinese sitting on the northern slopes of the Karakoram Pass if not on top of it already, and Aksai Chin already under Chinese occupation.

"¢ SSN and Eastern Ladakh will become focused objectives of Chinese strategic acupuncture. Defence potential of SSN will be totally degraded with western flank exposed and KK Pass to north, which India stopped patrolling years back for fear of annoying the dragon. We continue to remain thin in Eastern Ladakh against Chinese threat via Aksai Chin – heightened more now with possibility of two front war.

"¢ Our next line of defence will perforce base on Ladakh Range with possibility of Leh coming within enemy artillery range.

"¢ Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges will be targeted for terrorism by ISI nurtured groups while Pakistan will say they are 'out of control'. ISI has been nurturing Shia terrorist outfits with an eye on Ladakh since late 1990s.

The recent media frenzy has exposed the citizenry to the arms lobbies, which may be the tip of the iceberg but what about global games being played by countries whose economies are largely based on weapon exports. Look at the manner in which India and Korea were partitioned – recipe for centuries of strife. Look at the deceit by the British in forcing Skardu into Pakistan's lap. Look at the aftermath of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria – heightened conflict and who makes the moolah through arms sales, oil, re-construction and power? Why are the Ottawa University, the Atlantic Council and the National Defense University, Washington not discussing a 'Peace Park' astride the Durand Line? Will demilitarization of Siachen increase the chances / avenues of conflict between China-Pakistan and India?

Protagonists of total demilitarization from Siachen with suggestions to keep reserves ready for offensive action in case of double cross need to answer the following:

If the whole exercise is based on trusting Pakistan, what exactly has Pakistan done to earn that trust? Has the anti-India terrorist infrastructure including 40 terrorist training camps in POK been dismantled? Has 'any' progress been made in punishing the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks?

How will Ladakh be defended post de-militarization?

What force levels we will need to hold ground - mainly along the Ladakh range? On face value 'many more times' the current strength north of Khardung La will be required – remember while one brigade was deployed in Kargil earlier, post 1999, the same area is held by a division with nine battalions deployed on the LC and additional troops required during summer months to check infiltration.

"¢ Where and in what quantum will reserves for Saltoro Ridge locate, how will they be acclimatized, time frame for launch and what is our capability to launch them at those heights on a ridge already occupied?

"¢ What troops will we need to counter infiltration and possible terrorist influx into Ladakh? Even requirement of placing reserves on the Zanskar Ranges will need examination.

"¢ Expenditure on establishing next defence line post-demilitarization; posts, bunkers, gun positions, helipads, administrative echelons, new communications infrastructure with increased quantum of troops, time frame, tenability, maintenance and recurring expenses.

"¢ Effect of demilitarization on population in the area, especially the Nubra and Shyok Valleys considering army provides livelihood to most.

Nawaz Sharif's call for Pakistan to take the lead and withdraw troops from Siachen glacier is nothing more than a political statement and Kayani's call to resolve the dispute saying his country follows "the doctrine of peaceful co-existence with its neighbours especially India", words of a sly fox. Without remorse for her dead during the Kargil conflict, Kayani is capitalizing recent loss of soldiers in an avalanche to rake up demilitarization because:

"¢ Pakistan is at great disadvantage vis-à-vis India at the Saltoro Ridge with Pakistan holding Gyong and Bilafond glaciers on lower ground to the West.

"¢ The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan is becoming explosive due to neglect of Shia dominated areas, enforced demographic changes, subtle but deliberate conversions to Sunni form of Islam and state sponsored Shia massacres. Any outbreak of insurgency will adversely affect communications to Siachen.

"¢ In conjunction Shaksgam Valley, ceding Gilgit-Baltistan region to China for 50 years (reported by USA's Middle East Media Research Institute) can extend to Siachen-Saltoro through to Aksai Chin, forcing Indian defences south and increasing the vulnerability of Ladakh region.

"¢ Demilitarization will open avenues of infiltration and terrorism into Ladakh. Since late 1990s, Pakistan's ISI has been nurturing Shia terrorist organizations including Tehreek-e-Jaferia (TJP) and its many sub groups with an eye on Ladakh and Zanskar Range south of it.

To say that Pakistan will be in no position to re-occupy Siachen is foolish. Even while Indian troops were deployed at Saltoro, the Kargil intrusions were never visualized on plea that terrain was not negotiable. Additionally, in 1984, when both India and Pakistan rushed for Gyong La, an agreement was reached following a flag meeting for both parties to withdraw. Indians did, but the Pakistanis re-enacted their back-stabbing legacy and occupied the pass in clear violation of the agreement made hours ago.

Compared to Saltoro Ridge, we have many times more troops deployed on Ladakh and Pir Panjal ranges in Kashmir, some of them holding equally, if not more, tenacious posts including some in glaciated terrain. Equally dangerous avalanches occur periodically in such areas resulting in loss of lives. Yet, there have been units who have done a full tenure in Siachen without losing a single man to weather and terrain. Yoga and religiously following pre-induction training saves precious lives.

Lack of strategic forethought and political unilateralism has been typical to India ever since Independence. More significantly, ambiguity and deceit have been the hallmarks of China and Pakistan. Ask yourself have they ever bothered about world opinion? Will their expanding nexus and US pullout from Afghanistan, not make Pakistan more uppity? India would do well not to look at Siachen in isolation. In case of Siachen, first the AGPL and posts held by both sides must be duly delineated on ground and map. We need dispassionate analysis of all issues mentioned above before taking any step towards demilitarization.

Lt Gen PC Katoch is a Special Forces veteran who has commanded the Siachen Brigade

Views expressed are personal
 

mayfair

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A relatively forthright dateline of the conflict so far by a retired Paki brigadier

The fight for Siachen

Some excerpts

In March 1989, another attempt was made, this time in the Chumik glacier, three kilometres east of Giari (recently hit by an avalanche). At over 19,000 ft, the place chosen is the most difficult to scale in the Saltoro Range for either side. In a daring operation the peak was occupied by two men, an officer and a non-commissioned officer, slung from a helicopter on a rope, turn by turn. The two thwarted all Indian efforts to get to the top for 36 hours after which they were reinforced by a handful of soldiers dropped in similar fashion. But in May 1989 when the Indians succeeded in neutralising the supply base supporting the soldiers on the peak, the post was vacated.
Does it mean that we got back the Chumik glacier from the Pakis?

Other bits

Most of the casualties suffered by Pakistani troops in combat were in the two major attacks (September 1987, November 1992).

The Indians have rarely embarked on a major offensive venture. They have left this to the Pakistanis who have obliged them at least twice . The loss of Quaid post and withdrawal from the Chumik glacier post due to lack of logistic support to a handful of men, are cases in point.
The dispute revolves round the extension of the Line of Control (LOC) beyond a point on the Saltoro Range known by its map reference as NJ 9820420. The demarcated LOC ends at this point —"thence north to the glaciers" is what the Karachi agreement of 1949 states about the extension.
...
Extending the LOC northwards would give the entire Siachen Glacier-Saltoro area to India, while extending it eastward would give it to Pakistan.
So the Brigadier concedes that going by "thence north to the glaciers", Siachen and Saltoro belong to India.
 

Ray

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Indeed.

North along the Ridgeline is what is the closest to the meaning 'thence Northwards'.

Going NE as Pakistan wants, means that they are migratory birds who have lost their sense of direction while coming to roost!
 

mayfair

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Indeed.

North along the Ridgeline is what is the closest to the meaning 'thence Northwards'.

Going NE as Pakistan wants, means that they are migratory birds who have lost their sense of direction while coming to roost!
Ray sir, can you confirm what he says on the Chumik glacier? Does it lie within our territory now?
 

Ray

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Mayfair,

There have been several examples of strict adherence to negotiated army-to-army agreements in the past. In the Siachen area, the agreement between the sector commanders to refrain from occupying a particular mountain top in the area of Chumik Glacier in May 1989 has been respected ever since.
Strategic Trend

So, it was disadvantageous to Pakistan since they could not maintain the post and so they withdrew and we agreed we will not occupy.
 
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Ray

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Here is the sellout advocated by Brig Gurmeet Kanwaml (Retd), who is championing the Cause to Sellout.

Why it is being done, is a million dollar question

Demilitarisation of Siachen: Looking Ahead
Gurmeet Kanwal
17 October 2005

The ongoing discussions to demilitarise the Siachen conflict zone have been proceeding slowly but surely towards successful conclusion, even though the pace is too gradual to satisfy pragmatic analysts in both the countries. Both the parties to the conflict now realise and accept that the Siachen Glacier area does not have adequate strategic significance to justify a prolonged conflict and are willing to move forward to demilitarisation as the first step towards an eventual solution. However, both are finding it difficult to overcome deeply entrenched negotiation mindsetsand are stuck in a groove.

While India continues to insist that the army's present defensive positions on the Saltoro Range along the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) should be accepted by the Pak army and demarcated on both ground and map before the disengagement process can begin, it is Pakistan's position that India violated the 1972 Shimla Agreement by occupying the Saltoro Range and must, therefore, vacate it without insisting on legitimising its illegal occupation. For the Siachen demilitarisation process to move forward, this deadlock must be resolved. While technical solutions are possible, the present logjam can be overcome only through statesmanship and magnanimity. This can only happen at the highest political level. It is to be hoped that the next summit meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan President will resolve this contentious sticking point.

The demilitarisation of Siachen will quite obviously be possible only if the agreement explicitly states that it has been reached without prejudice to the stated positions of both the countries on the final settlement of the dispute, in consonance with the resolution of the long-standing Kashmir issue. Soon after the political leaders agree to demilitarise the Siachen conflict zone, the disengagement process can begin in right earnest. It will not be difficult for the Indian and Pakistani armies to agree on the basic framework of disengagement. The two DGMOs can together chair Joint Working Group (JWG) that will work out the modalities of the disengagement and monitoring process. The JWG will decide the extent of the area to be included in the demilitarised zone where there will be no military presence from either side and the time frame for the process of disengagement to be completed, perhaps over two summers.

In fact, if the disengagement process moves ahead smoothly, the next logical step for the two armies would be to agree to demilitarise the area to the south of NJ 9842 up to the Shyok River in a subsequent phase over the following summer as this area will otherwise remain occupied and could present opportunities to both the armies to launch encroachments or intrusions to consolidate their positions. Also, the area is a continuation of the Siachen terrain and presents almost the same logistical and climatic difficulties.

It should also be possible for the two armies to reach agreement on monitoring the disengagement process to their mutual satisfaction to ensure compliance with the demilitarisation agreement. This can be done by using national technical means such as aerial and satellite imagery, including aerial reconnaissance through manned fixed wing and helicopter sorties and by using side-looking airborne radars (SLARs) while flying well within one's own airspace. Ground-based sensors that are suitable for the terrain and climatic conditions obtaining in the area can also be used. The monitoring process could be initially unilateral and could slowly graduate to joint and cooperative monitoring with a jointly manned monitoring centre established at the LoC between Chalunka and Siari on the south bank of the Shyok River.

It will be essentially up to the military negotiating teams of India and Pakistan to discuss these operational issues in much greater detail and reach agreement based on factors rooted in the deployment on the ground and the likely tactical and logistics impact of each issue. Given the political will to move forward and secure a demilitarisation agreement, no major disagreement is likely between the two armies. There have been several examples of strict adherence to negotiated army-to-army agreements in the past. In the Siachen area, the agreement between the sector commanders to refrain from occupying a particular mountain top in the area of Chumik Glacier in May 1989 has been respected ever since. Similarly, the orderly disengagement at Kargil in July 1999, within days after the two DGMOs reached an agreement at the Wagah border outpost, is an example of the positive attitude of the two armies to respect mutual agreements.

The demilitarisation of the Siachen conflict zone is an idea whose time has come. The last remaining stumbling block can be resolved by the Indian and Pakistani leaders finding the political will necessary to accept ground realities. It sshould not be difficult for the two armies to mutually work out a viable disengagement process that can be implemented to the satisfaction of both over a period of two summers. When demilitarisation at Siachen is finally completed, it will act as a confidence building measure of immense significance that will have a momentum of its own. It will also be a precedent for future demilitarisation on other sectors of the Line of Control. While the government continues discussions with Pakistan, it must also take the steps necessary to inform and mould public opinion within India so that a broad consensus can be achieved on this important national security issue. And, it must take all major political parties into confidence, especially its own alliance partners.

Gurmeet Kanwal is Director and Senior Fellow, ORF Institute of Security Studies, New Delhi.

Strategic Trend
It will be noted that wherever Pakistan is at a disadvantage, they whimper and we, with Gandhian magnanimity acquiesce instead of squeezing the gonads harder till they yelp!

If MMS' and his coterie's (JJ SIngh, Gurmeet Kanwal et al) mantra is Peace at all Costs, then why Siachen alone?

Let us vacate Kashmir, every land right up to the foothills of Assam (even if Nehru's heart bled for the Assamese), Sir Creek, even Punjab to the Khalistanis and even Assam and Bengal to Bangladesh!

Peace will overcome those who will remain to call themselves Indians!

And then wait for new claims!
 
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john70

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Strategic Importance of Siachen

Strategic Importance of Siachen


"I took over as Corps Commander in 03 Aug 1983. In Sep-Oct, I briefed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi about the strategic importance of Siachen and Pak design to capture Khardungla and dominate Leh by bringing artillery and rockets etc. in Nubra valley and then link up with Chinese at Aksai Chin."

– Lt Gen PN Hoon, GOC 15 Corps

An incorrect and farfetched appreciation thus landed India into occupation of Siachen Glacier or more correctly Saltoro Ridge in April 1984. It was realised only later that no large scale military operations can be carried out by either side across Saltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier. This bleeding ulcer has cost us nearly 20,000 casualties in over twenty years and an estimated daily expenditure of two crores. Lt Gen ML Chibber, who was Northern Army Commander at the time of occupation of Siachen, realized, but alas much later that occupation of Saltoro was a mistake.

"India's military occupation of Saltoro passes in spring 1948 was meant only to deter the Pakistanis from getting there first. The Indian Army had no plans for permanent occupation. At the end of the day, the Siachen conflict was a mistake."

– Lt Gen ML Chibber in June 1990



Strategic Importance of Siachen
Siachen may have been occupied due to faulty military appreciation but notwithstanding that, its strategic significance is outlined by the following:-

Saltoro Ridge occupation is staking our claim beyond NJ 9842 in the event of an eventual settlement along the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line. Let us remember that possession is nine-tenths of the law.


India has always claimed that the entire state of J&K including Northern Areas acceded to India on 26 Oct 1947. Occupation of Saltoro is therefore occupation of Indian territory by the Indian Army. It is non-negotiable.
If the line joining NJ 9842 to Indira Col i.e, the line along Saltoro Ridge is extended to Indo – Tibet boundary, major part of Saksgam Valley illegally ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963 will fall into Indian Kashmir. Chinese will therefore have to negotiate with India for settlement of Saksgam valley since they have steadfastly maintained that status of Saksgam Valley will be decided on eventual settlement of J&K problem.
It needs to be remembered that the origin of Siachen dispute lies in the fact that both the Karachi Agreement of 1949 and the Shimla Agreement of 1972 have left the status of Indo-Pak boundary vague North of Pt NJ 9842. While the Karachi Agreement says "From Pt NJ 9842, the ceasefire line will run Northwards to the Glaciers", Shimla Agreement does not even make a mention of it. This is inexcusable.


Pak View Point
If the alignment of Line of control just prior to NJ 9842 is extended, it will run in a North Easterly direction to Karakoram Pass.
India has altered the status of line of control by its occupation of Saltoro Ridge.
Indian View Point
Since the alignment of Line of Control just prior to NJ 9842 was altered by Pak by its occupation of Gyong Glacier in 1984, Pak argument of Line of control extending North Eastwards to Karakoram Pass is not tenable.
Since the Line of Control does not extend beyond NJ 9842, Pak argument that India has altered the status of Line of Control by occupation of Saltoro Ridge is not valid either.

Efforts at Demilitarization of Siachen
Despite there being a wide chasm in the two view points, efforts have constantly been made since late eighties till date for demilitarization of Siachen. Talks have been unsuccessful due to divergent stands of India and Pakistan on the modus operandi of demilitarization.

Indian Stand
Cartographic aggression by Pak must cease. Many Pak Atlases show Siachen as part of Pakistan.
India agrees to establishment of a demilitarized zone in Siachen.
However before the modalities begin, exchange of maps in which deployment of troops on Actual Ground Position Line is marked, must be exchanged.
Ground rules to govern future military operations in this area must be formed.
Redeployment of forces to mutually agreed position should thereafter take place.

Pak Stand

Forces should be redeployed to position at the time of ceasefire after 1971 war thus de facto asking India to vacate Siachen.
Demilitarization of extension of Line of Control beyond NJ 9842 as per the immediate previous alignment, hence Actual Ground Position Line to go to Karakoram Pass.
Pak does not agree to marking of present AGPL and troops deployment and thereafter exchange of maps. Obviously its intentions are not honourable.
In matters of national security, neither expenditure nor casualties matter.

Siachen as a Peace Park

There appears to be a mistaken belief that in order to make Siachen a peace park or mountain of peace as our Prime Minister has called, an agreement with Pak is necessary. This is not so. While ceasefire is in place, we need to take various measures to clean up our side of Siachen Glacier and improve ecology and environment besides effecting considerable savings.

Waste disposal

The biggest problem is disposal of human waste. Due to sub zero temperatures, human waste is not biodegradable. In this context DRDO is experimenting with micro-organisms which degrade human waste. However, above a certain height, even micro-organisms do not survive. It is hoped that technology will take care of this problem sooner than later.

Retrieval from the Glacier
Another major problem encountered is that once rations, weapons, ammunition and other stores are inducted into the Glacier, by helicopters or by parachutes from fixed wing aircrafts, there is no system in place whereby retrieval of used products from the Glacier is carried out. All commanders need to concentrate on this aspect. It is estimated that if 70% of the packing material is retrieved from the Glacier, it will effect an yearly saving of nearly 30 crores. The author when he was commanding 3 Infantry Division had made a modest start and retrieval of parachutes alone effected an annual saving of Rs 8 crores.

Stock Levels
The present levels of stocks of both ammunition and rations at the posts is too high. With ceasefire in place and the resumption of hostilities unlikely, stock levels need to be reduced. This step will also effect major savings. Forward Winter Stocking policy also needs to be reviewed in this context.

Kero Pipelines and Ropeways
In order to reduce the number of jerricans being inducted into the Glacier, kerosene pipeline needs to be established to most of the posts. This will also reduce considerable flying effort by helicopters resulting in savings as also the Glacier not getting cluttered up with jerricans. In addition, to reduce dependence on helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts, aerial rope ways option needs to be explored.

Crystal Gazing
It is obvious that there is no meeting ground between the Indian and Pakistani view points and situation will perhaps remain as it is in the foreseeable future. This should not perturb us. Siachen must be seen in the overall context of solution of J&K problem. It is a part of India and we need not be defensive about it. Many armchair strategists who have never set foot in Siachen are very fond of quoting the figure of Rs two crores daily expenditure and weather casualty figures as reason enough to demilitarize Siachen. The cornerstone of any demilitarization is marking of troops deployment and Actual Ground Position Line and exchange of maps and we must not get distracted by dilatory tactics of Pakistan. In matters of national security, neither expenditure nor casualties matter
 

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