New Delhi: The Indian Army has ruled out demilitarising the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, saying Pakistan can’t be trusted.
This comes after an avalanche hit army positions at the Siachen Glacier Monday, burying eight men under the snow. While two men were rescued, six men — four soldiers and two porters — died due to hypothermia.
The glacier is situated at an altitude of above 18,000 feet, and the temperature can go down to -70°C.
“Pakistan had proposed to demilitarise Siachen a few years back but the country cannot be trusted. For any possible demilitarisation, both Pakistan and India need to actually authenticate the exact location of posts and the areas held, but Pakistan has not done it,” an Army source told ThePrint.
The source added it would be a colossal mistake to withdraw from the heights and give a chance to Pakistan to capture them, just like it did in Kargil.
“It would be just impossible to recapture the heights from Pakistan,” he said.
Another source explained that in mountains and hills, the entire strategy is about heights.
“Pakistan is not even on the Siachen Glacier. Indian has Siachen under control, and occupies the heights. If Pakistan managed to occupy the heights, it would be able to target Indian areas and block the Khardung La during war,” said the second source.
India had received intelligence that Pakistan was planning to capture the Siachen Glacier, and so, launched Operation Meghdoot in 1984.
“We chose 13 April and it proved lucky for us as we captured it. Former Pakistan dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was a colonel then, has even written in his book that Pakistan had planned to capture on 1 May,” Lt Gen. Sanjay Kulkarni (Retd), the first officer to land with his troops in Siachen, told ThePrint.
He pointed out that Pakistan had illegally given away the Shaksgam Valley — located north of the Siachen Glacier in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir — to China.
“Siachen cannot be vacated at any cost. Every soldier feels proud to be deployed in Siachen. There are challenges, but then the aim is to keep the country secure,” Lt Gen. Kulkarni said.
Not a bullet fired since 2003, but nearly 200 killed
Government figures released in 2018 showed that a total of 869 soldiers have died in Siachen since 1984 due to climatic conditions, environmental and other factors.
Figures presented in Parliament in 2018 showed the army had lost 163 personnel in Siachen since 2008.
This despite the fact that not a single shot has been fired in Siachen since the 2003 ceasefire agreement.
“The biggest factor behind death is not the bullet fired by the enemy but the extreme weather conditions and avalanches. While now there is proper clothing and an avalanche warning system, one cannot fight nature all the time,” a third source said.
Global warming is actually adding to the problem — the snout of the Siachen Glacier has receded by about 800 metres in the last decade or so.