Siachen conflict

Siachen conflict

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Siachen Conflict
partof=the Indo-Pakistani Wars and the Kashmir conflict

caption=Siachen Glacier lies in the Karakoram range. Its snout is less than 50 km north of the Ladakh Range.
date=April 13, 1984 - [ Kashmir Sentinel] , 1999 April.]
place=Siachen Glacier, in a disputed and undemarcated region of Kashmir
result=India captures and retains at present the Siachen Glacier and Saltoro Ridge.
casualties1=1025 [ [] ]
casualties2=1344 [ [] ]
"see also Siachen Glacier"

The Siachen Conflict, sometimes referred to as The Siachen War was a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. It began in 1984 with India's Operation Meghdoot.


The glacier is the highest battleground on earth [VAUSE, Mikel. Peering Over the Edge: The Philosophy of Mountaineering, p. 194.] [CHILD, Greg. Mixed Emotions: Mountaineering Writings, p. 147.] , where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 13, 1984. Both countries maintain permanent military personnel in the region at a height of over convert|6000|m. More than 4000 people have died in this inhospitable terrain, mostly due to weather extremities and the natural hazards of mountain warfare.Fact|date=September 2007


The conflict in Siachen stems from the confusion in the improperly demarcated territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that from the NJ9842 location the boundary would proceed "thence north to the glaciers."


In 1957 Pakistan permitted a British expedition under Eric Shipton to approach the Siachen through the Bilafond La, and recce Saltoro Kangri. [Himalayan Journal Vol. 21] Five years later a Japanese-Pakistani expedition put two Japanese and a Pakistani Army climber on top of Saltoro Kangri. [ Himalayan Journal Vol. 25 ] These were early moves in this particular game of oropolitics.

The United States Defense Mapping Agency (now National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) began in about 1967 to show, with no legal or treaty-derived justification or any boundary documentation, an international boundary on their Tactical Pilotage Charts available to the public and pilots as proceeding from NJ9842 east-northeast to the Karakoram Pass at 5,534 m (18,136 ft) on the China border. [ [ 2003 article about Siachen in Outside magazine] ] Numerous governmental and private cartographers and atlas producers followed suit. This cartographic aggression resulted in the US cartographically "awarding" the entire 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of the Siachen-Saltoro area to Pakistan.

In the 1970s and early 1980s several mountaineering expeditions applied to Pakistan to climb high peaks in the Siachen area as U.S army maps deliberately showed it on Pakistani side of the Line of Control, and Pakistan granted them. This in turn reinforced the Pakistani claim on the area, as these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. Teram Kangri I (convert|7465|m|ft|abbr=on|disp=s) and Teram Kangri II (convert|7406|m|ft|abbr=on|disp=s) were climbed in 1975 by a Japanese expedition led by H. Katayama, which approached through Pakistan via the Bilafond La. [ SANGAKU 71]

Indian government and military took note. Prior to 1984 neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent presence in the area. Once having become aware of this and the errant US military maps, Colonel N. Kumar of the Indian Army, then commanding the Army's High-Altitude Warfare School, mounted an Army expedition to the Siachen area as a counter-exercise. In 1978 this expedition climbed Teram Kangri II, claiming it as a first ascent in a typical 'oropolitical' riposte. Unusually for the normally secretive Indian Army, the news and photographs of this expedition were published in 'The Illustrated Weekly of India', a widely-circulated popular magazine. [ [ Outside magazine article about Siachen battleground] ]


The first public mention of a possible conflict situation in the Siachen was an abbreviated article titled "High Politics in the Karakoram" by Joydeep Sircar in "The Telegraph" newspaper of Calcutta in 1982 [ [ The Telegraph - Calcutta : Nation ] ] . The full text was printed as "Oropolitics" in the Alpine Journal, London, in 1984. [ Alpine Journal, 1984]

India launched Operation Meghdoot (named after the divine cloud messenger in a Sanskrit play by Kalidasa) on 13 April, 1984 when the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force went into the glacier region. Pakistan quickly responded with troop deployments and what followed was literally a race to the top. Within a few days, the Indians were in control of the entire area, as Pakistan was beaten to all of the Saltoro Ridge high ground by about a week. The two northern passes - Sia La and Bilafond La - were quickly secured by India. Pakistan lost almost convert|900|sqmi|km2 cite book|author=Pervez Musharraf | title= | publisher=Free Press | year=2006 | id=ISBN 0-7432-8344-9(pp. 68-69)] to nearly convert|1000|sqmi|km2 of territory to India [ [,9171,958254-2,00.html The Himalayas War at the Top Of the World] July 31, 1989 - TIME] Since then Pakistan has launched several attempts to displace the Indian forces, but with little success. The most well known was in 1987, when an attempt was made by Pakistan to dislodge India from the area. The attack was masterminded by Pervez Musharraf (later President of Pakistan) heading a newly raised elite SSG commando unit raised with United States Special Operations Forces help in the area. [cite book|author=J. N. Dixit | title=India-Pakistan in war & peace | publisher=Routledge | year= | id=ISBN 0415304725(pp. 39)] A special garrison with eight thousand troops was built at Khapalu. The immediate aim was to capture Bilafond La but after bitter fighting that included hand to hand combat, the Pakistanis were thrown back and the positions remained the same. The only Param Vir Chakra - India's highest gallantry award - to be awarded for combat in the Siachen area went to Naib Subedar Bana Singh (retired as Subedar Major/Honorary Captain), who in a daring daylight raid assaulted and captured a Pakistani post atop a 22,000 foot (6,700 m) peak, now named Bana Post. [ [] .]

Ground situation

In , former Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf states that Pakistan lost almost convert|900|sqmi|km2 of territory.cite book|author=Pervez Musharraf | title= | publisher=Free Press | year=2006 | id=ISBN 0-7432-8344-9(pp. 68-69)] TIME states that the Indian advance captured nearly convert|1000|sqmi|km2 of territory claimed by Pakistan. [ [,9171,958254-2,00.html The Himalayas War at the Top Of the World] July 31, 1989 - TIME]

Further attempts to reclaim positions were launched by Pakistan in 1990, 1995, 1996 and even in early 1999, just prior to the Lahore Summit. The 1995 attack by Pakistan SSG was significant as it resulted in 40 casualties for Pakistan troops without any changes in the positions. An Indian IAF MI-17 helicopter was shot down in 1996.

The Indian army controls all of the convert|70|km|mi long Siachen Glacier as well as all of its tributary glaciers as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier, Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La, thus holding onto the tactical advantage of high ground. [See for perhaps the most detailed treatment of the geography of the conflict, including its early days, and under section "3." the current status of control of Gyong La, contrary to the oft-copied misstatement in the old error-plagued summary at] . [See for a detailed, current map.] Gyong La (Pass) itself is at 35-10-29N, 77-04-15 E; that high point is controlled by India.

The Pakistanis control the glacial valley just five kilometers southwest of Gyong La. The Pakistanis have been unable get up to the crest of the Saltoro Ridge, while the Indians cannot come down and abandon their strategic high posts.

The line where Indian and Pakistani troops are presently holding onto their respective posts is being increasingly referred to as the Actual Ground Position Line(AGPL). [ [ Confirm ground position line on Siachen: BJP] - April 29, 2006, "The Hindu"] [ [ Guns to fall silent on Indo-Pak borders] November 26, 2003 - "Daily Times"]

Frost bite

A cease fire went into effect in 2003. Even before then, every year more soldiers were killed because of severe weather than enemy firing. The two sides have lost an estimated 2,000 personnel primarily due to frostbite, avalanches and other complications. Both nations have 150 manned outposts along the glacier, with some 3,000 troops each. Official figures for maintaining these outposts are put at ~$300 and ~$200 million for India and Pakistan respectively. India has built the world's highest helipad on this glacier at a place called Sonam, which is at 21,000 feet (6,400 m) above the sea level, to serve the area. India also installed the world's highest telephone booth on the glacier. [ [ India Installs World'S Highest Phone Booth Soldiers Fighting Along Kashmir Glacier Can Now Call Families, Army Says - Denver Rocky Mountain News - Highbeam Research ] ]

Kargil war

One of the factors behind the Kargil War in 1999 when Pakistan sent infiltrators to occupy vacated Indian posts across the Line of Control was their belief that India would be forced to withdraw from Siachen in return for Pakistan pulling back from Kargil. Both sides have been wishing to disengage from the costly military outposts but after the Kargil War India has backed off from withdrawing in Siachen, wary that the Kargil scenario could play out again if they vacate their Siachen Glacier posts without any official confirmation of their positions.

Political Visits

During her tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ms Benazir Bhutto, visited the area west of Gyong La, making her the first premier from either side to get to the Siachen region. On June 12, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the area, calling for a peaceful resolution of the problem. In the previous year, the President of India, Abdul Kalam became the first head of state to visit the area.


India based Jet Airways plans to open a chartered service to the glacier's nearest airlink, the Thoise airbase, mainly for military purposes. Pakistan's PIA flies tourists and trekkers daily to Skardu, which is the jumping off point for K2, the world's second highest point just 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) northwest of the Siachen area, although bad weather frequently grounds these scheduled flights.

Trekking expeditions

Since September 2007, India has opened up mountaineering and trekking expeditions to the forbidding glacial heights. The expeditions are also meant to show to the international audience that Indian troops hold "almost all dominating heights" on the important Saltoro Ridge and, to show that Pakistani troops are not within convert|15|mi|km of the convert|43.5|mi|km|-1|adj=on Siachen Glacier. [ [ India opens Siachen to trekkers] Times of India 13 Sep 2007]


*Operation Meghdoot (1984)
*Operation Qaidat (1987)
*Operation Rajiv (1987)
*Operation Chumik (1989)

See also

*"Siachen: Conflict Without End" by V.R. Raghavan
*Mountain warfare
*List of glaciers
*Line of Control


External links

* [ The War from Pakistani sources]
* [ Time report]
* [ Siachen: The stalemate continues]

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