Why India needs to hold on to Siachen

Why India needs to hold on to Siachen

Notwithstanding the loss of nine lives in an avalanche, India barely has any option but to hold on to the dominating heights on the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro ridge to prevent exposing Ladakh from the threat of an pincer attack from Pakistan and China.

“The reasons for maintaining these posts despite hostile conditions is due to the security of the nation. This incident is absolutely painful, but there is no second solution,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Visakhapatnam earlier this week. The minister visited Siachen in May.

The genesis of the Siachen issue conflict is historical in nature. The Ceasefire Line and the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir were delineated by the Karachi agreement of 1949 and the Shimla agreement of 1972, respectively, up to a place known as Point NJ 9842.

The area beyond NJ 9842 has remained undelineated, which leads to two different interpretations.
The Karachi agreement describes the Ceasefire Line up to point NJ 9842 and mentions that “it thereafter lies northwards towards the glaciers.” Similarly the Shimla agreement is silent on the delineation beyond NJ 9842.

Pakistan claims the line joins NJ 9842 with the Karakoram Pass, which is north-west of NJ 9842, but the Indian position is that the line runs towards the glaciers along the watersheds formed by the Saltoro Range as per the internationally-accepted principle of border delineation.

The Army occupies the strategic heights on the Saltoro Ridge, overlooking the Nubra Valley, since April 1984, foiling an attempt by Pakistan to gain control in those areas.

An assessment by the Northern Command in 1984 states: “Pakistani occupation of the Siachen up to the Karakoram pass would lead to their domination of the Nubra valley and the route down to Leh. With an all weather Karakoram Highway to the west and the Aksai Chin road to the east, Ladakh is open to a pincer.”

Importance
A detailed study of maps from showed that Pakistan was illegally occupying 10,000 sq km of land, of which the Army had no knowledge till then.

The Army first launched mountaineering expedition and subsequently Operation Meghdoot to regain control over those areas.

The government now spends Rs 5 crore per day to maintain these posts on the icy heights. Close to 900 soldiers lost their lives in Siachen mostly due to the harsh terrain and climatic conditions.

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