High time Siachen issue is settled

The death of Lance Naik Hanmanthappa Koppad from Hubballi, who waged a grim battle with it for many days, has plunged the nation into grief. The entire country had prayed for his recovery after he was found alive under the avalanche that had trapped him and nine of his colleagues in Siachen. The physical and mental strength, and the courage and resilience that kept him alive for so many days were remarkable. His survival for six days under the snow stretched human endurance to the limits and could only be called miraculous. Unfortunately, the best medical care could not save his life, but he has become a national icon. The death of the other soldiers too is no less a loss for the country, as all of them perished in defence of its borders. The depth of the loss is the same for all families, and there is no substitute for a life gone in its prime.

The deaths have again brought into focus the wisdom of stationing soldiers on what is called the world’s highest battlefield in the most inhospitable conditions. Pakistan has also posted soldiers on the icy heights, but India has exercised strategic control over the area since 1984. The human and economic cost of military presence in the area has been high for both countries. India has lost over 900 personnel in the past 30 years. The exact number of casualties on the Pakistani side is not known but it could not be less. It is not only the risk of death but the reality of extreme hardship that should also be considered. The account of the difficult and hazardous operation undertaken to rescue Hanmanthappa and recover the bodies  of others does credit to the Army.

But the efforts and the loss of lives could also have been avoided. The economic cost is very high. It is estimated that India spends about Rs 5 crore every day on maintaining its troops in Siachen.Proposals to demilitarise Siachen, in view of the cost of maintaining presence there, have received much attention. Both countries have discussed ways of disengagement and have reportedly even come close to an agreement in official and Track II negotiations. The proposals have included marking of the present positions and withdrawal of troops to less difficult positions by mutual consent. Monitoring of positions and movements is not difficult, as it can be done with satellites. Pakistan has said, after the latest Indian casualties, that it is ready to discuss an agreement. An agreement on Siachen is therefore not difficult, and will also give a boost to bilateral relations.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry