The Killing Peaks
Everything is so mind-boggling about the Siachen War. It is the world’s highest battlefield, where a war has raged between India and Pakistan since 1984 in extreme weather conditions. The conflict has been aptly described as a ‘war above the clouds.’ that has been fought between two nuclear-armed nations for the past 28 years though it still does not make many international headlines. The two contenders battle it out silently for the ice-covered territory away from public glare, except at times like the present when some 135 Pakistani soldiers have been buried in the deep snow following a dreadful avalanche.
Basically, it is typical Indian intransigence over its occupation of the Siachen Glacier, the world´s longest glacier outside the Polar regions, that has forced Pakistan to defend its territorial integrity. Rightly described as the most pointless of all wars, it is a conflict where 4,000 soldiers have lost their lives for each side ever since hostilities started. Though the Siachen Glacier was never thought to have strategic significance for India or Pakistan but in April 1984, an Indian Regiment and the Indian Air Force captured the Saltoro Ridge in what was considered to be no man’s land and therefore left unguarded. This act of unprovoked aggression on part of India was actually a fallout of the unresolved Kashmir dispute as the Siachen issue is said to have arisen over the interpretation of the precise location of the line of control in northern Kashmir.
Since the Siachen Glacier is a part of Baltistan, which is located in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, the Pakistan army took rapid action to quell the Indian move, particularly since Indian occupation of the glacier also threatened the strategic Karakoram Highway. Ever since Indian forces have made ingress into the territory, Pakistan has taken all possible measures, though at a very high cost of men and materials, to stop India from making further forays in the region. It is quite inexplicable though that in these times when there is an universal effort to reduce and eliminate flashpoints of conflict around the globe, Pakistani and Indian armies still choose to stand vigil against each other in a very hostile environment comprising some of the world’s highest peaks and large glacial expanses, altitudes of around 6,000m and temperatures that fall below 50°C in winters, plus unremitting wind chill, harsh blizzards and avalanches like the one that has hit the Pakistan side now. In these conditions, traditional measures for security and information cannot be carried out as men and equipment cannot move about freely and traditional warfare practices are rendered useless because such conditions are encountered nowhere else in the world.
There have been serious efforts from both sides to find a solution to the Siachen dispute and many diplomatic moves have been made to disengage the two forces. However, while India refuses to lose its grip over the territory it captured in 1984, Pakistan maintains that Siachen has always been its part and India should vacate the area. The standoff continues while precious lives continue to be lost in this non-war.