Siachen – A place of wild roses
Two days after the tragedy at the highest, coldest and costliest battlefield with the Indian army losing a unit of their soldiers, the nation is bereaved but proud. A devastating ice wall had collapsed and buried our soldiers who lost their lives guarding the most treacherous battlefield in the world.
After a dispiriting two-day rescue, the army had declared, that the chances of finding survivors, are next to zero. With a heavy heart, they were presumed dead.
The official sources from the headquarters at Siachen had told Tehelka that there is a possibility of finding survivors. Heavy snow cutters and special equipments are still being put to use to clear the chunks of ice that fell at the army post during the massive avalanche.
The post situated at an altitude of 19,600 feet in the Northern Glacier in Siachen is so hostile that even walking or commuting through the blankets of snow-covered glacial path becomes agonizing for anyone.
The unit was posted along the path near the Bana Top. This was just behind the hill where the ice fell and the avalanche occurred. According to army sources, the Jawans didn’t have a moment to dodge the avalanche, as it was highly impossible to make any kind of abrupt moments at a very hostile terrain.
It has been thirty-two years since the Indian troops had narrowly beaten Pakistan to gain control over Siachen glacier in Northern Kashmir. On 13th April 1984, Siachen, ironically meaning ‘the place of wild roses’ had become the world’s highest battleground. The never-ending struggle between the two nuclear-powered rivals gave birth to a new term referred to as ‘oropolitics’, or ‘mountaineering with a political goal’.
“Our country always suspects infiltration attempts from Pakistan. This is the reason why the Indian army refuses to withdraw our forces from the high range area,” asserted the army official who wish to remain anonymous.
As per intelligence reports, the Pakistan’s ISI have been nurturing terrorist groups with an eye on Ladakh and the Zanskar range south of it. Any attempts to infiltrate would have reverberations, requiring more deployment to contain the area. The Siachen glacier range also happens to be one of the largest freshwater reserves that are vital for our country.
For years now, both the states (India and Pakistan) have stationed men at 5000 metres and above. An estimated 2,700 Indian and Pakistani troop have lost their lives so far. And interestingly, the thin oxygen depleted air; exposure, altitude sickness and avalanches have taken more lives than combat.
A rosy picture cannot be painted with the men who return after serving at the Siachen glacier. As the common saying goes, men who serve at Siachen, leave a piece of them behind. Most officers suffer from depression, weight loss and mental trauma on return.
Since India occupies the dominating Saltoro ridge, lying west of Siachen, hence occupying a higher-to-supply-ground, we pay the heaviest financial price as well, around a million dollars a day.
A former army officer had stated that half our population could have been provided with clean water and electricity with the money we spend in Siachen.
Well at the end of it, as Stephen Cohen dismisses the dispute between India and Pakistan as a struggle between two bald men over a comb and as our governments continue to squabble over the non-demarcated line of control, our citizens can be rest assured that our men in uniform will remain steadfast in protecting our sovereignty.