Siachen Glacier Dispute
About Siachen Glacier
Siachen Glacier is known to be the largest single source of fresh water in the Indian subcontinent. It is located in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains, and is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas (Length 70 Kilometer).
Siachen is the source of the Nubra river that eventually feeds the mighty Indus. Siachen is near the Karakoram pass, forming almost a triangle with India, China and territory occupied by Pakistan touching the edges.
Background of the Dispute:
India and Pakistan have a disputed border in Jammu & Kashmir. Most of it is as of now delineated as the LOC or Line of Control with their respective troops on either side. Most of these positions were delineated as per the 1972 Shimla Agreement; however, the boundary line was specified to only a point known as NJ 9842. The Shimla agreement provided that after this NJ 9842, boundary would proceed "north to the glaciers". However, the agreement did not specify which nation would have control over which area.
There was no controversy over the area until the early 1980s, and then all of sudden Indian Army discovered that Pakistan was issuing permission to foreign expeditions to trek in Siachen. A reconnaissance mission was carried out and it found that foreign expeditions were being undertaken in the area. The major strategic point here is the Saltoro ridge, and in 1984, Indian troops moved into the glacier and occupied strategic positions along the Saltoro ridge. Indian army did this after receiving information that Pakistan army was planning to occupy the region. Thus, since 1984 the Siachan glacier area has been the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan. It is the highest battleground in the world. Currently, the strategic points on the glacier are occupied by both sides, with the Indians having a clear strategic advantage
Stance of India and Pakistan:
India says that the LoC runs from point NJ 9842 along the watersheds formed by the Saltoro ridge that puts the entire Siachen glacier within Indian Territory.
However, Pakistan says that the line joins point NJ 9842 with the Karakoram pass that lies towards the northeast, putting Siachen within its territory.
The rounds of bilateral talks began from 1985. After 13 rounds, both sides have agreed that the Siachen glacier should be demilitarised, but they have not agreed on how the troops will be withdrawn. India says that both the nations should jointly demarcate the current troop positions in the Siachen area. This may be an exhaustive process to determine and delineate current troop's positions both on the ground and on a map. After this demarcation, India believes, troops can be moved back to pre-1984 positions and the border issue can be solved with dialogue. However, Pakistan is strongly against a demarcation of troop positions. Pakistan says that any joint demarcation or authentication of troops positions can be used as a claim by India for future talks to resolve the matter. Pakistan insists on a mutual withdrawal of troops to pre- 1984 deployments for talks to begin. This is the stand off between India and Pakistan on Siachen Glacier.
After the 1999 Kargil conflict in which insurgents supported by the Pakistani Army occupied critical locations along the LoC, India has further hardened its stand for authentication of troops positions. India wants a demarcation so that in future, it can take military action, if Pakistan deceptively occupies troops positions even after vacating these as per the demilitarisation plan.
There have been several off the track solutions of the Siachen dispute. Some of them include declaring the area a peace park, joint patrolling of the region and even an international peacekeeping force being deployed.
Siachen Glacier: Some Notable Points:
At present, Indian Army controls the entire Saltoro ridge. There is no presence of Pakistani troops on the Siachen glacier.
Moreover, the nearest Pakistani locations are on the lower reaches of the Saltoro ridge. Since India managed to get the upper hand, it currently controls all heights along the glacier on the Saltoro ridge and uses the glacier as a logistics base.
Since 2007, India has also been promoting treks and expeditions by civilians and foreigners in the vicinity of the glacier to reaffirm its claim on the region. Indian Army gives permission to mountaineers to climb peaks in the Eastern Karakoram adjoining the glacier.
The Army also holds a civilian Siachen expedition every year and will in the future invite even foreigners to trek up the glacier.
Indian Army is very strict on the point of authentication of troop positions. India says that demarcation will not take anything away from Pakistan because the current troop positions are a hard, cold fact. Marking the positions on a map, will facilitate a comfortable withdrawal of troops from both sides. Pakistan believes that India has illegally occupied the glacier and can not be authenticated jointly by both sides.