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India Fears losing Siachen Glacier as Ladakh standoff continues with China

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Fearing losing Siachin Glacier, India's national security planners are pushing hard to complete an all-weather strategic route to Ladakh that will link Darcha in Himachal Pradesh to Nimu via Padum in Kargil's Zanskar valley, the Hindustan Times has reported.

Senior military commanders were quoted as saying that the third route to connect Ladakh by road is urgently needed given Pakistan and its all-weather friend, China's interest in the Siachen Glacier and Daulat Beg Oldie.

The new route will keep supply lines open for the military guarding Siachen, Kargil and DBO sectors.

Nimu is 35 kilometres from Leh town and headquarters of XIV Corps responsible for the defense of East Ladakh and Siachen Glacier.

The defense ministry's road project is being pushed hard by Road and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and his colleague General VK Singh after China provoked a standoff along the Line of Actual Control in East Ladakh and started mobilizing troops in the depth areas. The project, which has been in the pipeline for a decade, is scheduled to be completed by the defense ministry within two years.

New Delhi perceives Beijing's reluctance to disengage despite reminders as an effort to create a new normal at the border, according to Hindustan Times.

"We are looking to build a road that bisects the Leh-Kargil highway" This road will allow the Indian military and the local population to get round-the-year supplies" The route is not under the prying eyes of the Pakistan Army as in Kaksar in Kargil district or the DSDBO (Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie) route that is under the observation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA)," a former army chief, told Hindustan Times.

The Siachen Glacier is a 47-mile-long glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas.

On 13 April 1984, Indian troops snatched control of the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, narrowly beating Pakistan. Before launching the so-called Operation Meghdoot to seize the Siachin Glacier, India sent its troops to Antrarctica to be acclimatized to the extremities of the glacier.

Thirty six years later, the two sides remain locked in a stand-off.

The vast majority of the estimated 2,700 Indian and Pakistani troop deaths have not been due to combat but avalanches, exposure and altitude sickness caused by the thin, oxygen-depleted air, according to a BBC report.

Because it occupies the harder-to-supply higher ground, India pays the heaviest financial price, currently estimated to be around $1million a day. "With all the money we have spent in Siachen, we could have provided clean water and electricity to half the country," the BBC quoted a former Indian army officer as saying.

Demilitarization of Siachin

Jasbir Sarai, an army veteran, wrote on April 13, 2020 in News Intervention, successive governments in India have not been averse to the idea of demilitarization, On June 12, 2005 while on a visit to the Glacier, the then Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had said, "Now the time has come that we make efforts that this battlefield is converted into a peace mountain."

In order for this to happen, India has laid down a few pre-conditions. The most prominent among these is authentication on a map of the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) along which troops are presently deployed. Pakistan is insisting on a withdrawal to the positions held in 1984, which is clearly not acceptable to India. India is well aware that after having achieved its first step, Pakistan will declare the region as a disputed territory.

Control over the area would constitute a major strategic achievement for Pakistan as it would breathe down the Indian Army's positions in Ladakh while denying India the capability to monitor the sensitive Pakistan-China axis, Sarai argued.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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