Siachen and the burden it is – Part 1

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 4:29:33 by

Siachen, a mysteriously beautiful piece of a white sheet of ice has been yet another bone of contention between two states for whom, the smallest of the crisis always has serious and sometimes, bizarre repercussions.

The politics between the two countries is a series of bizarre tactics in which both sides strive to surpass each other’s respective idiosyncrasies. However, none of the issues these two states fight for, can better explain this senseless willingness to prolong
hostilities than the Siachin issue.

One thing should be noted that generals and policymakers on both sides of the border are hell-bent to show their machismo. Slaves of their own egos, they send hundreds of soldiers to this barren stretch, to their deaths. What’s even more appalling and ironic
is the fact that the top brass military officials on both sides hide behind claims that attachments to this godforsaken territory is to increase their soldiers’ endurance  and teach the how to work in severe conditions.

Tragedy in Gayari

In the wee hours of April 7, 2012, a massive ice avalanche struck a Pakistani military headquarter in Gayari. Gayari is considered as a vital supply hub for Pakistani troops and the base was set-up here only because strategists deemed the area non-hazardous-enough.

The time the avalanche hit, the base was occupied by the 6th northern light infantry battalion. The avalanche has entombed nearly 140 soldiers most of whom should not be expected to be alive. More than 50 days have passed as engineers continue
working with heavy machinery in order to try and find their trapped brethren.

Brigadier Saqib Mahmood Malik, the Siachen brigade commander, said his soldiers were desperate to help their comrades.

“We don’t need morale or motivation. Merely that our colleagues are under it — that is the source of motivation to get them out. I really don’t have to push my men to do this job,” he told AFP. Commendable gesture yes but there are some realities in life
that should not be denied.

A peek into how hard life can be at the “highest battlefield on earth”

Why would a mother wish to see her child die in the pursuit of an endless war that nobody knows is going to end anytime soon? Life in Siachen is not easy by any means. While stunningly beautiful, Siachen is not a place good enough for habitation either for
Pakistan or India.

Ask an average soldier who has ‘done time’ in Siachen and he would tell you how hard it can be to take a good shower on the tallest battlefield on earth.

Many soldiers get lost in the whiteness of this stretch of land during routine patrols. There are times when soldiers practically get lost while staring at the deep cliffs. Since 1984, Pakistan army has lost 3000 soldiers in Siachen and almost 90% of those
soldiers did not lose their lives due to an enemy bullet.

Troop withdrawal, a necessary step

Though easier said than done, it may be more practical for both nations to slowly start pulling their troops away from Siachen in order to save their soldiers from further misery. When the Gayari depot was built back I 1984, it was due to the fact that many
experts claimed that an avalanche will never hit the place. However, the atmosphere and environment has changed a lot since then.

Due to human presence of almost 20 decades, the glaciers have started melting and incidents like Gayari are bound to happen more often than not. India proudly claims to have the highest helipad on earth in terms of altitude. Around 150 check posts are divided
between the two sworn enemies.

The recent incident in Gayari should make both side’s leaders realize that now might be a good time to pack up and leave Siachen be.

Cease-fire came into effect in 2003 but it is not the skirmishes that have claimed so many lives. Severe conditions are the root cause of deaths.

Many retired generals and other army officers on both sides who have experienced the adversities of living in Siachen have criticized their respective governments for being hell-bent on fighting a war over a ‘piece of glacier’.

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