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No agenda should drive any decision regarding Siachen

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Siachen

By Shiv Kunal Verma

Thirty-two years after Indian troops secured key passes on the north-south running Saltoro Range to deny Pakistan access to the Siachen Glacier, it continues to dominate the headlines.

Tragedy, no stranger to the glaciated region bordering Sinkiang and the Northern Areas under the control of Pakistan, resulted in a 10-man infantry section from 19 Madras, inclusive of a medic from the Army Medical Corps, being buried alive when an ice wall collapsed near Sonam Post at 20,600 ft.

In what had to be a major feat of human endurance, braving the extreme cold and lack of oxygen, rescue teams dug through the 35 feet of ice debris and five days later miraculously pulled out a survivor, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad. Despite the collective prayers of the entire nation and the efforts of army doctors, this brave soldier too joined his other nine comrades three days after being rescued and evacuated.

Even as the rescue drama unfolded before the nation, a leading newspaper in the country published an article written by an associate professor from the Jawaharlal Nehru University suggesting that Indian troops deinduct from Siachen and the glacier be declared a peace park.

The article, echoing sentiments expressed in the past, claimed that maintaining troops at Siachen cost the government Rs.5 crore (nearly $735,000) daily and that hundreds of lives had already been lost in holding territory that was of no major consequence.

“I’m all for an open debate on matters that concern our national security. However, these debates need to be informed discussions that look at the entire picture and are not just agenda driven,” said General V.K. Singh, the minister of state for external affairs, who is also a former Indian Army chief. “The last time the ‘withdrawal from Siachen’ issue was raised, it was in 2012 at the behest of the PMO. Once these behind-the-scenes machinations were exposed on social media, the UPA had quietly dropped the idea.”

A 12-member Track-II committee had been cobbled together in 2011 with the blessings of then prime minister Manmohan Singh. A former air chief, along with handpicked armored corps officers (all of them never having served in the region) represented India while on the Pakistan side was a group headed by a former army chief. The two delegations then met in various parts of the globe under the aegis of an Ottawa-based think tank.

“The Americans have always had an interest in the region,” says Lieutenant General Rakesh Loomba, a former head of Military Intelligence. “Even the maps that initially showed the Saltaro range and the Siachen Glacier as being Pakistani territory were issued by the US Air Force.”

The blatant cartographic aggression had resulted in Colonel Narendra ‘Bull’ Kumar, leading an Indian Army expedition into the area in 1982 that confirmed the presence of mountaineering groups sent in by Pakistan. Subsequently, Indian troops had secured the key passes on the Saltoro, getting into position just a few hours before Pakistani troops also arrived.

Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch (retd), a Special Forces veteran who commanded the Siachen Brigade during the 1999 Kargil conflict, said: “All this talk of withdrawing from Siachen is pure bunkum! First, Pakistan has zero presence on Siachen, notwithstanding whatever their army keeps telling their own people. Their positions are to the west of the Saltoro Ridge. For years, they have tried to dislodge Indian troops from there, but they have never succeeded. We’ve paid in human lives to secure the border there – it is now the de facto Line of Control with Pakistan while towards the north, we have China that controls the Shaksgam Valley. Why should we pull out? That would amount to shooting ourselves in the foot and a betrayal of all those who have died securing the area.”

While most Indian Army officers dismiss all talk of de-induction from the glacier, Sanjaya Baru, in his book “The Accidental Prime Minister”, touches on the subject, saying a former Indian Army chief, General J.J. Singh, had privately told Manmohan Singh that a withdrawal was doable.

“All this is fanciful talk,” says Gen. V. K. Singh. “The basic question that needs to be asked from those who wish to withdraw – be it (Ajai) Shuklaji and his friends in Trac II or Professor Happymon Jacob from JNU – after de-inducting where do you want your new line of defense to be set up? Do they have any idea what that will entail? Also, what about the rest of the LOC – have these people any idea of the conditions prevailing there? To just mouth off with no idea about the larger picture is extremely dangerous.”

“It would mean fortifying the entire Ladakh range that runs from west to east, preparing defenses along the Shyok river. The quantum of troops required would be almost 15 times what we have in Siachen now, plus it would make Leh a Frontline town,” says General Katoch who continues to write extensively on the subject.

“If we want to honour the fallen who have sacrificed their lives in Siachen, we need to nip this talk in the bud. We must remember that the gates to India have always been opened from within,”. (IANS) (Photo Credit: ajaishukla.blogspot.com)

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India develops the world’s lightest material to warm its men-at-arms

As India is suffering from more casualties on Siachen, ISRO steps up to soothe the ache by this remarkable creation

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India
en.wikipedia

By Yajush Gupta

With the occurrence of recent snowslips still fresh in mind, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has fabricated the world’s lightest material called ‘Silica aerogel’, ‘blue air’ or ‘frozen smoke’ ,to keep the soldiers warm, the lightest ever made by mankind.

According to scientists at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre,a major space research centre of the ISRO, Thiruvananthapuram ,the material is useful in both outer space and Earth and has astounding thermal resistance.

Aerogels are among the lightest solid materials known to man, created by combining a polymer with a solvent to form a gel, and then removing the liquid from the gel and replacing it with air.

Key aspects of the ‘blue air’ :

  • This material can be used in soldier outfit to keep them warm during freezing temperatures
  • Aerogel has 99% air, it is being slated for use on ISRO’s next mission to the moon called Chandryaan-2
  • It has an excellent thermal resistance and if it is used as filler in soldiers’ uniforms it can save many lives at the Siachen Glacier

The material can be used in space and scientists are considering its usage in insulating rocket engines. It can soon replace winter outfits with light weight clothing for the Indian military.

@yajush_gupta

 

 

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Siachen becomes a battleground for India and Paksitan

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Image source: kufarooq22.over-blog.com

At an elevation of over 5,000 metres and at temperature that can dip to minus-50 degrees Celsius, Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield, is a tough terrain. It is also one of the largest fresh water reserves in the Indian subcontinent.

India and Pakistan, the two sparring nuclear-armed nations, have deployed their troops in large number in an area which is facing clear signs of an impact from climate change, adding to the looming threat of a water crisis.

The conflict between India and Pakistan, historically, has been over land, both claiming the Kashmir valley.

Water woes are a part of the picture.

The Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan had its premise in the fear that India could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war, as the Indus, the river that brings life to most of Pakistan, flows out from India.

The melt water of Saichen glacier is the main source of the Nubra river, which drains into the Shyok river. The Shyok then joins the 3,000 km-long Indus river which flows through Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan had their claims on the glacier. In 1983, Pakistan decided to deploy troops on the glacier. India acted swiftly and launched Operation Meghdoot.

At present, India occupies most of the glacier, Pakistan being only on the western side of the Saltoro ridge. Both armies have been stationed here, losing more soldiers to climate than to bullets.

This year alone, India has lost 12 soldiers and one porter in Siachen.

In a reply in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said India has lost 915 soldiers in Siachen in the last 33 years. The number on Pakistan’s side are similar.

While neither India nor Pakistan have admitted to the water angle of the dispute, Pakistan did accuse India of threatening the ecology of the glacier with its troop presence.

In 2013, a report of the Asian Development Bank declared Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world.

In December that year, Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, said Pakistan was facing a water shortage and Indian forces were damaging one of the largest sources of water to Pakistan on a regular basis.

He also accused Indian forces stationed in Siachen of posing a “serious threat” to Pakistan’s environment by damaging Siachen’s “virgin snow”.

India, with its strategic concerns, amplified after the 1999 Kargil conflict, has clearly stated that troops will not be withdrawn from the glacier.

Parrikar, following the death of 10 soldiers in an avalanche in Siachen earlier this year, said that he regretted the loss of life but ruled out removal of troops, stating that occupancy of the area by rival troops will lead to bigger loss of lives.

Climatologists and scientists however paint a grim picture when they talk about the shrinking of the glacier and rising temperatures, which they say has also led to more avalanches that are killing soldiers.

As per research data, including that from the defence ministry’s Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment, frequency of avalanches has gone up with both maximum and minimum temperatures rising. However, this, along with sudden steep falls, causes more cracks and avalanches.

According a report by the World Wildlife Fund on Climate Data and Modelling Analysis of Indus Region, rising temperatures in Siachen have lead to a greater rate of thinning of ice and glacial retreat.

The decay estimates calculated by remote sensing techniques show that Siachen Glacier has reduced by 5.9 km in longitudinal extent from 1989 to 2009. Thinning of ice mass is evaluated at 17 percent.

The guns have been silent on the world’s highest battlefield since 2003 but nature is pretty active, creating a long-term threat to livelihood and well being of people in the region.(IANS)

One response to “Siachen becomes a battleground for India and Paksitan”

  1. I think again the solution to everything including Siachen problem lies in the independence of Baluchistan. Once Pakistan is disintegrated, Kashmir will become part of India and Siachen issue will be solved forever.

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Siachen survivor Lance Naik Hanumanthappa dies

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New Delhi: The lone survivor of Feb 3 incident at Siachen avalanche Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, who was also called as miracle soldier after being found alive under snow and ice where he was stuck for six days, passed away on Thursday.

Koppad was admitted in Army Hospital, where he fought for life for two days.

He took his last breath at 11:45 on Thursday morning confirmed an Army statement.

PM Narendra Modi tweeted, “Koppad leaves us sad and devastated. RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India.”

Doctors said on the morning that braveheart Hanamanthappa’s condition remain extremely critical, with worsening multi-organ dysfunction.

Koppad was suffering from pneumonia which worsened the condition and blood clotting disorder showed no sign of reversal despite blood component support.

Millions across the country had prayed for his recovery,  but he didn’t.

Koppad was found under 35 feet of snow and ice in Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir, with other nine dead soldiers.

Koppad family from Karnataka were staying in Hospital complex.

Koppad served the country for 10 out of 13 years. He was posted in Jammu and Kashmir from 2003 to 2006 and involved in counter-insurgency operations.

He again volunteered to serve from 2008 to 2010 with 54 Rashtriya Rifles in Jammu and Kashmir and later in the northeast from 2010 to 2012.

He was serving Siachen glacier from August 2015. (IANS)(image:huffingtonpost.in)