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India and Pakistan – demilitarisation talks

May 24, 2006 Wary of repeat of Kargil experience, New Delhi does not want to ‘risk’ disengagement from dominant heights on the Saltoro Ridge unless there is ‘clear acceptance of authentication’ by Islamabad.

With Islamabad refusing to agree on authentication of present troop positions on Siachen glacier, the talks between India and Pakistan on demilitarisation of the world’s highest battlefield failed to yield any breakthrough here today, but the two countries decided to continue with the ceasefire there.

Concluding the two-day Defence Secretary-level talks, the two countries, however, issued a joint statement in which they agreed to continue the negotiations to resolve the vexed 22-year-old issue in a peaceful manner.

The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment to continue the ceasefire in Siachen in place since November 2003.

Siachen and the Indian Khaki

by Nasim Zehra, (Tuesday May 16 2006)  “…to ensure that at least a beginning is made in the conflict’s resolution between the two countries ? which are in their third year of dialogue ? the Indian Prime Minister needs to take the army along.”
On May 23, Pakistan and India will enter a crucial round of negotiations on Siachen in Delhi. These talks are important because they represent an opportunity to actually resolve a long-standing dispute between the two nuclear neighbors and demonstrate to the critics of the dialogue progress that the process is achieving more than just normalization of relations.

Behind the scenes, the foreign secretaries have discreetly worked on the details of the deal. However, as Pakistani and Indian leadership attempt to forge a resolution of the Siachen dispute, the hurdles, especially in India, are evident. For an agreement to be reached, the onus on managing the army rests on the Indian Prime Minister.

A formidable hurdle is the Indian armed forces itself. In April, when public indications were made regarding the possibility for India and Pakistan to reach an agreement on Siachen, the Indian armed forces took a public position against complete withdrawal from Siachen. The Indian armed forces’ public opposition is exceptionally surprising for two reasons. First, because of the Indian armed forces’ commendable tradition to stay clear of politics and public diplomacy. Second, because the military’s constitutional mandate is to work under the civilian leadership.

It is interesting to track the posturing between the Indian armed forces and India’s civilian leadership about the possibility of a Pakistan-India Siachen agreement. The civilian leadership’s position became evident on April 19 when ‘The Asian Age’ first carried the story ‘PM to take Siachen plan to Pak’. The report claimed that “Dr Manmohan Singh is now almost certain to take with him back channel negotiated solutions to Siachen and possibly Sir Creek.” It also detailed the possible way out of dealing with the abiding hurdle ? the authentication dilemma.

Part of the debate between the civilian and military leadership in Delhi revolves around the necessity for Pakistan to authenticate the illegally occupied positions that its troops held in Siachen since 1984. Pakistan refuses to authenticate, arguing that its authentication of these illegally held positions could potentially be used to establish India’s legal jurisdiction of these positions. According to ‘The Asian Age’, a possible solution to this issue was that India’s current troop positions be annexed to the main text of an agreement. This ‘Asian Age’ story also reports strong reservations within the army on a possible Siachen agreement.

The former Indian Army Vice-Chief Vijay Oberoi maintained that without authentication, it means India is ‘climbing down’, which is unacceptable to the military. The Indian armed forces made their position known on April 20, in AFP’s lead story ‘Indian army against deal with Pakistan on Kashmir glacier’. According to AFP, the Indian Army Chief, J. J. Singh said at a Press conference “we should not call it demilitarization as it is a process, and the first step will be disengagement and the next will be demilitarization, but it is not immediately on the horizon as we see it.”

Furthermore, on May 10, the Indian Air Force’s Air Officer-in-Chief of the Western Command sent a strong, as if non-negotiable, message. He told the visiting Press corps in Leh that: “There is no question of shutting the Siachen airfield. Its importance is not only from the strategic point of view, but also as a lifeline to the civilians.” He added “If demilitarization takes place ? like everybody else I hope it does ? the role of the IAF will remain. A certain role will be played in maintaining the troops. Our role will certainly remain.”

Significantly, on May 11, in response to a question in Parliament, the Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “There is no decision taken at present to pull out troops from the Siachen Glacier.” Clearly, the Indian government must feel the heat of the Indian military establishment. But that is not entirely new where it comes to Siachen. Two earlier agreements, in 1989 and in 1992, were almost through but scuttled in Delhi at the last minute. At the moment, the Indian armed forces are objecting on four grounds.

First, that the Indian leadership is planning to make the Indian army give up a strategic gain. There is some thinking within the army and among India’s strategic establishment that in vacating Siachen, India will be favouring Pakistan, and therefore, it would be ill-advised. The assumption, in most comments by India’s defence personnel, is that Pakistan will try and re-capture Siachen. Clearly, the track record of both sides of the LoC has been one of ‘hit and claim’ whenever possible; whether Kargil (first India occupied during the 1971 war, and then Pakistan in 1999) or Chor Batla.

The second argument is that Siachen should be linked to the Kashmir solution and that India must demand a quid pro quo on Kashmir. Quoting a retired diplomat, ‘The Asian Age’ reported: “If we give up on Siachen, which is what this now amounts to, then we should be able to dictate some terms on Kashmir.”

The third position that the Indian defense establishment takes is that vacating Siachen would not be a prudent move. In case of a Pakistani occupation of Siachen, it would not be easy for India to regain control of it. They argue that the topographical advantages that accrue to Pakistan will make access many times more difficult for India.

According to Indian army sources quoted in the Indian Press: “It would take India six days to get to a point, while it would take Pakistan only four days.”

Finally, the fourth position is that complete withdrawal of the army and the air force will not be possible. The Indian Air Force must retain its base in Siachen. In Siachen at present, there are approximately 7,000 Indian army troops and about 4,000 Pakistani troops stationed at the 20,700-ft height. There, the cold is more of a killer than battle. It costs the Indian treasury about $223,000 a day to keep troops in Siachen.

Clearly, to ensure that at least a beginning is made in the conflict’s resolution between the two countries ‘ which are in their third year of dialogue ‘ the Indian Prime Minister needs to take the army along. Some contours of a possible agreement have almost been worked out as the foreign secretaries of the two countries have discreetly worked on it behind the scenes. But, unless the Indian civilian leadership can take the Indian Army along, the much-awaited Siachen agreement may yet again have a false start. Just like in 1989 and 1992.

Siachen Pioneers to get more punch

Leh, May 14 After having put their name in record books, the Siachen Pioneers, the Air Force’s lifeline to troops deployed in inaccessible areas atop the world?s highest battlefield, is looking at further enhancing its reach and capabilities with the induction of new helicopters.Known as the 114 Helicopter Unit, the very survival of troops manning posts as high as 22,000 feet depend upon the Siachen Pioneers, as the unit is aptly called, and their Cheetah helicopters, as no other flying machine can land at that altitude. The unit is now awaiting induction of the Cheetal helicopter, a re-engined and more powerful version of the Cheetah.

The Cheetals carried out summer trails over Siachen last year followed by winter trials during the last few months.

Cheetals were flown over the glacier for about 50 hours during each trial session by seasoned pilots to evaluate each aspect of the flying machine.

The Cheetal has the same airframe as the Cheetah, but is powered by the engine used in the Dhruv advanced light helicopter. A more powerful engine means we would be to fly still higher and be able to carry more load.

The Siachen Pioneers set a world record when it carried out a casualty evacuation from an altitude of 25,000 feet. The unit is awaiting ratification of this feat from the Gunnies Book of Records.

The 114 Helicopter Unit was raised at the 10,600 feet high Leh airbase on April 1, 1964, the IAF’s only flying unit to be raised at that altitude. It has seen action in Indo-Pak wars, major operations and other mercy operations. It was the 114 HU that supported the High Altitude Warfare School?s first ??exploratory expedition??, led by Colonel N Kumar to the Siachen Glacier area in September 1978.

The first landing in Siachen (as part of Operation Meghdoot) was on August 24, 1982, by a Cheetah helicopter of the unit. The 114 HU now has the unique distinction of being the only flying unit to be operating continuously in an active war zone for twenty years since Operation Meghdoot was launched in 1984. Since then it has been flying to altitudes as high as 20,000 feet as a matter of routine, holding its motto Apatsu Mitram ? A Friend in Distress ? in good stead.

Till the 1999 Kargil conflict, women pilots also flew with the squadron, but were later withdrawn following a policy decision owing to operational and physiological factors. It was during the Kargil conflict that women pilots flying in hostile environment came into prominence after pictures of Flg Offr Gunjan Saxsena climbing into a Cheetah?s cockpit with an AK-47 rifle sling across her shoulders were published.

Siachen map delineation must: Malik

New Delhi, PTI: May 13, 2006
Saying that there is still “immense mistrust” between the two countries, Malik said India should only agree for delmilitarization of the Siachen Glacier after Pakistan agrees to delineation of the 101 km-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the map or marking the position through aerial or satellite photography.

Former Army Chief Gen V P Malik has cautioned the country’s decision makers to insist on delineation of positions on Saltoro ridge before agreeing on demilitarization of the world’s highest battlefield.”Most people in India and Pakistan believe that demilitarization of Siachen is feasible as it could be the first political achievement in dialogue to take the peace process forward,” he states in his just-released book ‘Kargil – from surprise to victory’.

Malik says that it should not mean going back to the pre-1984 days when, without any delineation on the maps, it was possible for either side to lay claim or encroach into each other’s territory.

Saying that there is still “immense mistrust” between the two countries, Malik said India should only agree for delmilitarization of the Siachen Glacier after Pakistan agrees to delineation of the 101 km-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the map or marking the position through aerial or satellite photography.

“It is essential to mark the ground position on the AGPL so that future verification is possible, if any party violates the agreement”, the General states.

The battle over Siachen May 12, 2006 – It?s a huge drain on their economies, it takes lives of those who are deployed to guard it, it means a lot of tension around for India and for Pakistan as well. The question is why? Hafizullah Shiekh writes

Siachen has witnessed sporadic armed clashes between India and Pakistani forces since April,1 1984 when the Indian army carried out a clandestine operation code-named ?Meghdoot? and established permanent posts at the Siachen glacier, since then the Indian tricolor has flown over Siachen. An upset and agitated Pakistani force launched a fierce attack to dislodge the Indian troops. The two nuclear armed neighbors have confronted each other militarily for control over the ice wasteland and its approaches in the eastern Karakorn mountain range, adjacent to the borders of India, Pakistan and China. The longest running armed conflict between the regular armies in the present century, the Siachen conflict has resulted in thousands of casualties from both sides, primarily because of adverse climatic conditions and harsh terrain. This is despite the fact that the leaderships in India and Pakistan acknowledge the human and economic costs of the Siachen dispute.
Perhaps it symbolizes distrust between India and Pakistan. Since Siachen is in Kashmir, it also symbolizes Indo-Pak battle over the valley. For India control of Siachen is of key strategic importance allowing the Indian army to dominate the heights and over look the Pakistan-China highway. Pakistan believing that Siachen should be part of its territory, is also keen to control the heights for the very same reason, besides of course linking it to the overall dispute over Kashmir. Whatever may be the reality, the bottom line is that the human and economic costs of sustaining more than two decade long bloody conflict over the possession of the geographically remote and climatically inhospitable glacier continues to bleed both Pakistan and India dry.
According to careful estimates by Pakistani defense experts, to maintain three battalions at the icy wasteland of the Siachen, Islamabad spends Rs 15 million a day, which makes rupees 450 million a month and rupees 5.4 billion a year. On the other hand the deployment of seven battalions at the glacier costs India rupees 5.0 million a day, rupees 1.5 billion a month and rupees 30 billion a year. On average the experts say, one Pakistani soldier is killed every third day, on the glacier, showing approximately 100 casualties every year on average. Similarly one Indian soldier is killed every other day on the glacier, at an average of 180 casualties. According to unofficial figures over 2,200 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives on the glacier between 1984 and 2004 as against 4,000 Indian casualties.
According to Indian army sources air maintenance for the Siachen operation alone costs Rs 2.5 crores a day, or 1000 crores a year. A cheetah helicopter sortie costs Rs 2000 an hour, it can only carry 25 Kg when flying to high altitude. The cost of a loaf of bread that would be less than a rupee in the Kashmir valley is estimated by the times of India to be worth Rs 10,000 by the time it reaches Indian soldiers on Siachen
Conditions at Siachen are harsh. At 5,472 meters above sea level, the Siachen glacier is located in the Karakom mountain region, which has some of the highest peaks in the world like K2. The northern mountains of the glacier mark the watershed between the central Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Bereft of vegetation, the glacier happens to be one of the world?s most inhospitable regions where temperature hovers around Minus 40ocentigrade.
The surroundings are too chilly to be tolerated. Bare skin. In winters strong winds from central Asia can further bring down the temperature to minus 50o. The glacier receives 6-7 meters of annual total of 10 meters of snow in winter alone. Blizzards at a speed of 300 kms/h can only be imagined by an outsider. Many soldiers collapse of exhaustion after walking only a few yards. They have to take risks- e g falling off cliffs into a ravine-even to do something as routine as defecate. Siachen is proof not of any one?s bravery, but of expandability and low value of Indian and Pakistani lives.
The Indian army controls Siachen heights holding on to the tactical advantage of high ground, but the Pakistani army is slightly better of since it occupies smaller portion of the glacier and its road-head is only 20 kms away from the farthest post. Indian troops on the other hand are stationed about 80 km away from the road-head and have to be maintained entirely by Air, which is not only cost prohibitive but also risky because of the adverse weather conditions most of the times. Interestingly the Pakistani soldiers can not go up to the glacier and the Indian forces can not come down.
Two countries have talked in the past, the eighth round of talks was held after a gap of 7 years in Delhi in September 2004 in which both the countries agreed to discuss modalities for disengagement and redeployment of troops. They also agree to continue talks and find a solution to most serious issue that is Siachen.
Under the changed circumstances in south Asia there is every reason why Pakistan and India should pursue the matter in earnest. The peace process has received full baking from their people, and it is highly unlikely that hawkish opposition to an agreement for demilitarization will get popular support. The issue now poses a challenge to the two governments. If they pursue the matter in real earnest, there is no reason why they can not finally agree on a demilitarized Siachen.
It would not be prudent to expect too much too soon, but it is time for both the countries to seriously rethink that what they have gained by bleeding themselves-to control Siachen and both the countries should get of the old grooves and begin to look at the issue in the larger political and human context rather than simply in the narrow military sense. Let there be a cohesive plan of action followed by a positive political will by both the countries to at least agree on withdrawal to less harsh and more hospitable positions and to pledge that no patrols will be carried out by either side.

(Hafizullah Shiekh is a Research scholar Political Science Department, University of Kashmir)

Demilitarisation of Siachen – AOC-in-C for sector-by-sector approach

Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service Thoise, May 11, 2006 Suggesting a sector-by-sector demilitarization of Siachen Glacier, the world?s highest battlefield, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command, Air Marshal S.K. Singh, said that first both sides must arrive at a broad policy agreement on the issue. ??Once a decision is made in principle, things can be worked out further on a sector-by-sector basis,?? he said while addressing media persons at Thoise Airfield, the launching pad for air operations in Siachen. The Siachen glacier consists of five sub-sectors. Since the Indian Army moved to occupy the frozen heights in 1984, India and Pakistan had been involved in regular fire fights till November 2003, when a mutually agreed upon ceasefire was implemented along the Line of Control. ??The two-and-a-half-year-long ceasefire is a major respite. This, coupled with other confidence building measures is leading us towards a solution to the issue of demilitarisation of the area,?? Air Marshal Singh said. ??If that solution completes the picture then we can impose it or put it in place piece by piece,?? he added. ??If demilitarisation does take place, the role of the Air Force in the region would be reduced, but by no means would it be over,?? he said. ??Some troops would always be positioned in the area to man certain posts and it would be for the IAF to maintain them,?? he added. The WAC chief also ruled out relying totally on technology for surveillance in the post-demilitarisation era. ??Unmanned aerial vehicles and remote surveillance equipment can only be used partially in this sector because it is difficult to control them under extreme weather and climatic conditions,?? Air Marshal Singh said. ??Technology can never completely replace human assets,?? he added On the issue of the 1999 Kargil conflict, he denied there was any delay on the part of the IAF to launch air operations against the Pakistani intruders. On the question of Gen V P Malik?s recently released book on the conflict, Air Marshal Singh said that it does not match official records. ??The book contains his individual viewpoints and there are several dichotomies in it,?? he remarked. General Malik was the Chief of the Army during the conflict, while Air Marshal Sing was Air-I WAC, in charge of the IAF operations. Air Marshal Singh also stressed upon the need for setting up an Aerospace Command. ??We are fast moving towards space and require an aerospace command, which should include agencies like ISRO and HAL,?? he said. Besides air maintenance, the IAF is also assisting the Army in counter insurgency operations. ??At any given time, we have two fully armed Mi-17s, equipped with guns, rockets, night vision goggles and search and rescue equipment on stand-by at Doda,?? the Air Marshal said. The Leh and Thoise airfields have also been made fully fighter aircraft capable and aircraft come there regularly for exercises.

Solution to Siachen not intractable

T. R. Ramachandran writes in for Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 7, 2006
With a clear directive from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to find an early solution to the protracted Siachen problem, the two sides have stepped up diplomatic and back channel efforts amid indications that demilitarisation of the highest and most treacherous battlefield in the world is a complex issue but not an intractable one.

When Dr Singh made this suggestion in June last year, it found an echo in Pakistan though the neighbour’s instant public reaction was to urge India to unconditionally vacate its 1983 aggression.

With the meeting of the Defence Secretaries scheduled for next month, sources alluded to some forward movement on the Siachen issue. The secret meeting between the National Security Adviser, Mr M.K. Narayanan, and Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Dubai two months ago appears to have set the tone for moving forward in finding a solution to the problem.

At the same time sources drew attention to the complexities involved as the Prime Minister had affirmed there was going to be no redrawing of boundaries. The matter of Pakistan accepting and authenticating the drawing of a straight line north of the Soltoro Ridge was of critical importance. Till the actual ground position line (AGPL) was worked out, withdrawal of troops by both sides could only take place subject to certain some other parameters being thrashed out.

While India has assured Pakistan of its sincerity in striving for a solution, there is an element of skepticism as little headway was made at the last Defence Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in Islamabad last May.

Even if the UPA government and the armed forces are not unduly worried about losing control of Bilafond La, Gyong La or Siya La, the three passes along the Soltoro range, the key issue is Pakistan reneging on its part of the bargain and trying to gain control of these heights a la Kargil at a later stage in a demilitarised situation.

The political leadership wants to ensure that such an act will be treated as an act of war and India will be well within its right to mount an attack at any place of its choice. The armed forces can strike at any site of its calling along the 780-km LoC as these will be localised skirmishes.

The sources explained that for effective demilitarisation, there had to be a constant monitoring mechanism and meetings of Commanders to end the eyeball-to-eyeball contact.

The view of retired and senior Army officers, diplomats, academics and strategic experts is that there is no strategic significance to Siachen other than the need to guard against Pakistan’s attempts to link Karakoram Pass with the area in Shaksgam Valley which Islamabad illegally ceded to China in 1963 and through which the Karakoram highway has been built.

It will also be necessary to delineate the present positions of both sides on the ground for the subsequent demilitarisation. Without delineation it will not be possible for India to deal effectively with violations in future, experts aver.

India mulls August pullout from Siachen

Pramod Kumar Singh in New Delhi writes in The Pioneer on April 5, 2006

Feb 2006: NSA-Aziz agree in principle
May: Def Secys to meet
Aug: PM may sign agreement
—- The UPA Government appears to have buckled under US pressure and the persistent demands of Pakistan to completely withdraw its 4,000 strong troops from Siachen, the highest battlefield in the world.

After a secret meeting between National Security Advisor (NSA) MK Narayanan and Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Dubai in the last week of February, India has agreed in principle to the phased withdrawal of the Indian Army from its positions.

The NSA is believed to have discussed the matter threadbare with Mr Aziz and also conveyed the seriousness of the Indian Government on the issue.

Well placed Government sources told the Pioneer that the finer points of this highly contentious issue will be discussed in the next round of Defence Secretary-level meeting of the two countries in the first week of May. If all
goes well, the agreement could be inked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visits Pakistan in August this year.

While the details of this visit are being worked out, the withdrawal of the Indian Army from Siachen will top the agenda.
Though Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Defence are not in complete agreement as to the overall proposal, they will be forced to fall in line once the Government decides to go ahead with its demilitarisation plan.

Ever since then prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered the deployment of the Indian Army in Siachen in April 1984, Pakistan has been demanding the total withdrawal of the Indian troops. It has used every trick in its trade to hammer across its argument that Indian Army should withdraw from Saltoro Hills of NJ-9842 mountain peak.

The strategic importance of Saltoro Hills can be gauged from the fact that it takes only four days to enter into Indian territory from Pakistan’s side despite a maze of extremely narrow routes.

Indian Army had further fortified its deployment after the Kargil War much to the chagrin of Pakistan. Officers and men of the Indian Army should be complemented for having effectively checkmated any misadventures from Pakistan in this sector, the sources said.

In the event of Indian troops pulling out of Saltoro Hills, Pakistan would be able to straighten the passage between Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Aksai Chin. Pakistan had also not agreed to accept the actual ground position line (AGPL) since it had set its eye on this strategic terrain.

Most importantly, Pakistan will never agree to authenticate its military-held positions in this area, as it wants to first seek the withdrawal of Indian Army and then exploit it for fulfilling its ulterior motives.

Apprehensions are being expressed that if the peace process between India and Pakistan gets derailed and the Pakistan Army meanwhile occupies key positions in Siachen, India will have to really move the mountains to regain its previously-held positions.

Siachen: coming down to earth

July 2005 By A. R. Siddiqi INDIA’S army chief General Jogindar Jaswant Singh is reported to have offered to pull out his troops from the dizzy heights of Siachen. The general is said to have already proposed a “roadmap” to his government to convert the Siachen glacier into a “mountain of peace”, in deference to the gaming wishes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

This is a dramatic and a welcome change coming as it does from the first Sikh Indian army chief, reportedly a hawk. Only last month, when secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan happened to be in progress in Islamabad, Gen Singh appeared on television to declare that the only solution acceptable to the Indian army would be one based on the actual ground position line (AGPL), Gen Singh?s own formulation.

General Singh made up for his lack of eloquence with the firmness of his tone and expression. His telecast lol warning almost threw a spanner into the works of the official talks, which ended somewhat abruptly leaving everyone wondering about the future of the CBMs between the two countries.

In his latest statement, Gen Singh has spoken unreservedly about converting Siachen and the controversial Saltoro ridge ? west of the glacier ? into a demilitarized zone. It is from this chain of high mountain peaks that the Indians control the glacier. The logic of India?s persistent refusal to vacate the Saltoro ridge is thus reversed by Gen Singh?s draft plan for demilitarization.

It is to be noted that demilitarization or disengagement will not by itself amount to a waiver of the claim by either party to the territories under their occupation. A demarcation line on operational maps will be delineated to indicate the respective online gaming areas for future reference and review. In view of the essentially non-strategic nature of the areas involved, there should be only a remote possibility for such an exigency ever to arise once the demilitarization is effected and mutual trust restored. In the opinion of a Pakistani expert on international law, Siachen may well be declared as ?terra nullis? (territory belonging to none) to ward off any question arising about its ?legal status? while demilitarization is under way and even thereafter, if necessary.

Yet another option available to the parties concerned could be international arbitration. After the war in the Rann of Kutch in May 1965, the dispute was referred for international arbitration. This option, nevertheless, should be invoked only after a collapse of the two-way process. The Kutch experience had been hardly to the satisfaction of either party, if only for the long hiatus between the initial referral of the dispute for arbitration, and its eventual settlement about four years later. Pakistan had to make do with 350 square miles of the northern Kutch as against its original claim to 3,500 square miles.

Siachen came into the picture in 1984 when Gen Chibber of the Indian army walked over into an area thinly-held by the Pakistan Army. Until then Pakistan exercised control over the glacier mainly for the issue of visas and transit league of legends permits to foreign mountaineers.

Various atlases and route maps showing Siachen on Pakistan?s side were rarely if ever disputed by India until Chibber?s forces intruded and occupied parts of the Saltoro range to the west.

Siachen does not figure either in the April 1948 agreement delimiting and demarcating the ceasefire line (CFL) or in the Shimla Agreement of 1972 delineating the Line of Control (LoC). The LoC was drawn on the basis of the areas in actual possession of India and Pakistan in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after the 1971 war. Only territories along the international border lost or gained through the war were swapped together with POWs.

As delimited by the military commanders, the LoC at its last point on the map was marked as NJ 9842. This is around 78 kilometres short of the Siachen Glacier, and remained undemarcated until Chibber?s forces entered to turn it into disputed territory and a zone of perpetual tension, frequent gun duels and the source of some actual engagements between the two armies. According to an Indian analyst Bharat Bhushan, the ?descriptive explanation? of the boundary line beyond NJ-9842 ? ?thence north to the glaciers? ? has created confusion. ?India believes that the boundary would go north through the nearest watershed, the Saltoro ridge. Pakistan draws a straight line from NJ-9842 going northeast to the Karakoram pass. The former interpretation gives control of the glacier to India, the latter to Pakistan,? he says.

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In sum, however, there would be hardly anything more exhilarating and gratifying than coming down to earth after an arduous, steep climb up the dizzy heights.?The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army.