The Crying Glacier

Siachen, the world’s second largest glacier, has been the world’s highest battle ground since 13 April, 1984 when Indian Army proclaimed this region. Now the real problem, that is quiet alarming, is that the glacier has developed many cracks, which if not checked may lead to streams and glacial lakes causing the glacier to melt and disappear. A permanent solution , which is the dire need of the time, would be a favour to the generations to follow and a service to humanity on the whole.

It is best said, decisions made in the start should be comprehensive, adequate and non discriminatory so that both parties should not have a conflict of interpretation while deciding national and international matters. Such Mistakes were done by our forefathers while agreeing upon the line of control (LOC) of Indo-Pak Borders. In 1949 Karachi and in 1972 Shimla agreements, NJ9842 was called ‘The Dead End’ as area beyond that till the Sino Border was declared as uncontrollable due to extreme weather conditions and difficult terrain. Thus by not demarking a proper LOC sowed the seed of Siachen Conflict between the two nuclear powers.

Siachen ‘The Place of Roses’ is the world’s second largest glacier outside the two poles also known as The Third Pole. This 70km mass of ice has been the world’s highest battle ground since 13 April, 1984 when Indian Army proclaimed this region.

Here the real enemy is only weather with temperatures varying from -35 to -60 C and pre-ceasefire statistics say Pakistan had to lose 1 person every fortnight while India every day.
In the early 70’s & 80’s Pakistan permitted several mountaineering expeditions to this region which were to reinforce its claim on the area as these expeditions arrived with a permit issued by Pakistani Government.  Several mountaineering maps also show this region in Pakistani Territory as these are used as an evidence while claiming this area.
Since Indian intrusion both countries have lost 2 billion dollars annually, 7 Indian and 3 Pakistani battalions guard the area with troops 10,000 each (Rough Estimate). Here the real enemy is only weather with temperatures varying from -35 to -60 C and pre-ceasefire statistics say Pakistan had to lose 1 person every fortnight while India every day.

The current ground position puts India in tactical advantage and creates a question mark on Pakistan’s Military Intelligence that was caught sleeping in summer 1984. India holds virtually the entire glacier and 3 of its passes: Sia La, Bilafond La and Gyong La, while Pakistan controls the west of Saltoro Ridge so as we stand Pakistanis cannot go up while the Indians cannot come down, Pakistanis can reinforce by foot and mules and India only through Helicopters.

Now the real problem, overshadowed by the war, is an alarming ecological survey conducted by SDPI. This survey that the glacier has developed many cracks, which if not checked may lead to streams and glacial lakes causing the glacier to melt and disappear. India, on the other hand, blames Global Warming for it but the fact of the matter is it is due to the Indian Army, facilitating its troops in the region. It is responsible of cutting and melting ice by coating chemicals for construction of bunkers just like Japanese did in World War 2 at Iwo Jima in the mountains.

Dumping of chemicals, metal organic, human waste and leakage of 200 gallons of kerosene oil is the main cause of these glacial cracks, current floods in Pakistan are blamed on Global Warming (La Nina) but recent cloud bursts on Siachen and Ladakh area are unnoticed. The glacial ice has lost 35% of its volume in the last 20 years and the Nubra River which drains into Shyok River, an Indus tributary, has been experiencing high flow of water from the last decade. This is quite alarming and points to the fact that how fast Siachen is melting.

There are many solutions proposed on this issue. The best one is both parties should give up there actual ground position line (AGPL), letting international bodies guard this piece of ice since Siachen itself is of very less importance for both nations. Then talks on Siachen are always overshadowed by the Kashmir issue as it is a part of the greater Kashmir which is the bone of contention between the two nations.

What I propose is to have the next serious high level discussion on the issue at Siachen so that the decision makers realize how difficult it is to survive on temperatures below -50 C and how bad the poor glacier is suffering since the last 3 decades.  A permanent solution would be a favour to the generations to follow and a service to humanity on the whole.
By: Azfar Rashid

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