Siachen Conflict: A Battle against Nature
The Siachen Glacier is one of the most inhospitable and glaciated regions in the world. Sliding down a valley in the Karakoram Range, the glacier is 76 kilometers long and varies in width between 2 to 8 kilometers. It receives an annual snowfall of more than 35 feet. Blizzards can last 20 days. Winds reach speeds of 125 miles per hour. Temperatures can plunge to minus 60 degrees. For these reasons, the Siachen Glacier has been called the ‘Third Pole.’ Initially Siachen was considered to be completely inhospitable and not worth any conflict on the ground. The original cease fire line (CFL) agreed to by India and Pakistan in the July 1949 Karachi Agreement did not cover the area of the glaciers because of the difficulties of delineating the line. When the ceasefire line was changed into a mutually accepted line of control (LoC) in October 1972, the newly delineated line ran from the Shyok River west of Thang (a village) to Point NJ 9842. The area north of it was left blank and open to encroachments. Indians and Pakistanis have tried to stake their territorial claims by interpreting the vague language contained in the 1949 and 1972 agreements to prove their respective points. India launched Operation Meghdoot on 13 April 1984, after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave the go-ahead call to the Indian army and air force. Pakistan quickly responded with troop deployments, and what followed was literally a race to the top. India and Pakistan held seven rounds of bilateral talks on the Siachen conflict between 1986 and 1998. These negotiations failed for various reasons. The death of Pakistani President General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988 certainly stalled the process. With the revival of the Composite Dialogue Process in 2004, India and Pakistan have entered a new cycle of negotiations on the Siachen conflict. While offering a treaty of “Peace, Friendship and Security” to Pakistan in March 2006, Indian Prime...
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