General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of Northern Command of the Indian army Lt Gen DS Hooda has hinted at the possibility of troop’s withdrawal from the Siachen glacier. He also claimed that talks for the demilitarization of the glacier were “going on”.
In the prevailing scenario, discussion on the demilitarization of the Siachen is highly expected in the next round of Pak-India secretary level talks. The Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale has stated that the Indo-Pak secretary level talks will be held soon. The talks, he said were not dependent on investigations of the Pathankot attack.
“Our stand is clear. If we have to talk about the withdrawal of troops, first the actual positions on the ground, where we are today and where our posts are, needed to be authenticated,” stated Lt Gen DS Hooda.
The India army general made these comments during a press conference in response to the comments made earlier by Pakistan s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, who stressed on the Indians to urgently resolve the Siachen issue to end the conflict on the glacier.
The comments of Lt. Gen DS Hooda contradict the Indian defense minister Manohar Parriker who had categorically refused to withdraw troops from the glacier after ten Indian soldiers got buried and died in an avalanche on the Siachen.
The general stated that “some basic conditions have to be met before any withdrawal can be discussed”. Pakistan had earlier refused to accept the Indian demands of authenticating posts, and present boundary.
“Some of these are not agreeable to the other country and therefore, this agreement has not taken place” but talks are going on,” said Lt.Gen. Hooda
According to a report by Sajjad Paddar only 3% of the Indian casualties have been caused by hostile firing and the remaining 97% fall prey to the altitude, weather, and terrain.
“It’s is high time to ensure that more lives are not lost due to harsh weather conditions in Siachen”. The two neighbors the Pakistani envoy said should be able to resolve the problem through peaceful means.
Basit’s remarks coincided with the death of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad of the Indian army who expired after braving five days under 35 feet of snow on Siachen. Koppad was rescued but expired in the hospital despite getting medical aid. Nine members of his team disappeared when the avalanche buried them alive.
Majority of the soldiers, Indians and Pakistani stationed on the glacier die not due to enemy bullets but due to the arctic weather.
Despite the ceasefire since November 2003, a Pakistani solider dies every fourth day while an Indian soldier dies every day on the Siachen glacier not due to exchange of hostile gun fire but by the freezing temperature which dips down to minus 60 degree Celsius.
This is the highest battle ground in the world and till 1984 was just a reference point NJ 9842 on the boundary map a “ no man land” as agreed by the two countries till India decided to take advantage of the absence of military troops and occupied all the strategic heights on the glacier. The terrain was left unattended and not demarcated till 1984 by both side due to the inhospitable terrain and climate on top of the glacier.
Public opinion on both sides favor withdrawal of all troops from the glacier and in 1989 India and Pakistan were close to demilitarize the zone.