Siachen glacier

From Academic Kids

The Siachen Glacier is located in the East Karakoram/Himalaya. It is the planet's largest alpine glacier outside the poles, and thus is sometimes referred to as the third pole. It is situated at an altitude of 5,400 meters above sea level. The Siachen glacier is the great Himalayan watershed that demarcates central Asia from the Indian sub-continent, and that separates Pakistan from China in this region. The 78 km long Siachen glacier lies between the Saltoro ridge line to the west and the main Karakoram range to the east. The Saltoro ridge originates from the Sia Kangri in the Karakoram range and the altitudes range from 18,000 to 24,000 ft. The major passes on this ridge are Sia La at 20,000 ft and Bila Fond La at 19,000 ft.

The glacier is located in the disputed Kashmir region and is claimed by India and Pakistan. In spite of the severe climate, the word 'Siachen' ironically means 'the place of roses', a reference to the abundance of Himalayan wildflowers found in the valleys below the glacier. The glacier is also the highest battleground on Earth where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently for the past 17 years. Both countries maintain permanent military personnel on the glacier at a height of over 7,000 metres. The site is a prime example of Mountain warfare. The glacier's melting waters are the source of the Indus River, crucial to both India and Pakistan.

The roots of the conflict over Siachen lie in the non-demarcations on the western side on the map beyond a map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1949 Karachi agreement and the 1972 Simla agreement presumed that it was not feasible for human habitation to survive north of NJ9842. Prior to 1984 neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent presence in the area

In the 1970s and early 1980s Pakistan permitted several mountaineering expeditions to climb high peaks on this glacier. This was to reinforce their claim on the area as these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. Operation Meghdoot (named after the divine cloud messenger in a Sanskrit play) was launched on 13 April 1984 when the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force went into the Glacier. Pakistan quickly responded with troop deployments.

The Indian Army controls the heights, holding on to the tactical advantage of high ground. The Pakistanis cannot get up to the glacier, while the Indians cannot come down. Presently India holds two-thirds of glacier and commands two of the three passes. Pakistan controls Gyong La pass that overlooks the Shyok and Nubra river Valley and India's access to Leh district. The battle zone comprised an inverted triangle resting on NJ 9842 with Indira Col and the Karakoram Pass as the other two extremities. Every year more soldiers are killed because of severe weather than enemy firing. Both the sides have lost close to 4,000 personnel primarily due to the extreme weather conditions.

On June 12, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian premier to visit the glacier calling for a peaceful resolution of the problem. In the previous year, the President of India, Abdul Kalam became the first head of state to visit the area.


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