India-Pakistan Imbroglio(4): The Siachen Conflict

Background:

The Siachen Glacier:

  • Longest glacier in the Karakoram Ranges (72 Km long ).
  • Altitude: 18,875 ft.
  • The region between NJ 9842(a map coordinate), Indira Col(in the North West) and Karakoram pass.
  • Highest battlefield in the world.
  • Derived its name from the wild roses that grow there.

 

Genesis of the dispute:

  • 1949 Karachi agreement: did not explicitly demarcated the Ceasefire Line as far as China(any demarcation has to reach China)
  • Demarcation reached till NJ 9842(a map coordinate) but not after that.
  • For further demarcation–> a vague clause was included in the Karachi agreement(1949). After NJ 9842, it mentioned: “Chorbat La, Chalunka(on Shyok river) ..[a few more points in that region] ..thence North to the glaciers.

Thence North to the Glaciers”

Here lies the immediate cause of contention. Different interpretations of this clause is the cause of the dispute.

  • India’s interpretation: The Line of Control should proceed from the NJ 9842 through the Saltoro Ridge to the Chinese Border. This was Siachen falls with India.
  • Pakistan’s interpretation: LOC should go straight through the Karakoram pass to the Indo-Chinese border. Thus, the glacier lies with Pakistan.

Image result for siachen dispute

Operation Meghdoot(1984):

This was the point of culmination of the dispute. India’s pre-emptive operation to occupy Siachen before the Pakistan’s Operation Aba Beel which intended the same.

Current Positions(or Actual Ground Position Line):

  • Siachen completely occupied by India.
  • Disputed area: 2,300 sq.km.
  • Indian check posts:25,000 Feet or more altitude.
  • Pakistan check posts: between 9,000-15,000 Feets.
  • Nearly, 10,000 troops of both the sides have been deployed.

Pakistan demands and claims:

  • Demilitarization:  Indian occupation should be taken off and pre-1984 situation should be restored.

India’s skepticism and objections:

India is skeptic about this option as :

(i) it would be abdicating from its own position.

(ii) it could be an invitation to Pakistan to occupy the glacier.This would harm the internal security of India from the two sides(Pakistan and China).

(iii) India claims the whole Jammu and Kashmir as its legitimate territory. So, there is no scope of any stepping down.

  • India’s occupation is against the Shimla Agreement(1972) which mentioned that LoC as on December 17, 1971 must be respected.
    • However, the LoC is properly demarcated only till NJ 9842(same as the Ceasefire Line)–>thus, Siachen doesn’t come into play here.

Is there any importance of the Siachen glacier?

  • Siachen is a barren land with no productivity.
  • Thus, no economic or social importance is attached to the glacier.
  • However, strategically, it helps in keeping watch over the Shaksgam valley which is under Chinese occupation(this so-called advantage is struck down by many analysts).

Implications:

  • According to a figure of 2015, the combined death toll at Siachen stands at over 2,000.
  • Surprisingly enough, around 97% of these deaths are due to extreme weather and altitude.
  • This is an unfortunate loss of the young armed forces of both the sides.

Options ahead:

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

  • Maintaining Status quo: this is highly undesirable due to unfavorable cost-benefit outcomes.
  • Mutual withdrawal without delineation: Undesirable as one side may assert its claim even after withdrawal–>may lead to further unrest in future.
  • Maintaining the present positions but with delineation: Unacceptable to Pakistan.
  • Mutual withdrawal recording the current positions and exchanging them as a part of annexure without prejudice to each other’s stated position–>one of the best options on the cards.
  • Convert Siachen into a common territory(a peace park)–>or to take it further convert it into an international center for glacial research –>international presence would act as a deterrent for any Pakistani attempts to occupy the region while also keep a check on Chinese activities in the Karakoram.

 

 

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