NEW DELHI: Much to the chagrin of Pakistan, the Indian Army will take a group of 30-odd civilians to the forbidding heights of the Siachen Glacier for the eighth year in a row between August and October this year.
When India launched the Siachen trekking expedition for civilians for the first time in 2007, Pakistan had vociferously protested against the move saying it was not helping the cause of peace between the two nations.
Organisations associated with defence forces, media persons, Rashtriya Indian Military College and Rashtriya Military School cadets, and adventure lovers will participate in the trek, according to a notice put up by the Indian Army on its website. They will be given mountaineering and snowcraft training ahead of the trek, which would take them from Siachen Base camp up to Kumar Post at an altitude ranging from 16,000 feet to 22,000 feet, where temperature can dip to minus 50 degree Celcius.
The adventure activity for mountaineering enthusiasts is meant to showcase to the global community that the Indian Army holds the 72-km-long glacier on the Saltoro ridge and that Pakistan is nowhere near it.
India has maintained that it doesn’t need Pakistan’s concurrence to hold a trekking expedition of its civilians in Siachen Glacier, it being in the Indian territory. In fact, the Indian armed forces carried out their first ever trekking expedition for military personnel to Siachen in the late 1970s and followed it up with a full-fledged military action in 1984 under Operation Meghdoot.
The Indian military operation was prompted by a Pakistani move to send a Japanese team of mountaineers to Siachen Glacier that year. Since then, both sides fought a bitter battle on the icy heights of the Glacier till November 2003, when the guns stopped booming following a ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.
In recent years, there have been opinion that Siachen Glacier was a low hanging fruit for both sides to resolve the territorial issues, with Pakistan wanting demilitarisation of the glacier, but India asking it to first authenticate the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) as the border before it withdraws its troops.
Both sides have now lost more people due to the adverse climate on the glacier than artillery shelling in the last decade.