Should India withdraw its troop from Siachen?

Siachen is the highest battlefield in the world at 20,000 ft (6000m) covering a contentious area in the range of 2,300 to 2,600 sq. km. The conflict arises due to the unclearly demarcated line in The Karachi Agreement (1949) and The Shimla Agreement (1972). During Operation Meghdhoot (1984), India was able to capture key Pakistani strategic points and an area of over 3000 sq. km. previously under Pakistan’s control. Since then both the countries have maintained soldiers on a permanent basis, though India occupies better higher and key strategic locations. UN has called for both the countries to stop the fight over this inhospitable and barren land.

More than 2,000 soldiers have died at the Siachen because of the extreme conditions and natural hazards. Last year, around 120 Pakistan soldiers lost their lives in an avalanche and this year 6 Indian soldiers died.

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Indian Army men at Siachen

Keeping in mind the extreme difficulties faced by soldiers and the value of their lives, if India withdraws from the glacier, then it will lose the key location advantage that it has since 1984. Also, even if both the countries decide to withdraw their troops, Pakistan’s word cannot be trusted since the latter is hell-bent on taking each and every inch of Kashmir (Pakistani Army was considering withdrawal after the 2015 Avalanche which killed 120 soldiers). It is a matter of pride and satisfaction for Indian soldiers who complete their requisite period of training at Siachen. The government can consider reducing that duration so that risk of fatality is reduced. Other possible solutions and analysis are:

  • use of remotely Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, but Pakistan may take up this issue with the UN.
  • use of snipers from less vulnerable locations; it will be a safe bet presuming Pakistan will not send its troops in hundreds all at once to capture the Indian side.

~Utkarsh Singh

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