Guns Silent In Siachen, But Weather Remains Hostile
2 February 2005
The Indian Express
Siachen: For the first time since 1984, though guns have fallen silent even along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC), the 13-month long ceasefire between India and Pakistan has failed to bring any respite to the jawans facing hostile weather conditions in Siachen - the world's highest battle-field at an altitude of 21,000 feet in Jammu and Kashmir. Explain senior Army officers, though there has been no shelling from across the border in the last 13-months, the cessation of hostilities between the two countries does not warrant complacence among troops. The jawans have to remain alert and in a state of preparedness at the forward positions round the clock as the other side has reasons to come up to the ridge line at the glacier. There have been numerous attempts by Pakistan in the past, a senior Army officer said, adding that it had tried to climb up to the ridge line around six-seven months ago too. 'However, when we made a movement after noticing them, they withdrew from the area,' he added. At present, Indian troops control 76 km of the glacier, compared to only eight km under the occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan wants to come up to the ridge line as that would enable the soldiers to have a view of the Indian positions who, otherwise hold positions at a dominating height on the glacier. In order to maintain dominance, Indian troops continue to move from base camp to forward posts with ration and other materials. And in such a situation, though there has been no shelling in the area for the last one year, survival continues to be a major challenge for troops, with hostile weather conditions being their biggest enemy in the area. Only a few days ago, the troops lost a doctor who fell into a crevice while moving up on the glacier. His body could not be retrieved despite persistent efforts. Apart from this, winter diseases like frost- bite, bronchitis etc. also pose a big challenge in the area, a senior Army officer said. Earlier too, weather used to be the main enemy in the area as there have been very few casualties due to shelling from across the border, he added. Colonel Ajay Ohri, Commanding Officer of 2 Kumaon, said that casualty rate among troops had decreased considerably as the troops have been provided with better equipment, clothing etc. There has been no casualty due to the avalanche on the glacier in the last one month, he added. However, as Indian troops are at more dominating positions than their Pakistani counter-parts, they face greater hostile weather conditions compared to the latter.