Past conflicts with Pakistan and China, growing proximity between China and Pakistan via Karakoram pass and trust deficit with Pakistan altogether makes strategic Siachen glacier indispensable for India.

India cannot afford to withdraw its troops from the highest battlefield in the world today.

“Army Chief General Bikram Singh had yesterday said there was no need to withdraw Indian forces from Siachen while the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, in July this year had said the Kargil war had happened because of Siachen. Now, these two statements are more than ample to convey what Siachen means to us,” said a top Army officer.

The officer further said past conflicts with Pakistan, including the Kargil war, and growing ties between Islamabad and Beijing via the Karakoram pass should be looked into with right earnest.

“Siachen is strategically important for us and we should not think of squandering away the advantage,” he added.

Our presence in Siachen has kept the Karakoram highway within our range, said the officer.

“If we move out of Siachen, Pakistan will waste no time in capturing Saltoro Range, which will help them bridge Aksai Chin and northern areas gap with China,” said the officer.

Pakistan has already ceded Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley to China and if we move out of Siachen and they occupy Saltoro Range then they will have control over the entire Karakoram pass, he added.

A Defence Ministry source said the Army has given a detailed feedback on Siachen vis-à-vis possible implications of moving out of the glacier.

While Islamabad keeps on convincing us to demilitarise Siachen, there has been no shift in the strategy of ISI and the Pakistani army, he added.

At the same time we are also aware of the fact that large number of Chinese troops is present in Pak-occupied-Kashmir, the source said.

“At present, the Indian Army has its dominance on some parts of the Karakoram pass and within our range. We can’t afford to give up our advantage to Pakistan just because they want to demilitarise the glacier,” added the source.

Pakistan wants India to withdraw to positions that existed in 1984 while India insists upon Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) and wants Pakistan to authenticate it on the map.

The AGPL is not clearly marked beyond NJ-9842, just short of the Siachen glacier, thereby triggering the dispute between the two countries.

 

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