Archive for October, 2014

Siachen Glacier – Basic Facts …

Posted on October 21, 2014. Filed under: From a Services Career |

The Siachen Glacier is in Norhern Ladakh and lies East of the Korakoram range. It is 76 km long (say 50 miles) and 3 km wide (say 2 miles) and 700 sq km in area (less than 450 sq miles).  Peaks range up to 25,000 ft high and average snow fall is 35 ft. Temperatures are up to minus 50 degrees Celsius.

In 1912 two Americans, Fanny Bulluck Workman and her husband, William surveyed the Siachen Glacier for the first time. They found walls of a settlement near ‘Teram Shehr Glacier’.

In 1977, Colonel Narendra Kumar, the famed mountaineer, who was Commandant of the Army High Altitude Warfare School at Gulmarg, was approached by a German rafter who wanted to undertake the first descent of the Nubra River, from its source at the snout of the Siachen Glacier. He showaed a map that showed a dotted line connecting NJ 9842 tok the Karakoram Pass.

Thereafter Colonel Kumar took an expedition to the Glaciers halfway point and ascended the Terram Karigri II located at the edge of the Shaksgam Valley.

Later that year the IMF sent an Expedition to Kimbo Peak on the Glacier and which overlooked the Aksai Chin.

Here the Chinese had built their road to link the Eastern and Western Posts in Tibet and hence the 1962 India China War of 1962. This was followed by Pakistan ceding an area of some 5200 sq km of the Shaksgam Valley, (of J and K) North of what became Indra Col, to China. With this the mountain K2, the worlds second highest Peak, came to be owned by both, Pakistan and China.

Thereafter the Indian Army gained control of the Saltaro Ridge, 17880 ft to 25330 ft and went on to establish some 108 Posts along the undelineated Actual Ground Position Line or AGPL.

Pakistan views India as the aggressor and blames India for surreptitiously occupying the Saltoro Ridge ahead of the Siachen Glacier. This is based in the way in which the two sides interpret the line ‘thence North to the glaciers’, which refers to the un-demarcated portion north of NJ 9842.

While Pakistan interprets these words as a line extending in a north easterly direction from NJ 9842 to the Karakoram Pass in Chinese occupied Aksai Chin, India interprets it as following the Saltoro Range, which begins at NJ 9842 and runs in a north westerly direction, on the watershed principle all the way up to Indra Col. Both interpretations encompass the massive Siachen Glacier. Neither interpretation leaves scope for sharing the icy wasteland.

Beginning with the construction of the Karakoram Highway following Pakistan’s cessation of the Shaksgam Valley to China, Beijing is far more active in this region.

The Karakoram Highway is being expanded in width to 30 m in order to permit plying of all weather heavy transport vehicles. A rail link has been planned and fibre optic cables are being laid – perhaps eventually an oil pipeline.

Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea could eventually be China’s western port, which in turn could be just 2,500 km from Xinjiang compared to the current 4,500 km distance to the nearest port on China’s east coast. Ceding the NJ 9842-Indra Col-Karakoram Pass triangle to Pakistan would strengthen the Sino-Pakistan footprint on these strategic heights.

India, from 2007, has begun permittng Indian and foreign expeditions in the area.

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