Friday, November 20, 2009

Pakistani Army Documentary Wins Top Award

Life of a Siachen Soldier, a documentary produced by Pakistan Army, has won the top prize at the International Film Festival "Eserciti-e-popoli" (armies and people) recently held in Rome, Italy, according to Inter Services Public Relations(ISPR) directorate. Armed Forces representatives from 21 countries, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States, participated in the contest where 150 documentaries were screened in different categories. This year, Pakistan Army’s documentary won the first prize in the category of training and was awarded Chief of Army Staff trophy.

Produced by Brigadier Syed Azmat Ali and directed by Col Syed Mujtaba Tirmizi, the movie focuses on the training and deployment of Pakistan Army soldiers on Siachin glacier. Last Year ISPR won two awards in this competition.

Documentary is about life on Siachin Glacier, also known as the third Pole for the largest mass of ice outside of the North and South Poles. Siachin is among he most beautiful, enigmatic and spell-binding places on earth. It lies at more than 5,500m above sea level in the disputed region of Kashmir. This frozen stagnant Landscape is nothing short of Divine Art.

The tranquility of this beautiful place was disturbed in 1984 by an Indian incursion, transforming it into the highest battle field on earth. This war was unlike any other. The soldiers had to fight two enemies: the opposing Indian soldiers and the hostile weather. More soldiers on both sides have died from the extreme cold than from enemy fire. In spite of repeated discussions, the two sides have failed to overcome their differences on pulling back troops from the world's highest battlefield.

Pakistan wants both sides to pull back to the positions they held more than 20 years ago before India occupied most of the ice field.

India agrees but says the withdrawal should be preceded by marking the current position of the two forces.

Lack of agreement has produced a high-altitude standoff that forces year-round deployment of soldiers by both sides. The back-channel diplomacy is currently focusing on a solution that includes demilitarization of the entire region of Kashmir, including Siachen.

Meanwhile, the Siachen glacier is melting at an unprecedented rate, partly due to global warming, but mainly because of the permanent troops deployments. The glacial ice has been cut and melted; cutting and melting of glacial ice through the application of chemicals have made it the fastest melting glacier in the Himalayas. The situation is further exacerbated by dumping of chemicals, metals, organic and human waste and leaks from 2000 gallons of kerosene oil from 250 km plastic pipeline laid by India on the glacier.

The beautiful Siachen is likely to turn into an environmental disaster unless both India and Pakistan agree to vacate it in the best interest of their people. The rapid disappearance of this glacier will further aggravate the water crisis the two nations are facing.

Here is a video clip of the documentary about Siachen:

Related Links:

Growing China Role in Kashmir and Afghanistan

Water Scarcity in South Asia

Pakistan Army Capabilities

Can Pakistan Defeat the Taliban?

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Y.B. Chavan's Diary of 1965 War

Indian War Myths About Pakistan

Kashmir Holds the Key to Peace in South Asia

India's Missile Shield

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Pakistani Research on Antarctica

Pakistan Army

Evaluation of Military Strengths--India vs. Pakistan

Only the Paranoid Survive

21st Century High-Tech Warfare

Pakistan Army, the Taliban and Washington

Indian Attempts to Scuttle F-16s For Pakistan

Attrition Rates For IAF and PAF


Anonymous said...

Have you read the book "Liberty or Death". It is by British Author Patric French. in 1997 UK declassified all documents related to their Raj days as the Raj ended 50 yrs ago. Patrick painstakingly went thru all communications between London and New Delhi and unearthed treasures.

This book is to a large extent offending to India as it exposes Gandhi, Nehru. No wonder it was banned in India. But it dealt with facts, specially the Kashmir issue after 1947.

Anyhow the book mentions 1971. Here is that

Book: Liberty or death
Author: Patric French
Page: 421
When I was in Pakistan in 1998, nobody had been very concerned about Bangladesh.
The war of 1971 was a forgotten embarrassment, although most people
were vaguely agreed that it had been a mistake to have one country
in two separate halves. There was little guilt, or even knowledge,
about the atrocities that had been carried out against their fellow
Pakistanis in the east. In thr words of one retired official in Lahore,
the Bengalis were 'just black fellows with monkey beards' -- colonial
subjects who had been a liability to the exchequer, and could now be
Tahira Mazhar Ali, the political activist and daughter of the Punjabi leader
Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, was the only person who had become noticeably
angry when talking about the treatment of the East Pakistanis. She told me a
story about a demonstration by a women's group against the military
action at the time.
We were all spat upon and then arrested by the police. As we were being
taken away one woman, just a woman from the bustis[slums] shouted,
"When the flower falls from the hair of the Bengali girl, it is the
Punjabi girl who weeps". That was an incredible moment but most
people weren't thinking along those lines at all. I can remember at
one official function where there was a group of women, wives of
members of the elite, and I overheard one laughing to the others
"What does it matter if women in Bengal are being raped by our soldiers?
At least the next generation of Bengalis will be better looking."
that was the kind of attitude you found here in 1971, and it is
still around today.

ps: I am an Indian.

Mayraj said...

By the way, you should read what Pavan Nair, a retired Indian Colonel says about Siachen. Both armies are also ruining the glacier. This will effect both countries more adversely than imagines. One would think in the age of global arming they would wake up.

Before Global Warming was discussed so regularly in the media, I was at a biannual Pakistan conference at Columbia in the beginning of this century, where experts on Kashmir said main reason for dispute now is: water.

I think global warming will turn India into Somalia, unless India starts taking drastic action now to prepare for it. Simple things like water conservation and improvement water management are key.

India has less territory than China yet almost as many people. This is not a positive prognosis.

Riaz Haq said...

I think Pakistan, with only 1000 cubic meters per capita, has a more serious water problem than India at 1600.

Among the 25 most populous countries in 2009, South Africa, Egypt and Pakistan are the most water-limited nations. India and China, however, are not far behind with per capita renewable water resources of only 1600 and 2100 cubic meters per person per year. Major European countries have up to twice as much renewable water resources per capita, ranging from 2300 (Germany) to 3000 (France) cubic meters per person per year. The United States of America, on the other hand, has far greater renewable water resources than China, India or major European countries: 9800 cubic meters per person per year. By far the largest renewable water resources are reported from Brazil and the Russian Federation - with 31900 and 42500 cubic meters per person per year.

Mayraj said...

I wasn't aware of this water problem being extreme until I read an article in The New Scientist. India was said to be the epicenter of water acquifer abuse, because a million tubewells go up each year.
Asian farmers sucking the continent dry

Keep in mind South Asian glaciers are retreating the fastest; and monsoons are due to become more fickle (and India farmers rely on them more than China).

I think per capita Pakistan and India are both in deep trouble;and both need to focus on conservation and improved water management.

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "I think per capita Pakistan and India are both in deep trouble;and both need to focus on conservation and improved water management."

I entirely agree. I have writing about this issue and have seen little action on it in the sub-continent. I know in Pakistan farmers use about 98 of all the water, with about 2 left for industrial, services sectors and consumer use.

The use of flood irrigation in farming in India and Pak is very wasteful and causes other problems. They need to switch to sprinklers or drip irrigation methods.

Mayraj said...

Riaz said,
"They need to switch to sprinklers or drip irrigation methods."

Riaz, I agree with you completely.

This inertia is criminal negligence at best. Perhaps landowners should be made aware that they are depriving themselves of a livelihood, so that they take remedial action, even as govt fails them.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report talking about the threat of war over water sharing between India and Pakistan:

The sharing of river waters between India and Pakistan is a "sensitive issue" that has the potential for triggering a war between the two countries, an adviser to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said.

Sardar Aseff Ali, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, made the remarks while speaking to the media after a seminar in Lahore yesterday.

He claimed India "will have to stop stealing Pakistan's water as the latter will not hesitate to wage war" over the issue.

Pakistan might seek international arbitration on the water issue by taking it up with the International Court of Justice or the UN Security Council if India tries to build any more dams that affect the country's share of waters, Ali said.

Pakistan can also back out of the Indus Waters Treaty and India will be responsible for the consequences, he said.

However, Ali also acknowledged that a solution to the problem cannot be found through sentimental rhetoric and the Indus Waters Treaty is the proper forum for resolving the issue.

Replying to a question on India's Baglihar dam, Ali said former President Pervez Musharraf was responsible for this project being built without any protest from Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has joined "save water" campaign to help Mumbai deal with a severe water crisis, according to the BBC:

India's star batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, says he has renounced showers in favour of "bucket baths", as part of a campaign to save water in Mumbai.

A bucket bath is simply a bucket of water and a mug to wash oneself with. It uses much less water than a shower.

The international cricketer has made a short film urging the people of Mumbai to save water.

Mumbai has been facing severe water shortages and cuts of up to 30% have been imposed in most parts of the city.

The cricketer says his entire family has switched to bucket baths in an effort to save water. The 30-second film is expected to be aired in the coming weeks.

Water riots

Officials say that with Sachin Tendulkar starring in the film, its impact will be much greater.

A shower is said to consume more water than any other daily action.

Resorting to bucket baths and stored water is a way of life for residents in many areas, as water is supplied for only a couple of hours each day.

Monsoon rainfall has not been sufficient to resolve the shortage and the water cuts will continue until June or July 2010.

Mumbai has a daily requirement of 4,200m litres of water, and it is falling short by 800m litres.

In recent months the shortage has sparked violent demonstrations by Mumbai residents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a recent post by Soutik Biswas of on his Kashmir visit:

"The interminable day and night curfews have drained all life out of Srinagar. People have retreated into their homes leaving back graffiti on the walls screaming Go Back India! In the restive old city, surly young men sit outside shuttered homes and shops and glare at the troops peering out of sandbagged bunkers and manning the razor wire checkpoints. People wake up at the crack of dawn to store up on supplies when the grocers open for a few minutes. At night, an eerie silence descends over the city as the moon plays hide and seek with the clouds.

It is another summer of unrest in what is possibly the most scenic valley in the world. Two months of cyclical violence between stone pelting protesters and heavily armed security forces have left more than 50 dead - mostly teenagers. Things are looking grimmer than ever before. It's a summer that could turn out to be another defining point in the valley's tortured history. A whole generation of children of the conflict - Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer evocatively calls it their "war of adolescence" - who grew up in the days of militancy and violence in the early 1990s are driving the protests today. (Seven out of 10 Kashmiris are below 25.)

Growing up in the shadow of the gun and what they say is "perpetual humiliation" by the security forces, they are angry, alienated and distrustful of the state. As prominent opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti tells me when I visit her at her heavily secured home overlooking the stunning Dal lake: "If these young men are not given something to look forward to, God help Kashmir." The valley, most residents say, is in the early stages of an intifada."

"One mother emptied a cupboard and a suitcase full of of her 14 yr-old boy's belongings for me. Wamiq Farooq had gone to play in the neighbourhood when a tear gas shell fired by the troops exploded on his head. Doctors tried to revive him for an hour at the hospital before declaring him dead.

Now, sitting on a brown rug in a modest family home, his mother brings out Wamiq's red tie, red belt, white cap, fraying blue uniform, half a dozen school trophies, report cards, school certificates and then his pithy death certificate. "He is sure to be a face in the crowd," writes his school principal on one certificate praising Wamiq, the Tom and Jerry cartoons and science-loving teenaged son of a street vendor father. Then she slowly puts back Wamiq - his life and death - back into the suitcase and the cupboard and tells me, her eyes welling up: "I never understood why Kashmiri people demand freedom. After Wamiq's death, I do. I want freedom too. So that my children can return home unharmed and in peace.""

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani soldiers won top award for Cambrian Patrol Exercise held in Wales with participation from armies of India, Australia, Canada, United States and France among others, according to PakTribune report:

LONDON, UK—Beating hundreds of soldiers from major armies of the world, Pakistan Army has won the coveted Gold Award at the prestigious Cambrian Patrol Exercise held in Wales with participation from armies of India, Australia, Canada, United States and France among others.

750 soldiers from across the world descended on the Brecon Beacons in Wales to suffer through one of the toughest exercises ever devised. The Cambrian patrol tested the soldiering skills of the teams as they crossed some of the most arduous terrain one can imagine.

During the marches, the teams had to complete challenges including observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold-river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and defensive shooting under attack.

The exercise is organized by the British Army [HQ 160 (W) Brigade on behalf of HQ 5 Div] with an aim to provide a challenging patrols exercise in order to develop operational capability. Cambrian Patrol is arduous and concentrates on leadership, teamwork, physical fitness and achieving the mission by drawing participants from foreign countries.

Here is the link to a video clip of the report from British Forces News:

Riaz Haq said...

It's not unusual for militaries in various nations to make films, nor is this is Pak Army's first foray in film-making.

Life of a Siachen Soldier, a documentary produced by Pakistan Army, won the top prize at the International Film Festival "Eserciti-e-popoli" (armies and people) held in Rome, Italy in 2009. Armed Forces representatives from 21 countries, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States, participated in the contest where 150 documentaries were screened in different categories. Pakistan Army’s documentary won the first prize in the category of training and was awarded Chief of Army Staff trophy

But Wall Street Journal does not seem to know this fact as obvious from the following story:

Pakistan's powerful army is involved in domestic politics, foreign affairs and defending the nation's soil from attack. Now it can add a new stripe to its uniform: television production house.

The military is funding a TV action series aimed at showcasing its role in fighting Taliban militants. To keep costs down, the army employs soldiers as actors, with no extra pay for their services, and uses real military equipment. The army says the stories are based on real-life encounters on the battlefield.

The series, "Faseel-e-Jaan Se Aagay," or "Beyond the Call of Duty," is low-budget. The soldiers' acting is wooden. Each episode costs only $12,000, and the special effects look dated. Yet the Urdu-language series, which started in January and began a second season earlier this month on state-owned Pakistan Television Corp., has been a hit, especially among rural viewers.

In the recent season opener, two helicopter pilots who stormed a Taliban mountain redoubt in 2009 played themselves. In the show, as in real life, the pilots had lost a colleague during an operation earlier that year to clear militants from South Waziristan, a mountainous tribal region near the Afghan border. Against orders, they flew a retaliatory mission against the Taliban and captured an anti-aircraft gun that militants had used to shoot down their friend's helicopter. They are reprimanded but become heroes nevertheless.

The pilots are portrayed as sensitive family men and cool sunglass-wearing aviators. When they are about to fire their weapons, they break into English, saying things like "Going in. Going hot," and "The miscreants are engaged." The battle scenes are set to Western rock music.

"I am a soldier by my heart and mind. I only agreed [to] acting to pay homage to my fellow aviators and soldiers," said Maj. Zahid Bari, one of the two pilots.

The director, Kashif Nisar, said he finds it easier to teach soldiers to act than actors to look like soldiers. Officers only need to be guided on acting skills, while professional actors need to be taught "action tactics, carrying of uniform, carrying of weapons, mannerisms and body language of a soldier," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Two Indian army officers burned to death when their shelter caught fire in the disputed Siachen glacier area of the Himalayas, the army told the BBC.

Two soldiers were injured when they tried to rescue the officers on Thursday night, an army spokesman said.

An inquiry has been ordered into how the fire started, he added.

Siachen borders the Pakistani- and Indian-administered portions of disputed Kashmir and is regarded as the world's highest battlefield.

India believes that the glacier is of vital, strategic and diplomatic value.

The two countries agreed a ceasefire deal over the Siachen glacier in 2003 but thousands of troops are deployed in the region.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Army documentary Glorious Resolve wins international award, according to PakistanToday:

Rawalpindi - Inter Services Public Relations documentary has won the first prize in the recently held International Film Festival “Eserciti-e-Popoli” (Army and People) held at Bracciano, Rome (Italy). The festival saw the participation of NATO and 24 Countries with 60 films grouped into several categories: from institutional training information to environmental protection to humanitarian missions for peace. The films, produced by renowned film makers were evaluated an qualified and experienced jury. The Pakistan Army’s documentary “Glorious Resolve” received the Jury’s Special award from the President of the Italian Senate with the citation “A technically outstanding and emotionally powerful dramatisation of the story of the courageous soldiers under fire in a dire combat situation”. The award given by Gen. Giancarlo Fortuna, the President of the International Jury was received by a representative of the Pakistani Embassy in Rome. ‘Glorious Resolve’ was a joint venture of ISPR and Mindworks Media. Brigadier Syed Azmat Ali was Executive Producer whereas Brig Syed Mujtaba Tirmizi was Executive Director of the film.
Lieutenant Colonel Irfan Aziz was project director and the writer of this film which was directed by Sarosh Kayani. Mindworks Media Dr Hassan Waqas Rana was the producer whereas Bilal Lashari was Director of Photography. Based on a true operational account, Glorious Resolve highlights the tale of infantry soldiers, who fought when 1,500 militants raided a section-level outpost of an Infantry Battalion in South Waziristan Agency on the night of 29 May 2009. The documentary focuses on the sacrifices and achievements of the Pakistan Army in its resolve to end terrorism in Pakistan. It shows how 43 Punjab Regiment soldiers were killed and two stood ground till reinforcements arrived.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a GeoTV report on massive avalanche that has buried over 100 Pakistani soldiers in Siachin:

Rescuers searching for 138 people buried under a huge avalanche at an army camp are concentrating their efforts on five points at the site, the military said on Tuesday.

A huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier base high in the mountains in Kashmir early Saturday morning, smothering an area of one square kilometre (a third of a square mile).

Despite harsh conditions, the military said efforts had intensified, with more than 450 people taking part up from 286 late on Monday aided by mechanical earth movers, bulldozers and excavators, and work is focusing on certain key areas.

"Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress," the military said in a statement.

"Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually."

At least 40 feet of snow have been removed so far with the help of heavy machinery to search for the victims.

Photographs released by the military Tuesday showed diggers and rescuers at work on an almost featureless expanse of dirty grey snow and ice, with no trace visible of the camp that had been the 6th Northern Light Infantry headquarters.

The total number believed missing in the disaster rose to 138 on Tuesday, as the military released an updated list naming 127 soldiers and 11 civilians.

They include a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain. The list can be found on the ISPR website.

Meanwhile rescue teams from the US, Switzerland and Germany are yet to reach the rescue site due to the bad weather.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report on glaciers in Karakoram range in Pakistan:

The glaciers flowing between the towering peaks of the Karakoram range on the Pakistan-China border have grown in size in the last decade, according to new research.

The impact of climate change on the ice in the greater Himalaya range has been controversial because of an unfounded claim by the United Nations' climate science panel over the rate of melting in the region. However the melting of vast volumes of ice into the sea in most other parts of the world has been clearly demonstrated. In March, scientists showed that far less ice was being lost across the Himalayas than had been estimated from sparse ground surveys on the remote slopes.

The new study shows that glaciers in one important part of the mountain range are growing. "We provide a detailed glacier-scale evaluation of mass changes in the central Karakoram," said Julie Gardelle, at CNRS-Université Grenoble, who led the research published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday. "In our warming world, there are regions of the Earth where, for a few years or decades, the atmosphere is not warming or is even cooling. So it is not really a big surprise that there are some regions where the temperature is not rising and the Karakoram may be one of those."

The scientists used 3D altitude maps obtained from satellites in 2000 and 2008 to track the changes in the glaciers. Prof Graham Cogley, of Trent University in Canada, who was not part of the research team, called the approach a "ground-breaking" advance.
Prof Jonathan Bamber, at the University of Bristol, said Gardelle's research was consistent with global gravity work. But he cautioned: "Nine years is a very short period to draw strong conclusions about trends in glaciers. If you are looking for a climate effect - as opposed to a weather effect - you usually take a 30-year period as a minimum, on the assumption that this averages out the interannual variability."

Cogley emphasised that, despite the relatively ice small growth seen the Karakoram, global glacier and ice cap melting is continuing and contributing to rising sea levels. "The world exhibits enormous variety, but that doesn't mean we cannot make valuable generalisations about how it is changing," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on Pakistani youngsters winning a ski competition in Korea:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani skiers clinched two top positions at a skiing competition called Dream Programme – 2013 held in Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea, said a press release on Monday.

President Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan congratulated Noor Muhammad and Shah Hussain of Naltar Ski School who won the gold and silver medals respectively at the event. He hoped that the success would significantly boost the SFP’s ventures in national and international ski events.

The winning skiers also met with the Korean Ambassador to Pakistan Choong-joo Choi who appreciated the performances of the budding players.

The Dream Programme was initiated by Gangwon Province in 2004 to promote winter sports in countries where winter sports facilities were not fully developed. Pakistan joined the programme in 2011.

This year, around 150 participants from 40 countries took part in the training after which athletes were divided into groups and competitions were held among them.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed piece in The News by columnist Farrukh Saleem:

Myth 1: The allocation for defence is the single largest component in our budget. Not true. The single largest allocation in Budget 2013-14 went to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The second largest allocation in Budget 2013-14 went to servicing the national debt. The third largest government expenditure, including off the budget allocations, are the losses at public-sector enterprises (PSEs). Yes, the fourth largest government expenditure goes into defence.

Myth 2: The defence budget eats up a large percentage of the total outlay. Not true. In Budget 2013-14, a total of 15.74 percent of the total outlay was allocated for defence. PSDP and debt servicing were 30 percent each. What that means is that more than 84 percent of all government expenditures are non-defence related.

Myth 3: The defence budget has been increasing at an increasing rate. Not true. In 2001-02, we spent 4.6 percent of our GDP on defence. In 2013-14, twelve years later, our defence spending has gone down to 2.7 percent of GDP.

Myth 4: We end up spending a very high percentage of our GDP on defence. Not true. There are at least four dozen countries that spend a higher percentage of their GDP on defence.

They include: India, Egypt, Sri Lanka, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, France, Eritrea, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Liberia, Brunei, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen, Angola, Singapore, Greece, Iran, Bahrain, Djibouti, Morocco, Chile, Lebanon, Russia, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Namibia, Guinea, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Algeria, Serbia and Montenegro, Armenia, Botswana, Ukraine, Uganda, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Lesotho and Sudan.

Myth 5: The Pakistan Army consumes the bulk of the defence budget. Not true. In the 1970s, the Pakistan Army’s share in the defence budget had shot up to 80 percent. In 2012-13, the Pakistan Army’s share in the defence budget stood at 48 percent.

Now some facts:

Fact 1: The Pakistan Army’s budget as a percentage of our national budget now hovers around eight percent.

Fact 2: Losses incurred at public-sector enterprises can pay for 100 percent of our defence budget.

Fact 3: Pakistan’s armed forces are the sixth largest but our expenses per soldier are the lowest. America spends nearly $400,000 per soldier, India $25,000 and Pakistan $10,000.

Fact 4: Of all the armies in the world, Pak Army has received the highest number of UN medals. Of all the armies in the world, Pak Army is the largest contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping missions.

Mark Twain once remarked, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

Riaz Haq said...

Since 1984, #Indian and #Pakistani forces have been occupying posts on or near the #SiachenGlacier, a 47-mile-long #glacier in the Himalayas. And despite a ceasefire in 2003, tensions remain high on the world’s highest battlefield. #Kashmir @atlasobscura

In 1983, India began receiving intelligence reports warning of an imminent Pakistani incursion into the region, and a potential assault on the Saltoro Ridge, a strategic location on the southwest side of the Siachen Glacier.

Pakistan was indeed planning to launch a strike, but it made a bizarre error. According to a retired Pakistani army colonel, Pakistan ordered Arctic-weather gear prior to the assault from a London outfitter. But the same outfitter also supplied the Indians. The Indians heard of the Pakistani order and promptly ordered twice as many outfits as the Pakistanis and then rushed their soldiers to Siachen.

Pakistan went ahead and launched Operation Ababeel in April 1984, with the intention of taking the Saltoro Ridge. But thanks to the previously obtained intelligence, India launched Operation Meghdoot just 48 hours before the Pakistani assault. When the Pakistan forces arrived, the Indians had already captured the heights of Saltoro.

India took control of around 1,000 square miles of territory during its military operations in Siachen. During the rest of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, both sides launched various combat operations in an attempt to take strategic positions.

But from the 2003 ceasefire up until the present day, things remained much as they had before, with India in control of the Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as all the main passes and ridges of the Saltoro Ridge. Pakistan, meanwhile, holds posts at lower elevations along the spurs of the Saltoro ridgeline.

Despite attempts at finally ending this uneasy status quo, both sides still maintain a presence of about 3,000 troops each. As for fatalities, most have been due to severe conditions on the high-altitude glacier (its highest point sits at about 18,875 feet above sea level). By the 2003 ceasefire, around 2,000 men had died, most of them from frostbite, avalanches, and other effects of the extreme environment, rather than from actual fighting.

Soldiers sent to Siachen know they’ll be serving in a bitter and inhospitable environment. They also know that they’ll be arriving at the highest battlefield on Earth, a fact recognized by Guinness World Records. They might also end up stationed at the world’s highest military base, which sits on a ridge up above the glacier at an altitude of around 19,685 feet. Other records created by this strange conflict include the world’s highest helipad and the world’s highest telephone booth, both installed on the glacier by India.

The glacier itself, meanwhile, continues to suffer from all this human activity. It has retreated significantly in the last 30 years, partly as a result of waste dumping by both sides. The military presence has also put rare species at risk, including snow leopards, brown bears, and ibex, who called the Siachen Glacier home long before the arrival of the two rival nations.

Know Before You Go
The Siachen Glacier is located in Northern Ladakh in the eastern Karakoram Range of the Himalayas. The nearest civilian settlement is Warshi, a small village about 10 miles downstream from the Indian base camp. Due to the ongoing tensions in the Siachen region, civilians rarely travel to the area unless they have some connection with either the Indian or Pakistani forces stationed at the glacier.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s Auditor General (CAG) criticizes #IndianArmy for poor quality gear to troops in #Siachen, including 31,779 “substandard” sleeping bags bought at inflated rates & “inferior” backpacks that failed to meet specifications. #KashmirDay | Jane's 360

India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has censured the Indian Army (IA) for enduring shortages of essential high-altitude clothing, equipment, and rations for soldiers posted in the disputed Himalayan region of Siachen, which borders Pakistan and China, an audit report tabled in parliament on 3 February revealed.

In the report the CAG stated that these “acute” deficiencies persisted for up to four years until 2018, pointing out that shortages of snow goggles ranged between 62% and 98%, while the lack of snow boots compelled soldiers on the Siachen Glacier to use ‘recycled’ footwear.

The audit further criticised the IA for purchasing 31,779 “substandard” sleeping bags at inflated rates, in addition to acquiring “inferior” backpacks that failed to meet the stipulated specifications.