The Himalaya known as “Abode of the Gods” is situated to the north of Pakistan and extended towards China and India. Siachen is situated on that unique mountain environment. It is the world’s longest mountain glacier. It is also the source of water for the entire country.
This world Heritage was turned into the battle ground due to the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1984.The boundary of Siachen was undefined, which was the major cause of bone of contention. The line of control (LOC) of 1972 between Pakistan and India was demarcated on the south of Siachen, at a grid point known as NJ9842. At that time this zone was called a neutral zone but latter after 1984, both countries claimed their right to control the area. Thus, even today Siachen has no defined boundary and the armies of both countries were protecting the glacier from further advance against each other.
India’s selfish interest behind this conflict was also the major cause of the problem. Due to its strategic location, India wants to conquer K.2. He also wants to reach at Karakoram Highway and intervene between the Pak-China relations. Even an Indian Senior Army official claimed that glacier was important not just strategically but also a “5,000 square km water reservoir” of the future. Hence, it will also be proved from this fact that in April 1984, India captured Saltroo Ridge and also two important passes, the Sia La (6160m) and Bilafond La (5550m) in the Pakistani region. He also aimed to advance further to K.2 but Pakistani Army becomes an obstacle in their purpose.
Heavy financial drain along with casualties from both sides, it also causes a great deal of damage to the fragile mountain environment. All military garbage and waste will be end up in the Nubra River (originates from Glacier), which flows in to the Shyok River, which then flows in to the Indus, on whose waters millions of people depend. The recent incident of “Gyari Sector” in which 140 soldiers of Pakistan Army died is also one of the impacts of this fragile mountain environment.
Post- Siachen relations with India were the greatest impact of this conflict. Although the relations between both countries was not cordial even from its independence. From very earlier, Kashmir problem, water disputes, active involvement in cold war and the wars of 1965 and 1971 were the bitter facts before the incident of Siachen. Both countries also diverge and even fought with each other after this incident. India suspected Pakistan on Khalistan issue. Pakistan criticized Indian assistance to Kabul regime. Issue of Indian hijacked PAN AM Aircraft, which landed in Karachi. Issue of Wuller Lake dam on the River Jehlum was contested by Pakistan, Kargil conflict of 1999, Attack on Indian Parliament on 13 December, 2001 and so on. But beside these, both countries want to settle the Siachen Issue and normalize the relations. The Foreign Secretaries of both countries met at Islamabad in April 1985 and revived the bilateral dialogue. Zia-ul-Haq and Rajiv Ghandi agreed in principle for the expansion of trade and economic relations and other political issues. Their defense secretaries discussed the Siachen glacier and the related matters. They also sign treaties for not attacking each other’s nuclear installations and no war principle. But, Infect if the agreement is about to sign and relations were about to normalize then the political climate changed and the moment was lost.
Idea of Trans-boundary Peace Park is one of the solutions that could be followed by both countries. This would enable both armies to withdraw with honor and save their billions of rupees. Even today this idea is being followed by other countries for example, the Waterton- glacier International Peace Park between Canada and United States, The Kgalagadi Trans frontier Park between South Africa and Botswana and so on.
Last but not the least solution to be followed was given by General V.R Raghavan. This would be followed by three steps:
- “End the fighting without disengaging or redeployment let Siachen recede from public mind; this phase might last for 2-3 years.
- Introduce technical means of monitoring and surveillance, permitting meaningful reductions of forces to be negotiated
- Work out a complete demilitarization.”
Today, with thousands of armed men facing each other across the border, talk of ending the fighting and of Peace Parks seems remote. But the dawn always come after darkest period; perhaps there will also a dawn for Siachen.