Thursday, April 12, 2012

Siachen: Hell At 20,000 Feet

On the morning of April 7th, Pakistan woke up to the news of a terrible tragedy. At around 6:00 AM Pakistan Standard time, the Pakistani base at Gyari, near the disputed Siachen Glacier was struck by an avalanche. It buried an area of roughly a kilometer wide trapping 138 soldiers and civilians under 70 feet of snow.

Across the world, six Peruvian miners were trapped in a mine collapse. Their President was on site. He was fully knowledgeable of the rescue efforts. He was also in contact with the trapped miners talking to them, encouraging them, giving them hope.  Meanwhile, our President diligently went about the demanding job of thoroughly enjoying his vacation and documenting it with photographs of all of his teeth displayed in wide smiles like a trophy president.  But then that begs the question: What contest in hell did we win to get this trophy?

Do we even know why our troops were there? According to historical data, the Siachen glacier was not divided in the Simla agreement because UN officials presumed, mistakenly, there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a harsh and barren region.The conflict started when American maps started showing the entire 5,000 km of the glacier as part of Pakistan and Pakistan started believing it. They proceeded to profit from it by issuing permits for mountaineering expeditions. This caught the attention of the Indian Government and started a conflict in 1984 which has lasted to this day.

Siachen, the name, ironically meaning a bed of wild roses, is the highest battleground on earth. Both, India and Pakistan, maintain a permanent military presence in the region at a terrible cost. During this time approximately 8,000 lives have been lost. Only a fraction of them have been combat related. The rest of the deaths have been due to  frostbite, altitude sickness, heart failure, inadequate cold weather equipment, avalanches and landslides. According to The News, the cost to maintain this conflict has been estimated at upwards of Rs. 50 million per day for Pakistan.

Who will be the first to realize that this a senseless war, being fought over a piece of god-forsaken land. The human toll is enough for governments to take notice.  One Pakistani soldier dies every three to four days. But what of those they leave behind. Entire families depend on one person. As a soldier dies, a family is condemned. If the government could peacefully resolve Siachen and reallocate the money, these soldiers would not die needlessly in a frozen wasteland leaving behind families to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world.  There are no houses for these families, no college-funds for the fatherless children. Only a bleak and uncertain future. So the toll is two-fold. Not only does the country lose valuable assets when soldiers die, their children, the next generation of future doctors, educators, engineers are also sentenced to hopelessness and uncertainty. Some of these families never recover. They are barely getting by in a soldier's salary, without it they have nothing. What could the future possibly hold for these children except a downward spiral into oblivion? In some of these cases the only salvation and sense of purpose these children find might be among the ranks of radical organizations like the Taliban, who can exploit their anger and resentment.

Alongside everything, the military presence on the glacier is destroying the environment.  While most of the glaciers on the Karakoram side have expanded in the past years, Siachen has reduced in size by 30 percent. Experts claim that half of that is due to troop movements. The waste that is being generated by these troops and dumped into the glacier has been estimated at more than 2000 pounds per day. The garbage consists of human waste, plastic and metal which is further poisoning the ecosystem. The indigenous wildlife is being threatened. The melting water from this glacier feeds many  rivers, Indus among them. These waters are being poisoned by toxins generated by the garbage and leaching into the rivers. So, we are basically fighting over a giant melting ice cube where nobody wanted to live in the first place.

But as usual, inflated egos get in the way of logical  reasoning. How long will it take for governments to realize that there is no military solution to this problem. That much should be obvious after almost thirty years of stalemate. Bilateral talks are the way to a resolution but egos need to be checked at the door.  Make it a demilitarized zone. Bring our boys back home. Reallocate those thousands of dollars from the destructiveness of  war to projects of peace and progress. Use that money to feed and educate our people rather than put our bravest in harms way.

According to Indian Foreign Minister, Ranjan Mathai, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered his help to Pakistan, Zardari thanked Manmohan Singh for his offer and said that he would check if there was any requirement, he would revert. ( ) Maybe that was the point where our president could have taken the first step towards a non-military resolution instead of sounding totally oblivious to a great tragedy. I hope he had a great time during his vacation while our troops died as a result of senseless policies.  


  1. Pakistan should be divided as soon as possible.
    Then there will be no racism or hate to each other. All countries can be succesful as europe golden time ecnomic or gulf.

    Living togteher we hate each other. We think our race is superior than other. Right now some talented karachi base players had been ignored from the selection. we will have 5 or 6 cricket team every one will get the chance.
    Right now in pakistan punjabi lives, Pahattan lives, Sindhi live, Balochi and other minorities hardly live.
    Karchi should be separtated, Sariki should be separtaed, Hazara should be seperated, Gilgit should be sepearated

    1. If division of people is your solution to these problems, then you will find yourself standing alone one day. You are playing into the divide and conquer strategy. wake up. Strength in unity only. If hate is your reason, then stop hating. It is not a justified rational.

  2. Following the line of control, the Siachen region naturally falls under Pakistani control. To put it under India is a stretch, thats why US maps showed it under Pakistan, it was NO mistake. It should also be noted that it is adjacent to the Kashmir area which was stolen by India. We all know that Kashmir is and has always been Muslim majority and according to the separation treaty, it belongs to Pakistan. India has been running a campaign of ethnic relocation in this region for few decades now, displacing the Muslim population, torturing them, countless violations of human rights and migrating hindu population in the region. Siachen was an attempt to further encroach beyond LoC.

    I agree peace is necessary, but we must stop India's bullish and unjustified behavior. It is the right thing to do.