Ignoring Pakistan, India sending civilian trek to Siachen

July 25th, 2011 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Ignoring objections from Pakistan yet again, India is planning to organise another civilian trekking expedition to the forbidding heights of the Siachen Glacier in September, the fourth in the series that began in 2007.

The first edition of this civilian trek to Siachen in 2007 had angered Pakistan, which had claimed that opening the “disputed territory” for tourism would lead to “serious consequences” and “vitiate the atmosphere for the peace process”. It had also called the trek “incongruous” and lodged a strong protest with India.

India, however, went ahead with the trek, an effort at reinforcing to the world that it owns the icy heights ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet in altitude on the Saltoro ridge region in the northern most part of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan is nowhere near the glacier.

“The trek this year is at the planning stage. It will include 40-45 volunteers, including women, journalists, DRDO scientists, enthusiasts from other organisations and cadets of military schools,” a defence ministry official told IANS here.

The trekkers will first acclimatise and train in basic mountaineering craft at Leh and later will be escorted by soldiers during the arduous 26-day trek when they will get to see some Indian Army positions on the way.

Siachen is a 70-km long glacier where the guns of India and Pakistan stopped booming in November 2003 following a ceasefire. It has claimed more lives of army men from both India and Pakistan due to inhospitable weather than artillery shelling.

India was provoked into launching Operation Meghdoot by airlifting its troops and take control of Siachen in April 1984 by Pakistan army’s Operation Ababeel aimed at clandestinely occupying the glacier in the guise of a Japanese trekking expedition to climb the Rimo Peak on the east of Siachen overlooking Aksai Chin.

India has long held that Pakistan should “authenticate” the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), both on the map and on the ground, before any talk of demilitarisation of the glacier could begin, though both sides agree to the need to withdraw their troops.

Their talks on peace in Siachen began in 1985 and the 12th round of the discussions on the dispute was held in New Delhi May 30 and 31 this year between the defence secretaries of the two nations.

The bone of contention in the protracted negotiations has been the “authentication” of the AGPL beyond the NJ-9842 grid reference point, where the well-delineated Line of Control (LOC) simply stopped dead in the 1972 Shimla Agreement, right till the Karakoram Pass.

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