Thursday, March 19, 2009

World's Highest Battle Field

The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border at about 35°30′N 77°00′E / 35.5°N 77.0°E. India controls all of the Siachen Glacier itself, including all tributary glaciers. The Siachen Glacier (Siachen meaning "Black Rose" in Balti), discovered in 1907, is the world´s longest glacier outside the polar regions.
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The Siachen measures approximately 75km in length and 4.8km in width, and rises to about 4,800m. The glacier originates near the Indra Koli Pass on the Pakistan-China border, about 70km southeast of K-2 (Chogori), the second highest peak in the world; From here it runs along the Saltoro Range in a southeasterly direction till it turns into the Nubra River near Dzingrulma, a small village in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) near Ladakh.

The glacier's region is the highest battleground on earth, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 1984. Both countries maintain permanent military personnel in the region at a height of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The site is a prime example of mountain warfare.

In spite of the severe climate, the word 'Siachen' ironically means 'the place of wild roses', a reference some people attribute to the abundance of Himalayan wildflowers found in the valleys below the glacier, but which specifically refers to the thorny wild plants which grow on the rocky outcrops.

In spite of the severe climate, the word 'Siachen' ironically means 'the place of wild roses', a reference some people attribute to the abundance of Himalayan wildflowers found in the valleys below the glacier, but which specifically refers to the thorny wild plants which grow on the rocky outcrops.

On top of the world's highest battlefield, the soldier's biggest foe is the weather. Bone-chilling winds whip the landscape and avalanches sweep soldiers into 30-foot-deep crevasses. The harsh sun burns their skin and, combined with the thin air and sub-zero temperatures, can induce acute depression. The last village in Siachen area had just seven houses - beyond that there is only the army.

Cold statistics tell you that more lives have been lost to the weather than to the enemy since 1984, when the Indian army first occupied the Siachen glacier. Some 7,000 Indian soldiers are stationed on the disputed glacier - at 5,500 metres above sea level - bordering Pakistani and Indian-administered portions of Kashmir. Pakistan has some 150 manned posts and about 3,500 soldiers there. Most soldiers are posted on the higher ridges for just three months. So, the Siachen battle school trains around 7,000 soldiers every year.

The glacier is a major source of the river Indus. Global warming has had one of its worst impacts here in the Himalayas with the glaciers melting at an unprecedented rate and monsoon rains now appearing north of the mountains. The volume of the glacier has been reduced by 35 percent over the last twenty years; military activity since 1984 has also been blamed for much of the degradation of the glacier.
On June 12, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the area, calling for a peaceful resolution of the problem. In the previous year, the President of India, Abdul Kalam became the first head of state to visit the area.

India based Jet Airways plans to open a chartered service to the glacier's nearest airlink, the Thoise airbase, mainly for military purposes. Since September 2007, India has opened up mountaineering and trekking expeditions to the forbidding glacial heights.

There is a famous local saying, "The land is so barren and passes so high that only the best of friends and fiercest of enemies come by.'' The dispute over Siachen, which began more than 20 years ago, is testimony to this saying.

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