Reality Check India

Hold on to Siachen ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 30, 2007

Quartered in snow,

Silent to remain,

When the bugle calls,

They shall rise and march again 


Inscription on the memorial for the war dead at Siachen Base camp at Dzingrulma, India


I was shocked to see a program on IBN about whether it was worth “holding on” to the Siachen glacier. I watched with complete amazement the way the story proceeded to count every single logistical challenge as another reason against “holding on”. My initial reaction was, “Since when do we the public have the privilege to ask these questions”. So, whats next, a SMS poll ?

Before approving any story the editor should ask himself/herself this simple question : “If our jawan Ram Das who is duking it out on these heights views this program what impact is it going to have on his morale ?”

Pakistan would be more than happy to hold on to Siachen for us. 

I found some links to the program on the IBN website. Even the kerosene rations, the training period, the incentives (Rs 6,000) are discussed publicly. The world has been told about the MI-7 and Cheetah helicopters and their operational issues.

The maximum load a Cheetah can carry inside is 220 kg, and if it is under-slung (load tied to the copter) the limit is stretched to 300 kg. But as temperatures rise, the load carrying capacity decreases. Flying in every little requirement costs a small fortune


“The flying hour on an aircraft costs around Rs 60,000 and there are times when we can carry only one jerry can. So it’s a huge effort the country is sustaining troops here,” says Lt Colonel Bajwa.

Yes, these are challenges. When are we known to fight shy of them? If a Lt Col’s views are publicised like this – what is the rank and file jawan going to think about the worth of  his posting ?

To sustain troops, kerosene is vital. Every solider is rationed three litres daily to keep warm and to cook. The army has now laid pipelines all across the glacier to cut down the cost of transporting kerosene, but the extreme cold freezes the supply.

“We found pumping is economical but it needs lot of maintenance. The pipelines burst and the pumps and oil freeze,” says Col Shrivastava”

Yes, yes and yes. It is not easy. Jungle warfare is not easy either, we have leeches, mosquitoes, malaria,  snakes, heat, and infection. This is what makes these warriors what they are. This is exactly why the entire country admires the men in white who man these snowy peaks. I have met many jawans returning from Siachen during my railway journeys. Their stories (from the amount of rum they drank to ward off the cold to their entertainment options) make me proud.

Finally, the crown of the story.

The spiraling costs of Siachen have always triggered debate. Does India need to plant troops here? It doesn’t, says defence expert Amitabh Matoo, Vice Chancellor of Jammu University and a member of the PM’s task force on global strategic developments


“Siachen glacier doesn’t have any inherent strategic value. It only has a symbolic value,” says Matoo.

I dont even know where to start with a reality check on this story. Let me try,

What in heavens name does “holding on” mean ? Are we just “holding on” to Siachen ? In the face of natural challenges or political challenges are we known to scoot and not “hold on”. So, does your definition of “territorial integrity” cover only those areas which have strategic importance and are easy to hold on. If yes, then why is India holding on to the Northeast or Ladakh or Jharkhand or Naxalite areas of AP and the areas near the Mc Mahon line ?

Is Siachen not strategic ? Do we want to see Pakistani troops or “Mujahideen” gunners occupy the Saltoro ridge (which the the main strategic point in that area). This massive river of ice is also called the “Third Pole” due to its thickness and the amount of water it holds. You want to bet that if we dont “hold on”, the Pakistanis will be more than happy to hold on to it for us – the chilling winds, and the icy conditions notwithstanding.   Guess what, their media would not go around second guessing it based on cost and toughness factors.

View dazzling pictures of this landscape here


12 Responses

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  1. Kumar said, on July 30, 2007 at 2:13 pm


    J ‘Chacha’ Nehru once had a same attitude about “holding” on to sub-zero frozen piece of land stating “not a blade of grass grows there”.
    And he argued this in Parliament.

    A oppostion guy responded that the same case can be made for J Nehru’s bald head since nothing grew there either 🙂

    Question: Name the guy who stuck it to Nehru.

    As for your question: “If our jawan Ram Das who is duking it out on these heights views this program what impact is it going to have on his morale ”

    Remember Afzal? What do you think is a morale of our security forces when widows and orphans of the dead soliders return their posthomous medals.

    C est la vie.

  2. realitycheck said, on July 30, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    A wild guess : Rajaji ?

    You are correct, same case as Afzal. This one however, is entirely of the media’s making. No vote banks or secular politics involved here, just some ill informed reporter and editor throwing up some sensational trash to see if something sticks. That approach is great when applied to the Indian medias’ core competence : Bollywood and Fashion (a.k.a the Ramp). We cant let them poke around with the military.

    It appears that Mattoo is part of PM Manmohan Singh’s task force.

  3. shankar prasad said, on July 30, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    q: why should we “hold on” to siachen?
    a: to prevent the easy infiltration from pok

    q: should that question be discussed?
    a: yes, everyone has an opinion and the best choice has to be discussed before taking any decision.

    q: what abt the morale of a soldier who is fighting there
    a: i will ask you back.. what about the morale of the poor in the country when the CEOs are paid such high salaries??? you question is as similar to that. we need to take a decision that is best for the country. if it is debated and concluded that Siachen is important to the country (the conclusion is surely gonna be reached), then the morale of the soldier is boosted. we have to take logical decisions and not emotional decisions based in morale or anything.

  4. realitycheck said, on July 30, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Shankar Prasad,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Be wary of analogies. The poor are not in that condition by choice, whereas the soldiers are.

  5. Barbarindian said, on July 30, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    yes, everyone has an opinion and the best choice has to be discussed before taking any decision.

    Most surprisingly the nuke agreement wasn’t up for a debate. Apparently there was a great need for secrecy, although Karan Thapar seemed to have the entire text.

  6. Kumar said, on July 30, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    >>A wild guess : Rajaji ?
    Piloo Mody, (founder?) of Swatanra party.

    >> This one however, is entirely of the media’s making.
    Couple months ago they tried to create a sensation by running a hachet job on Field Marshal Maneskshaw based on some rants by the son of loser Paki despot Ayub Khat, Paki Gobbar Khan.
    Media’s motto is easy: Kuch bhi karega for a rupee more.

    Shankar Prasad
    >>what about the morale of the poor in the country when the CEOs are paid such high salaries???
    Or Cricketeers? Movie stars? So why are CEOs singled out?
    Your analogy doesn’t cut it. I’d counter argue that poor should be motivated by stories for successful CEOs to do the right thing in terms of educating and empowering themselves.

  7. How do we know said, on July 31, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Ok, 2 things. reality check makes a super case.

    and Two, Shanker: Your argument about the poor absolutely does not cut it. Piloo’s morale in Reay Road slum of Mumbai is not our problem. He is not there to defend the frontiers, with no idea of how his family is doing, but Ram Das is. He is there for us. His morale is my problem.

    Holding on to Siachen should be rephrased as “Should we give Siachen away to Pakistan or China because we cannot afford to keep it?” Now, answer that. How can we afford to keep 1 billion people?

  8. Dave SW said, on July 31, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I was reading an article written by Dr. Isa Daudpota and Arshad H Abbasi, .….Islamabad based environmentalist.…. in which they proposed to hand over Siachen to UNESCO for next fifty years. I think it’s a nice workable proposal to save Siachen and other Himalayan glaciers.

  9. Barbarindian said, on August 1, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Do you mean the UN or the UNESCO?

    Well, once upon a time we did refer a certain matter to the UN. If we hadn’t, perhaps we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.

  10. B Shantanu said, on August 2, 2007 at 10:20 am

    RC, You and some of your readers might enjoy this post: The great joke that is Indian media – Part IV

  11. Lala R W said, on August 25, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    people of this region, that include india and pakistan, are now apart. but since thousands of year they lived togetter and even now can share water of Sichen.

  12. param narang said, on October 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    What a bunch of losers these un-patriotic media folks and the dumb head Professor Matoo at Jammu University.If anything we should be talking about how to boost the morale and do something for these soldiers.No wonder our country has been plundered again and again due to such impotent thinking.

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