Hold on to Siachen ?
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