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The Siachen Conflict: History and Implications

The Siachen Conflict is a long-standing territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over the Siachen Glacier, located in the Karakoram mountain range in the Himalayas.

the siachen conflict

The Himalaya recognized as the “Abode of the Gods” is located to the north of Pakistan and prolonged closer to China and India. Siachen is located on that particular mountain environment. It is the world’s longest mountain glacier. It is likewise the supply of water for the whole of the country. Siachen means “The Place of Wild Roses” that’s why it is called Siachen. World’s highest peak became a battle field when Pakistan Army found that Indian soldiers establish posts in summer and go back as the weather becomes extreme and hazardous.

This world heritage site became a battlefield due to the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1984. The boundary of Siachen was uncertain, which was the main reason for the dispute. The 1972 Line of Control (LOC) between Pakistan and India was separated south of Siachen at a grid point called NJ9842. At the time, the area was called the neutral zone, but after 1984, both countries claimed their right to control the area. Even today, Siachen has no defined border and the armies of both countries have protected the glacier from further advances against each other.  In 1984, Pakistan Army found soldiers of Indian Army cross the LOC violating the rules and regulations. Pakistan Army decided to establish posts in next season so that Indian soldiers might not establish posts in Pakistan territory.  Since then there is conflict and both countries have deployed their armies and huge budget is allocated from both sides. It is said that Pakistan and India are bearing gigantic expenditures for such a region where even grass is not grown.

India’s selfish interests behind this conflict was also the root cause of the problem. India wants to conquer K.2 because of its strategic position. He also wants to reach the Karakoram highway and interfere in China-China-Pakistan relations. Even a senior Indian Army official has claimed that the glacier is not only strategic, but a “5,000 square kilometer reservoir” of the future. In this way, it is also a fact that in April 1984, India conquered the Salt ridge and also two important passes – Sia-La (6160 m) and Bilafond-la (5550 m) in the region of Pakistan. He also wanted to advance further in K.2, but the Pakistan Army became an obstacle to their goal.

In addition to the heavy financial burden and sacrifices on both sides, it also causes great damage to the fragile environment of the mountains. All waste and military waste ends up in the Nubra River (which originates from a glacier) which flows into the Shyok River and then flows into the Indus River where millions of people depend for water. In “Gyari Sector” a mishap occurred in which 140 soldiers of the Pakistan Army were killed is also one of the works of this fragile mountain environment.

Post-Siachen relations with India were the biggest influence of this conflict. Although the relations between the two countries have not been cordial ever since their independence. The Kashmir problem, water disputes, active participation in the “Cold War” and the wars of 1965 and 1971 were bitter facts before the event of Siachen. Both countries also have differences after this incident and even fought with each other. India was suspicious of Pakistan because of the Khalistan issue. Pakistan criticized India’s aid to the Kabul regime. The issue of the PAN AM plane that was hijacked by India and landed in Karachi. The release of the Wular (Wolar) Lake Dam on the Jhelum River by Pakistan, the 1999 Kargil conflict, the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, etc. However, both countries want to resolve the Siachen issue and normalize relations. The foreign ministers of both countries met in Islamabad in April 1985 and resumed bilateral dialogue. Zia-ul-Haq and Rajiv Gandhi agreed in principle on the expansion of trade and economic relations and other political issues. Their defense ministers discussed the Siachen glacier and related issues. They also sign agreements not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities and the principle of non-military. However, if the agreement is signed and relations are normalized, then the political climate has changed and the moment is lost. The cost of presence on a glacier is heavy for both countries but it accounts for a larger portion of Pakistan’s economy.

On December 13, 2001, the Parliament, etc. Both nations, however, desire to settle the Siachen dispute and resume normal ties. In April 1985, the foreign ministers of the two nations met in Islamabad to pick up their bilateral discussions. Rajiv Gandhi and Zia-ul-Haq reached an agreement in principle glacier and related topics were discussed by their defense ministers. Together with the non-aggression and non-military principles, they also sign agreements not to strike each other’s nuclear installations. Nevertheless, if the deal is made and everything returns to normal, the political landscape has altered and the opportunity is passed. One option that both nations can pursue is the concept of a Transboundary Peace Park. This will enable both armies to depart honorably and help. Almost 12 times both countries started bilateral dialogues to resolve the Siachen matter but all in vain.  In the reign of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the issue was close to get it resolved but could not be declared.  Perhaps the solution was that if the current position of the Indian army is admitted as Border, then Indian army was ready to withdraw.  Pakistan had admitted conditionally that it would not be ultimate ownership of the Glacier.

The whole CFL was defined in a Cease-Fire Line Agreement (CFL) that was signed and ratified in 1949 by India, Pakistan, and the UN Military Observer Group. A research team led by the Geological Survey of India published its findings, including details about the Siachen and other glaciers, between 1956 and 1958.

Due in part to the US Military Mapping Agency and the majority of other maps and atlases showing it on the Pakistani side of the line, several climbing teams applied to Pakistan in the 1970s and early 1980s to climb high peaks in the Siachen area. A lot of permissions were issued by Pakistan. As these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit acquired from the Government of Pakistan, this in turn strengthened Pakistan’s claim to the region. A Japanese expedition headed by H. Katayama scaled Teram Kangri I (7,465 m or 24,491 ft) and Teram Kangri II (7,406 m or 24,298 ft) in 1975. The team entered Pakistan through the Bilafond La.

There was not any dispute prior to 1884, but differences were formed after the violation of Indian army. Indian army performed this when this territory was considered as “No Man’s Land”. Consequently, Pakistan Army had to resist. This is such an area where there is no cultivation, no minerals and even grass is not grown, these two countries are expending a major portion of their budget which is quite useless. Besides this, due to lack of oxygen, it is difficult to even take breath easily.

Map of the Siachen Glacier through time

Up until the middle of the 1960s, the CFL was shown to cease at NJ9842 on maps of Siachen Glacier produced by Pakistan, the United Nations, and other international organizations. From in 1967, the United States Defense Mapping Agency (now National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) began to portray a boundary on its Tactical Pilotage Charts as extending from NJ9842 to the Karakoram Pass at 5,534 m (18,136 ft) on the China border. In the 1970s and 1980s, this line was repeated on American, Pakistani, and other maps, which India considered to be a mapping mistake.

It is said that problems arouse to get these resolved. Every problem or conflict can be resolved through negotiations and dialogues.

siachen conflict


  • Siachen means Wild Rose and on the basis of this, its name is SIACHEN unfortunately because of a violation of LOC by the Indian army, converted it into a battlefield in which both countries are losing precious lives of their armed forces due to weather extreme rather than bullets.
  • Gigantic budget is allocated from both sides for such a glacier where there is no minerals, no cultivation, no resources at all and it would be prudent if both countries bilaterally resolve the issues including other like Kashmir through dialogues and table talks so that this budget may be utilized for the betterment of their public where most of the people are living below the line of poverty.
  • This is worth noticing how long will the two countries keep on throwing their forces into the war.  Perhaps its last solution is to declare this region as “No Man’s Land” by mutual understanding for this there are so many countries who can play their roles as several countries have mutually friendly relations with both countries.
  • Siachen is one of the 14 highest peaks in the world and eight peaks are here in this region including K-2.  On this glacier conflict is useless it seems each country is trying to humiliate and put the other down. If the fundamental conflict i.e. Kashmir gets resolved, this dispute is a minor one which will be resolved automatically.
  • In the past, serious efforts have been made from both sides from time to time but there is a certain trust deficit in both countries mostly found on the Indian side.  There is certain ambiguity on the Indian side if India withdraws its army from Siachen and later Pakistan army recaptures the glacier then India will never be able to re-occupy Siachen.  This is the main and fundamental distrust in getting resolve the dispute.
  • Between India and Pakistan, there is a boundary at Sialkot and from the Sialkot Boundary to LOAC (Line of Actual Control) to the commencement of Siachen.  According to Shimla Agreement, it was decided between both countries that the endpoint of LOC is already demarcated and from that point to the Chinese border neither India nor Pakistan would demarcate as well as would not occupy the glacier. This was the understanding between both countries.  Some Indians claim that Pakistan violated the agreement but their claim is wrong if Pakistan had violated the agreement, Rajive Gandhi would never agree to withdraw Indian army in 1989.  Secondly, Pakistan has always its firm stance in almost every dialogue held in this perspective that India should remain at the position which was prior to 1984.  Even dialogues held in the era of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the current position of India would be authenticated in a footnote rather than be written in the agreement, only this was the difference due to which it remained unsettled once again.
  • It is also considered that India wants to dilute the Kashmir cause that’s why he does not agree on the position prior to 1984 so that in future it might be used as “Bargaining Chip”.
  • In around September 2006 Prime Minister Mun Mohan Singh in Amratsar said that we give proposal that this glacier (Siachen) should be declared as “Mountain of Peace” his meant was both armies withdraw themselves but very next day Army Chief negated the Prime Minister.  It seldom happens that Army Chief negates the Prime Minister on such issues.

Both countries should learn from the past and history keeps on repeating itself if someone does not learn from mistakes.  It is imperative to eliminate the atmosphere of TRUST DEFICIT and must be maintained trustworthiness among each other to secure the nation of either side. In this way both countries can spend on the betterment of their countrymen. Human loss is a gigantic loss. The first relationship between a man and another man is unquestionably one of “Humanity,” as blood is always crimson, whether it comes from the body of a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or a Christian. Both countries should resolve the matter amicably and take each other in confidence that once the matter is solved, no one would re-occupy the glacier after demilitarization and friend countries should also play their roles to get unbiased solution that is acceptable for both countries. Demilitarization the Siachen glacier is a fabulous suggestion but it must not be on the cost of our own beloved mother land that has been occupied by the Indian Army.

Written by Muhammad Ishaq