The Siachen conflict was a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. The contentious area is about 2,500 sq km. The conflict began in Apr 1984 when India gained control over all of the 70 kilometres long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately West of the glacier— Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La. Pakistan controls the glacial valleys immediately West of the Saltoro Ridge. It was contested by Pakistan from Apr 1984 to 2003, when a cease fire was reached.
Background of Siachen Conflict
The conflict in Siachen stems from the incompletely demarcated territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1949 Karachi Agreement and 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that the Ceasefire (CFL) terminated at NJ9842. It was presumed there would be no dispute over such a cold and barren region.
In April 1984 India launched Operation Meghdoot and occupied Siachen. Pakistan Army initiated an operation to displace the three hundred or so Indian troops from the key passes on 25 Apr 1984. Thus began the conflict at the highest battle field in the world.
Siachen Conflict 1984 to 2003
1984-87 Pakistan Army attempted to seize heights overlooking the passes. One of the biggest successes achieved by Pakistan in this period was the seizure of a feature overlooking Bilafond La. This feature was named “Qaid Post” and for three years it dominated Indian positions on the glacier. On 25 June 1987 Indian Army captured it from Pakistani forces. For his role in the assault, Subedar Bana Singh was awarded the PVC. The post was renamed Bana Post in his honour.
Sep 1987: Brig Pervez Musharraf (later President) launched an operation to retake the post. The attacks were repulsed.
March – May 1989: Indian Army launched Operation Ibex to seize the Pakistani post overlooking the Chumik Glacier. The operation was unsuccessful at dislodging Pakistani troops from their positions. Indian Army then launched an artillery attack on Kauser Base, the Pakistani logistical node in Chumik and successfully destroyed it. The destruction of Kauser Base induced Pakistani troops to vacate Chumik post.
July -Aug 1992: Indian Army launched Operation Trishul Shakti to protect the Bahadur post in Chulung when it was attacked by a large Pakistani assault team. Pakistan Force Commander Northern Areas and other senior assault commanders were killed and assault repulsed.
May 1995: Pakistan Army NLI units attacked Tyakshi post at the very Southern edge of the Saltoro defense line. The attack was repulsed.
June 1999: Indian Army seized control of Point 5770 on the Southern edge of the Saltoro defense line.
Current Status of Siachen Conflict
The Pakistanis control the glacial valley just five kilometers southwest of Gyong La. The Pakistanis have been unable get up to the crest of the Saltoro Ridge, while the Indians control the strategic high posts. A ceasefire went into effect in 2003.
The line between where Indian and Pakistani troops are presently holding onto their respective posts is referred to as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).
Siachen Conflict: 97% of Casualties Due to Extreme Conditions
97% of the casualties on either side have been because of the severe weather. The two sides by 2003 had lost an estimated 2,000 personnel, primarily due to weather. India built the world’s highest helipad on the glacier at Point Sonam, 6,400 m above the sea level, to supply the troops.
One of the reasons behind the Kargil War, when Pakistan sent infiltrators to occupy vacated Indian posts across the LOC was their belief that India would be forced to withdraw from Siachen in exchange of a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil. Both sides had previously desired to disengage from the costly military outposts but after the Kargil War. India decided to maintain her military outposts on the Siachen Glacier, wary of further Pakistani incursions into Kashmir if they vacate from the Siachen Glacier posts without an official recognition from Pakistan of the current positions.