Siachen Glacier, Fighting On The Roof Of The World

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  1. fatman17
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    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    this is an old article but it depicts the very harsh and terrible conditions faced by soldiers from both sides... is it worth it?

    SIACHEN GLACIER , FIGHTING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD

    JANE'S DEFENCE WEEKLY


    On the Siachen Glacier, two nuclear powers dispute an uninhabited
    wilderness. Robert Karniol reports from Pakistan on the harsh conditions of battle at 5,000m.

    Fourteen years of conflict over control of the remote Siachen
    Glacier region has taught India and Pakistan much about the unique
    requirements of high-altitude warfare. However, the harsh
    environment still accounts for more casualties than does combat.
    This long-standing dispute set in the Karakoram mountains was among
    six topics raised during bilateral talks held last month in New
    Delhi, the first such formal discussion of the issue since 1992.
    India came to the meeting with a proposed ceasefire arrangement, a
    gambit that would have reinforced its territorial gains. Pakistan
    rejected the initiative unless it was linked to a troop redeployment
    that would largely affect Indian forces.
    The standoff, which was predicted by analysts, remains unresolved.
    No progress was achieved beyond a broad commitment to further pursue
    the Siachen issue "at a later date".
    The Siachen Glacier region is an uninhabited wedge of mountains and
    ice situated at the point where India, Pakistan and China collide.
    It covers a territory of about 3,000km2 that proved too hostile for
    early survey teams.

    Border demarcation has been equally contentious in adjacent areas.
    Jammu and Kashmir remain divided and disputed, with Siachen
    representing a separate although broadly related problem. Pakistan's
    border with China was formally delineated only in 1963 while India
    still claims the Aksai Chin plateau to the northeast, which is
    occupied by China.
    The Siachen conflict's origin is rooted in its remoteness. This saw
    the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan - originally set in
    1949, adjusted in 1972, and still the Line of Control (LoC) in
    disputed Jammu and Kashmir - end some 80km short of Chinese
    territory at the map reference point NJ9842. The line's extension to
    cover the glacier and its approaches, couched in vague language, was
    left for later discussion.
    Islamabad has since held that the demarcation line should continue
    northeast from this point to the Karakoram Pass, maintaining the
    angle set by the LoC. New Delhi's view is that it should veer north
    along the watershed line of the Saltoro Range to Indira Col, an
    interpretation based on terrain features. This discrepancy defines
    the disputed territory.
    Neither side ever maintained a permanent presence in the region, and
    Siachen was untouched by the wars of 1965 and 1971. India's interest
    began to grow in the late 1970s. An initial series of military
    mountaineering expeditions led to summer camps being set up in 1983.
    Pakistani protests were ignored, and Indian forces advanced
    unexpectedly in April 1984 to gain control of the glacier and its
    approach routes. The conflict was joined when Pakistan responded
    militarily.
    The Indian strike brought advantages and disadvantages that are
    still evident. The former include control of much of the disputed
    terrain together with most of its high points, which provide a
    strategic edge. The latter largely centre on the substantially
    greater costs associated with supporting these isolated positions.
    The conflict initially saw both sides undertake limited offensive
    operations, mainly geared to seizing high points or improving
    defensive positions. Such attacks proved costly and only partially
    successful, and, by the early 1990s, the protagonists had largely
    settled into an attrition-oriented strategy marked by steady
    exchanges of artillery and small-arms fire.
    Illustrating this point, Pakistan says the Indian Army is expending
    30,000-40,000 artillery rounds annually in Siachen. One can assume
    its own rate of fire is comparable.
    The Siachen conflict is better known for its harsh conditions than
    its strategic significance. Temperatures in the area range between
    -20øC and -60øC, chilled by 80 km/h-plus winds. There are blizzards
    producing an average 10m of snowfall annually, avalanches, steep
    gradients and deep crevasses that comb the glacial ice. These
    difficulties are severely compounded by altitude.
    Indian positions are generally situated at heights of 3,700-5,300m,
    the latter elevation representing the post at Indira Col. Pakistani
    posts are normally lower and better sheltered, varying from 2,800m
    at Dansum to 5,300m at Conway Saddle. Oxygen deprivation, seldom a
    concern on other battlefields, poses a serious hazard.
    "The soldier first has to fight nature to survive, and then fight
    the enemy," Brig Sallah-ud-din told Jane's Defence Weekly at Dansum,
    where his 323 Siachen Brigade is headquartered. The frontline force
    along an 82km line of contact, 323 Brigade is a formation under the
    Forces Command Northern Areas, a division-size element of the
    Pakistan Army based at Gilgit.
    The Indian Army's lead formation is 102 Infantry Brigade,
    headquartered at Partapur. However, other units of unknown strength
    supplement both brigades - Pakistani troops generally serving here
    for a one-year period, Indians on a six-month rotation.
    Indian sources recently told The Hindu newspaper that the Siachen
    dispute has so far cost New Delhi nearly 2,000 killed and 10,000
    injured. Separately, a paper published by the US-based Cooperative
    Monitoring Centre states that hostile fire historically accounts for
    just 3% of Indian casualties.
    Without citing figures, Islamabad says its casualties are sharply
    down in recent years for reasons equally applicable to the Indian
    side: the 1992 shift to attrition-oriented warfare, and hard-gained
    experience of the environment. Pakistan claims the ratio of
    battle-related casualties to other losses is 1:2 now, down from a
    "much higher level" of earlier years.
    Support of its operations in the region cost New Delhi Rs50 million
    ($1.17 million) daily, The Hindu newspaper contends, largely because
    of the complexities of logistic support that include a heavy
    dependence on helicopter transport. Pakistan says its costs are
    about $32,000 daily, the substantially lower figure reflecting a
    decade of road-building completed about four years ago.
    Brig Sallah-ud-din cites several military adjustments unique to the
    Siachen region. These range from training to the deployment of
    troops and weapons, from specialised rations to medical support.
    Few of the troops serving in Siachen are fully qualified
    mountaineers but all must have at least basic climbing and survival
    skills. Proficient mountaineers, mainly assigned to serve as
    instructors, are trained on three- to four-month courses near Astor
    in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Other personnel undertake a four-week
    course at Dansum, which combines basic skills with physical
    conditioning, acclimatisation to high altitude and weapons training.
    Forces deployed at forward posts are normally of section strength,
    and seldom number more than a platoon. The unique terrain means the
    conventional concept of these small units providing mutual defensive
    support is impossible to implement, and each must be able to survive
    independently for extended periods.
    Operational requirements also dictate adjustments to weaponry that
    go beyond efforts to lighten their weight. Each battalion has three
    or four times the normal number of mortars, and each regiment more
    than double the usual allocation of artillery pieces. Weapons such
    as .50-calibre, 14.5mm, 37mm and 57mm anti-aircraft guns are here
    brought to bear on ground targets.
    The thin air at high altitude drastically affects accuracy of fire,
    and experience has helped both sides adjust their targeting tables
    accordingly. However, conditions can change daily and over-shooting
    is common. The difficulties of resupply, meanwhile, result in
    ammunition stocks being maintained at high levels.
    Rations are supplemented to take into account higher caloric
    requirements, especially in winter. This largely involves high-sugar
    foods like dried fruit, glucose and honey. Some fresh foods are
    provided to forward posts in summer but most of the rations are
    tinned to allow stocking a full year's supply.
    Pakistan Army Maj Muhomad Satti Akmal is the officer responsible for
    logistics. "We plan for the complete year, including sufficient
    reserve supplies," he said. "There is extensive forward dumping, and
    the system has got to be really fine-tuned as everything must be
    transported [and stored] during the three or four months after the
    weather clears sometime in May."
    Most supplies on the Pakistani side are transported by vehicle over
    rough roads kept open year-round. Locally-bred ponies or mules cover
    the distance from road-heads to forward posts, each carrying loads
    of 80-100kg. Civilian porters, each carrying about 20kg, serve a few
    high posts. Movement in the forward areas is conducted at night or
    during low visibility to avoid attracting enemy fire.
    The Pakistan Army has similarly adjusted its medical organisation,
    with a nursing non-commissioned officer assigned to each post and a
    doctor to each company. Such a concentration is unfeasible elsewhere
    in the country. The posts have extensive medical supplies, including
    oxygen cylinders, and feed patients to a fully equipped hospital
    situated in the forward area and staffed with a range of
    specialists.
    Consultations can be held by radio, with each field doctor
    overseeing 20-30 paramedics. Although evacuations normally take up
    to three hours, the procedure can be carried out in 30 minutes if
    required, with helicopter transport available to accommodate severe
    cases. Like the road network, the army's medical staff and
    facilities also benefit the local civilian population.
    Three severe environmental factors govern conditions at Siachen:
    weather, terrain and altitude. Each can have a significant impact on
    combat operations.
    Low temperature and blizzards are the main weather-related hazards.
    The former can produce hypothermia, frostbite and chilblains - each
    potentially debilitating and sometimes lethal. Blizzards can cause
    death or injury because of disorientation. Temporary snow-blindness
    is also evident.
    Casualties resulting from weather have been substantially reduced
    since the conflict's early years - mainly because of improved
    clothing and equipment, and improved procedures gained through
    costly experience. Pakistan receives its cold-weather gear from the
    UK, and India from Switzerland or Austria.
    Problems related to terrain include avalanches, treacherous
    crevasses and ravines, and climbing accidents related to the steep
    gradients. Training and experience have, once again, provided some
    solution. For instance, better preventative measures have been
    introduced as areas prone to avalanche were identified together with
    the conditions under which they normally occur.
    The oxygen deprivation that can occur at extreme altitude causes
    changes in body chemistry that are still not fully understood.
    Neither is it clear why some people are affected and others not, and
    the question of which individual will suffer problems is not
    predictable.
    The main illnesses commonly evident in the region are acute mountain
    sickness (AMS), cerebral oedema and pulmonary oedema. Hypertension
    and cardiac problems are also seen, along with such maladies as
    chronic weight loss and psychological disorders. These can be fatal
    if left untreated, and descent to lower altitude can commonly
    relieve all such illnesses.
    Symptoms of AMS include headache, giddiness, palpitations, muscular
    weakness, fatigue, appetite loss, sleeplessness, irritability,
    nausea and vomiting. The disorder appears at altitudes above 2,500m
    and usually disappears within four to seven days. Chronic AMS is a
    variation that can take up to six months to clear. Its indicators
    include memory loss, difficulties with decision-making and attitude,
    nightmares and hallucinations.
    Oedemas involve the swelling of tissue because of excess fluids, and
    they can be induced if AMS is left untreated or if individuals climb
    above 4,500m. Symptoms of the pulmonary version include cough, chest
    discomfort, lethargy, palpitations and frothy or bloody sputum.
    Symptoms of the cerebral version include severe headache,
    difficulties with balance, visual and hearing loss, confusion,
    speech defects and emotional problems.
    Professional mountaineers are equally susceptible to these
    illnesses. However, mountaineers climbing for sport limit their
    ascents to the summer season while the soldiers serve in Siachen
    year-round. Also, the mountaineers normally spend eight or 10 days
    at high altitude while these troops can be deployed at observation
    posts for two to three months. Finally, of course, the soldiers are
    subject to hostile fire.
    "Most of the people serving here, 80-90% of them, are from the
    lowlands. They are not physically made for this area," said the 322
    Siachen Brigade's medical officer, Maj Hassan Iqbal. Proper
    acclimatisation is essential, he added, although some personnel may
    have altitude ceilings beyond which they cannot safely venture.
    "We keep a person at 10,000-11,000ft for about one week, then he
    goes to 13,000-14,000ft for a week or 10 days. A thorough medical
    check-up follows," said Maj Hassan, describing the procedure. "From
    that point, one night of rest is required for each 1,000ft climbed
    in a day. Normally, the move from base camp to a post takes two to
    three weeks." Those who succumb to mild AMS descend to the base
    altitude and try the process a second time, while anyone suffering
    from an oedema or similarly serious problem is quickly re-assigned
    elsewhere. Support personnel found to have altitude ceilings are
    retained but combat soldiers must be fully capable of ascending to
    extreme altitudes.
    Perhaps more than civilians, soldiers are often psychologically
    geared to dismiss the relatively mild discomfort of a headache or a
    cough. However, together with similar irritants, these may here
    indicate serious problems that require concerted education and a
    broader awareness.
    "Troops are encouraged, irrespective of rank, to keep an eye on how
    others are behaving. That person may not realise the symptoms of
    illness, may not understand why he is depressed or irritated," said
    Brig Sallah-ud-din. "We place great stress on comradeship."
    - Robert Karniol is JDW's Asia Editor based in Bangkok
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  2. Tiki Tam Tam
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    Tiki Tam Tam <b>MILITARY PROFESSIONALS</b>

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    Great place to test all the physical and emotional faculties of the human being!!

    It is a place that gives new meaning to life that we take for granted!!

    Tough, but emotionally very nourishing and cleansing!
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  3. hoodhood1
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    hoodhood1 FULL MEMBER

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    I have heard that there have been incidences of Bear attacks in that region also?
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  4. Tiki Tam Tam
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    Tiki Tam Tam <b>MILITARY PROFESSIONALS</b>

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    Not that I have heard of them on the Indian side.
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  5. F.O.X
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    F.O.X PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Neither on Pakistani Side.


    Regards
    Wilco
  6. Tiki Tam Tam
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    Tiki Tam Tam <b>MILITARY PROFESSIONALS</b>

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    Then what is hoodhood1 talking about?

    any idea?

    Or, are you suggesting that he is hallucinating?

    Or writing for the sake of misplaced patriotism?
  7. F.O.X
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    F.O.X PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    He may have heard a rumor from somewhere.


    Regards
    Wilco
  8. Tiki Tam Tam
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    Tiki Tam Tam <b>MILITARY PROFESSIONALS</b>

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    So, he is a rumour monger! :)

    I rather believe that all are responsible people here since the Forum is quite a responsible one.

    I wouldn't say he has heard a rumour. He has heard a rather ridiculous thing and all he is doing is that he wants to clear his mind!
  9. Blackpearl
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    Blackpearl FULL MEMBER

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    Siachen galcier is @ hieght of above 11,000 ft with peeks reaching to 24,000 ft. At this height, it is not possible for any living thing to survive. only humans can survive up there.

    Also above 15,000 ft, there is no vegetation, no tree, no grass.
  10. mujahideen
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    mujahideen SENIOR MEMBER

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    My hats off to the troops of both India and Pakistan.
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  11. fatman17
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    fatman17 PDF THINK TANK: CONSULTANT

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    the question begs to be answered - is it worth it? - India spending upto US$ 500m/year and pakistan US$ 50m/year. resources which can be better utilised elsewhere i am sure.
  12. mujahideen
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    mujahideen SENIOR MEMBER

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    Of course this amount could be better spent somewhere else. I have always wonder, what if Pakistan and India were not so hostile to each other? They wouldn't of had spent billions of dollars on defence, but use it on health, education and other places which actually help the people. But then again defence is very important, without a good defence their might not be a country.
  13. su-47
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    su-47 SENIOR MEMBER

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    Defence is definitely important, but if India and Pakistan werent enemies, they wouldnt need to have such large armies, or spend so much on military equipment. The 'minimum deterrent factor' that every armed forces require would be much less.

    More than money, we have to ask whether the cost of human life is worth it. Tens of thousands have died so far in Indo-Pak overt and covert conflicts. Could have all been avoided if the leaders of either country just sat their ***** down and negotiated properly and reach a satisfactory agreement.
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  14. Tiki Tam Tam
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    The only solution is status quo being recognised as final

    Anything else will neither be acceptable to India or Pakistan.
  15. Blackpearl
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    Looking into the genesis of Siachen conflict, It is India which started that all in 1984. Although, there is now a tense ceasefire prevailing all over the LOC including the Siachen, however, India and Pakistan are sticking to there respective positions.

    To resolve the issue, Pakistan stance is more realistic:
    Pakistan wants India to go back to pre 1984 positions on ground. This means both India and Pakistan will withdraw their troops from present positions and will redeploy where they are not in direct contact with each other, eyeball to eyeball.

    However, India has proved itself more stubborn. India donot want to relinquish present positions and want status que to be maintainrd. This implies that all the mountain peaks which India has occupied, Pakistan must concead to this, which is unacceptable. Interestingly, Govt of India, wants redeployment of troops, yet it is Indian Army, which donot want to leave posts and thus does not want settlement of conflict.
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