Manning the Siachen Glacier

pavannair
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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 17:58

I seem to have ruffled a lot of feathers with my remark about Mush.I would like to withdraw that remark so that we can get on with the issue in question.Thanks

Surya
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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Surya » 30 Jun 2003 19:11

I spoke to a SF colonel and he said "to understand Mushy's mind come to us"

Bottom line - do not trust Mushy.

Now back to the discussion

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 30 Jun 2003 20:35

Col Nair,

Obvious reasons prevent me from elaborating. However, it would be wrong to allow the perception that the military decision to occupy the Siachen Glacier was wrong, to set in. I will elaborate as much as what is available from common knowledge.

There are a few issues being discussed that require amplification now that the discussion is moving thick and fast and the some issues are re-surfacing in different forms .

1.First, we will examine the contention that one should denude Siachen area and leave a few OPs.

The leaving of a few OPs {Observation Posts} and withdrawing from the heights is rather foolhardy a thought because:

[a] In the High Altitude, there is no question of ‘rushing in’ troops to stop any enemy. The operations in retaking heights in the Kargil area during the Kargil Ops should have been an adequate example. It is worse in the Siachen since apart from the rarefied atmosphere, the terrain obtained in the Siachen [moraine, ice walls, crevices etc] negates any movement. In so far as ‘Blocking Positions’ go, there is no such thing for the Infantry. It’s in armour warfare.

[b] Therefore, having just a few OPs who will give Early Warning and then the troops will move in is a pipedream or a slogging match with incommensurate casualties to retake the heights.

[c] One may argue that the troops can be moved in by helicopters. Given the low payloads [and they cannot fly in from Chandigarh], the amount of helicopters required may be more that the complete fleet available! And anyway, the Mi 17s cannot land anywhere and everywhere and that too on the rock strewn terrain or in the soft snow of Siachen.

[d] Further, those helipads that are available for the Cheetahs where the OPs are, would require maintenance. Where would the number of troops required to do so come from? Are the OPs to do their duty or beat the snow to maintain the helipads? If the helipads are not maintained from where will the casevac take place from? Or for that matter, does one expect the handful of men at the OP to come down to the valley, down an icewall, with the casualty? It is not possible. What about airdrops of supply? They cannot be pinpointed to land on the OP. It has to be dropped in the Valley. Do the OPs come down to the Valley and search for the stuff dropped? As it is with all the troops available, quite a lot of the items are lost when the airdrop occurs! How long can a handful of men search for the elusive packets?

[e] The contention that technical gizmos including PGMs can replace troops and then if the Pakistanis come use them to evict them. This may not work out. The PGMs [including those that were used in the Kargil operations] had serious problems because of the atmospherics and those firing the same were at their tethers end. Hence, it should be taken for what its worth. Jane’s and other military info are good as benchmarks, but they are not the Gospel truth when executed on the ground. The world went gaga over Patriots in the Gulf War I, but they did not perform the miracle they were supposed to do.

2. Connected is the contention that we denude and then when the Pakistanis come we occupy. No matter how noble is the intention, the question of denuding the Siachen Glacier without an internationally recognised treaty is suicidal and to retake the heights if the Pakistanis come would be equally expensive in manpower as is now, apart from the mental tension of having let the country down. Ask the CO of the Grenadiers unit at Sando who failed to detect the Pakistanis on Tiger Hill/ Tololing that is just on top as to how well does he sleep at night. Ask Mohinder Puri how he sleeps? I assure you Mohinder Puri sleeps like a baby.

3. The contention that the Pakistanis cannot come down the Nubra Valley over the Saltoro is fallacious to say the least.

In Kargil, the area 5299 to Bhimbat LC as also the Mashko area was supposed to be ‘glaciated’ and none could traverse the same and hence unoccupied. The Pakistanis ‘did a Kargil’ and now it is chocabloc full of troops! The power of human endurance should not be underestimated. Must we leave Saltoro to have Pakistan do another Kargil to wake us up?

4. Now the contention of strategic reasons for occupying Siachen and Saser La. Unfortunately, every time a military issue is discussed we get Pakistan centric. While Pakistan is not a pushover, yet it is no reason to lose sleep over. Have you wondered why the Chinese are hell bent keen on Trig Heights 5260 and 5495 in Sub Sector North {Gen Area DG Olde. Surely not to drive down to Leh over the raging Shyok river in the area? Karakorum link from Chip Chap is not a pipedream. Now, if they linked up through Saser La to Saltoro, which they can if we don’t occupy the ridgelines that we are doing, the Pakistanis and the Chinese would be having the last laugh. I don’t subscribe to being a Gandhi in these areas.

5. In so far as the technicalities of the Watershed concept where the Passes are common. The contention that our occupation of the Passes is illegal is but a crutch to make an appealing case for your theory to quit the Siachen Glacier. Let’s look at it this way – even the area West of the Saltoro is India, so where is the question of the watershed principle being mandatory? Do the Pakistanis occupy half of Pt 5353 or Marpola just because it is on the watershed?

6. This is regarding the ‘push up to Khapalu from Turtuk’. Moving down to Khapalu from Saltoro in conjunction as a pincer does not require a brigade of mountaineers. Mushko or the area between Bhimbat to 5299 area is as bad Siachen. The Pakis came! Let’s not shy away from reality. Who could believe laying pipelines along the Nubra? Most said it was technically not possible. Now, it’s a reality. So, take heart. People can decry Indians for many faults but not for our ingenuity!

7. In so far as Musharraf being simple and straightforward military man is concerned, don’t give credence to this idea that the military men are ‘dumb’ by using such euphemisms. I sure don’t think military men are dumb. Straight forward is but a comparative term. Musharraf is a clever old tick who acts dumb, organises 26 amendments to the Pak Constitution, sets the cat amongst the pigeons of Parliamentarians who block the Parliament and ensures all that he wants passed thus gets passed in the Parliament, ensures the hardliners win in the NWFP and Balochistan to keep US on the hook and act coy at Camp David and picks up his ‘bucksheesh’ for his military! If that is being dumb, then as they say – Bush is a monkey’s uncle.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Surya » 30 Jun 2003 20:43

Once again YIP,Bishwa etc. Keep saving this thread.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby rajkumar » 30 Jun 2003 20:48

This thread and the Civilisation thread on the SIIRF is why I keeping back to BRF.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby kgoan » 30 Jun 2003 21:08

Col Nair, may I suggest, if you have not already seen it, that you look through the following article by Y Bodansky linked below:

Article by Bodansky.

I should mention that Bodansky is the former Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. Congress. Consequently, I assume he bases his arguments on sources not easily available in the public domain.

Although it may seem as if the article is not related to this thread, it may be worth bearing in mind that Pakistan's larger geo-political strategy is intimately bound up with Kashmir. And despite 9-11 and the US embrace, there is no sign that it's fundamental premises have changed.

Even worse, US interest in the area may well leave us facing an even tighter situation in years to come if we act solely with Pakistan in mind and fail to keep an eye out of the whole situation.

I'm aware that this may be well away from the thrust of your article and this thread. And that abstract arguments on geopolitics is of little help to the casulties on Siachen. Nevertheless, I think the idea of placing a discussion within a broader context has a certain degree of merit. Occasionally, within such a context decissions that may seem inexplicable begin to make a great deal of sense.

Note, I am not claiming that the article counters your argument, nor do I claim that it justifies our occupation of Siachen. it does not. Such justification is best left to GoI. I'm simply posting it indicate that such broader contexts do, in fact, exist.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Ashutosh » 30 Jun 2003 21:46

Absolutely brilliant thread, and wonderful contributions from everybody! Thanks to all participants ... I am learning a lot ...

PS: Does anybody have a detailed map of the Siachen-Saltoro-Turtuk area? I seem to able to spot the major points like Bilafond La (Is this Bana Point?), Khapalu, Nubra and Shyok, but the other ones I just don't seem to be able to spot on any map I have. TIA.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Y I Patel » 30 Jun 2003 21:46

While I will continue in greater detail later, let me just add one point to Ray sahab's contention about the Nubra line not being defensible without holding Saltoro heights:

In the very article that Col Nair mentioned (the one that carps about human waste), the authors mention how they can see the glaciers simmering in the distance, as they drove up the Nubra valley with the young Indian captain. Now it does not take any classified military knowledge to say that if the authors could spot the glaciers from the Nubra valley, then someone sitting on the glaciers could, in turn, spot anyone coming up Nubra valley. By occupying the snout of the glacier, Pakis can interdict the LC running up Nubra Valley. Without the logistics, the posts on either side of the Nubra Valley would become unsustainable. Likewise, Saser La would suffer the fate of Dras, with Pakis occupying commanding posistions and indulging in turkey shoots.

So the fact remains that abandoning posts on Siachen and stopping the excruciatingly demanding patrols on the glacier, we would be in reality abandoning the entire Nubra valley - and with that, the Shyok valley, the Karakoram and Saser passes, and all of India's dreams of an India controlled access to Central Asia.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Bishwa » 30 Jun 2003 21:57

Pavan,

then the line actually passes through Bilafond La and Sia La on the ridgeline which were unilaterally occupied by
India in 1984.


Let me give the readers a real background of what happened in 1983-1984. It will show that India did not act unilaterally I hope.

1. The first party to occupy Bila Fondla with military force was Pakistan in 1983 .
This is from the book by Gen Jahan Dad Khan then commander 10 Corps - "Pakistan Leadership Challenges"

When the SSG company got across Bilafond Pass (in 1983), the helicopter pilot reported
an Indian location one thousand yards ahead in the Siachen Area. After seeing our
helicopter, the Indian troops, comprising Ladakh Scouts, left their location in a great
hurry abandoning all their rations and tentage. The SSG company stayed in this area for
ten days but was ordered to withdraw in the first week of September 1983 as it had
started snowing and the company did not have equipment for survival in the winter
season under thirty to forty feet of snow, which is the normal snow range.


I believe the scout who warned the Indian location of the approaching SSGs was awarded an Ashok Chakra.

2. From The Indian point of view this triggered action.
This is what Lt. Gen M.L.Chibber who was Army Commander North has to say on this incident

The problem precipitated on 21st August 1983 when a
protest note from Northern Sector Commander of Pakistan was handed over to his
counterpart in Kargil stating that Line of Control joins with the Karakoram Pass, also that
all the area West of this extended line belongs to Pakistan. When Army Headquarters saw
this and also got information that Pakistan troops had occupied Bila Fond Pass, they
ordered Northern Command to prevent the occupation of the Glacier area by Pakistan
during the mountaineering season in 1984.


3. The fact of the matter is in 1984 the pakistanis lost out due to poor intel.
This is what Lt. Gen Jahan Dad Khan , Corp Commander 10,has to say on the matter

The withdrawal of the SSG company was followed by many meetings in the GHQ to
decide our plan of action for the summer of 1984 when the Indians were bound to come in
greater numbers. Also taken into consideration was the fact that whoever succeeded in
occupying the passes first would be able to hold them as it was impossible to dislodge
them from these positions due to the terrain and the conditions. As Corps Commander, I
gave the following assessment to the GHQ:

Next year (1984), India is most likely to pre-empt the occupation of the main passes of
Baltoro Ridge with two-battalion strength for occupation and a third battalion as reserve.
It would need another brigade to provide them with logistic support. Maximum helicopter
force will have to be utilized for logistic support. Their air force will be available for air
cover and also air drop of supplies/equipment.

We will need a brigade group with a battalion plus to occupy these passes and the rest of
the force to provide relief and logistic support. We would also need maximum porter
force to carry supplies and ammunition from Goma to the glacier position. All our
helicopters force, both Aloutte and Puma, will have to be mobilized for recce and logistic
cover. The PAF has to stand-by to provide air cover. I had also cautioned GHQ that this
operation will be very costly in logistic support. Our Military Intelligence must be alerted
to keep us informed of all enemy movements beyond Leh to forestall their occupation of
the glacier area.

A meeting was held in December 1983, in the GHQ Operation Room under the
chairmanship of President General Ziaul Haq. After listening to the 10 Corps Plan, the
COAS thought that the operation on both sides would be on a limited scale, involving not
more than a brigade on the Indian side and a battalion on Pakistan’s side. The COAS
had obviously underestimated the quantum of force required by both sides. He had also
under-estimated the logistic problem of this operation as presented to him by the logistic
staff of the GHQ. In this meeting it was decided to incorporate the PAF in this operation
and Maj Gen Pir Dad Khan (Commander of the Northern Areas) was given the task of
pre-empting occupation of the passes, reaching there not before May 1984, as weather
conditions before that period would not allow the use of helicopters and the PAF. This
decision was to be approved by Defence Coordination Committee (DCC) attended by
Chairman Joint Staffs Committee and all service chiefs. So preparatory work was started
on the procurement of high altitude equipment and clothing, improvement of roads and
tracks, recruitment of porters etc. All these preparations were to be completed by April
1984.

I handed over command of the 10 Corps to Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar Khan on
31st March 1984 after completing my tenure of four years. I gave him a detailed briefing
about this operational plan and particularly stressed the importance of Intelligence
keeping a watch on Indian moves beyond Leh. However, I learned later that when our
troops approached the Baltoro Ridge passes during the third week of May 1984, the
Indians were already in occupation of Gyong Pass in the south, strategically important
because it could interfere with the enemy’s line of logistic support. As it was impossible
to dislodge the Indians, we had no option but to occupy the next highest feature opposite
them. This was a great setback for Pakistan, although all plans, including the timing of
troop movement, had been laid down at the highest level. We had obviously failed to
appreciate the timing of the Indian move and our intelligence agencies had failed to
detect the movement of a brigade-size force in this area. It was learnt that the Indians
had moved up their troops from Leh in the second half of April 1984.

After the occupation of these positions by both sides, opposite each other, the border
became active. Both sides started inducting heavy weapons, including artillery guns,
rocket launchers, and anti-aircraft missiles. Fire duels, patrol clashes, and engagement
of helicopters through anti-aircraft guns became a daily affair. Both sides also brought
up more troops to counter each other. Since then there has been no substantial change in
the relative position of both sides. It was in the winter of 1984 that the Pakistani troops
first experienced operating at that altitude. But the troops were provided high altitude
equipment and there was no abnormal loss of life due to weather conditions. Pakistan
was also able to induce French Lama helicopters to make up for our disadvantage
vis-a-vis the Indians.


4. Now what were the Ladhak Scouts doing there?
Well this is what Lt Gen ML Chibber has to say

In 1978, when I was DMO we got information about a foreign expedition from the
Pakistan side visiting the Siachen Glacier. The Line of Control, terminates at NJ 9842. The
Glaciers are not demarcated. We sent a patrol next year and it was confirmed that Japanese
expeditions had visited the Siachen Glacier. So routine patrolling started.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Umrao » 30 Jun 2003 22:10

Excellent thread. All round applause for different perspectives spiced up History and the courageous service of our jawans.
Thanks to one and all.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Sunil » 30 Jun 2003 22:22

Col. Nair,

Satellite surveillance is in its infancy in our part of the world. I am averse to over relying on it. The possibility of maintaining sensors on the mountain tops does exist but this is easier said than done. I have just had the opportunity to read M.S. Kohli's book which details the placement of the SNAP-19C powered sensors on Nandakot and Nandadevi. I think Saltoro is quite close to that altitude. Similar difficulties should be expected.

Satellite imagery is notoriously in accurate in mountain terrain. Given that even an average mountain can have inclines at 80 degrees, the 1 meter resolution actually compresses features about 4-5 times the size. This renders the image useless. A polar orbit satellite can be over a location for a very short period of time, it is possible to predict the period that the satellite will be over the spot and to cover movement in that region over that period. I remain extremely skeptical that even the most advanced western technology can really maintain a 24 hour surveillance on the region.

I am a bit puzzled by the statement that there are no HAA reserves. From various accounts I had concluded that there are battalions that hold the Saltoro line. Each of these has a battalion that is ready to take its place at a slightly lower altitude and another one in acclimation training at Kumar Camp. There is also atleast one unit that has just completed its tour and can be returned to a high altitude environment should the need arise. Is this incorrect? These numbers add up to about a division or so in reserve. I use the word reserve here in terms of manning the actual line not in terms of the number of people north of Partapur.

The Pakistanis have fine tuned the art of blackmail. They could very easily hold out the prospect of an Al Qaida sponsorred coup in Pakistan and do pretty much whatever they want with regards to the international community. I think they could very easily stick it out up there on Saltoro for a few months after India has withdrawn and claim all sorts of domestic mileage. At this point someone will have to bring them down - like Kargil, international disprobation will have a minimal impact on the situation on the ground- we will still get a number of people killed convincing the Pakistanis to come down.

Unless there is a simultaneous withdrawal by both sides, I see little point to the entire procedure. As far as I understand it, the whole point of changing the military posture at Siachen is to build mutual confidence. There is no room for unilateral action in confidence building, it is necessarily a bi-lateral exercise. So if the Pakistanis are willing to withdraw all forces to Khaplu, then I am willing to support a simultaneous withdrawal of all Indian units to the glacier's mouth in the Nubra Valley.

As regards J&K, my point was that I have yet to hear the end of complaints from the military officers about the manner in which the gains of 1965 - i.e. Haji Pir Pass were gifted away to Pakistan. From the events surrounding Sarpa Vinash, it is clear that this is the cause of much of our misery in the valley. What is to guarentee that such a fate does not visit us again? What is ensure that the Pakistanis withdraw from Gyong la and don't use it for nefarious purposes? That an Indian military officer can now suggest a unilateral withdrawal from our positions at Saltoro - at a time when we clearly have an upper hand in the conflict there - is something I find quite curious.

The idea of having a few posts on the glacier, I think poses more logistical challenges than are apparent right now. I suppose one could argue that a few posts equipped with fancy communication gear and a strong close air support component based at Leh or even at Partapur itself, could in priniciple hold the line at Saltoro. However given the patchy performance of PGMs in Kargil, I remain somewhat skeptical of this. Also if I understand CAS correctly, and I may be off here, but there can't be CAS in adverse weather - as far as I know, Siachen is full of adverse (and unpredictable weather). Under these conditions all I see is being proposed is a bunch of inadequately supported posts with little maneuver room dangling in the middle of hostile territory - a repeat of Chip Chap in 1962.

As regards trusting Musharraf. I think I speak for the majority here when I say that post Kargil and the tamasha at Agra, few in India care to trust him. His so-called secularism and moderation is an American television advertizement; high on gloss and low on substance. I would be just as comfortable dealing with a Maulana Fazlur Rehman as I would be dealing with a Musharraf. What is the worst thing that can happen? they will continue supporting terrorism in India? - how is that different from what Musharraf actually does?

(sorry for the mixup, Ray Sahab thank you for correcting me).

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 30 Jun 2003 22:37

Sunil,
Army men continue to hold the rank till they vanish from the face of the earth. So, its Col Nair and not Sri Nair....that is if you are trying to upset him, then its OK :D
Though I may not toe his line. Yet, he has done some homework and at least he has got this thread so vigorously going. I commend him for speaking out his mind and tickling our brains in the bargain.
While army men will go and die wherever they are sent, yet they too are human.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 22:43

General response to Ray-2

Hi,
Thanks for your detailed analysis.I think there is communication gap here.I am recommending a TOTAL pullout from Saltoro-no OP's,nothing.No taking back any heights occupied by the Pakis.Its goodbye to Saltoro for ever.The OP's will be on the glacier down below.Let the Pakis sit on the heights and the passes if they so desire.The OP's will perform the role of flying the flag and monitoring mountaineering expeditions during peace as also act as early warning elements during the hotting up stage(We will get some indications of a build up).Thats it.They will maintain the surveillance equipment deployed on the approaches(No mines please).We seem to be forgetting a major asset-our Air Force.The Nubra is an axial valley with zero obstructions.As YIP has brought out above,there is a clear view to the glacier.No PGM's required here.With conventional weaponry used head on-the pilots will have a ball.There is also enough fly past space over the Glacier and they can pull up at the Head over Indira Col.
Sir,I must point out that no one is answering the questions I am repeatedly asking.Why did wisdom suddenly dawn in 1983.There was enough activity by Pakistan much before that.Please see Bishwa's response above.Do you mean to say that all the corps/army commanders/chiefs were militarily incompetent before that point in time.Also why had Pakistan not used this route which was avilable to it all these years?I have tried to answer this in my article above.Someone please correct me if I am wrong.How the defences will be held and the battle fought is not really the topic of discussion here.Since you feel that operations can be developed over Saltoro-let us agree to disagree.How they will be sustained is a different matter

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 22:56

For Bishwa.

Thanks for the quotes from Gen Khans book.I would like to add another quote in the same chapter that it is a most senseless and aimless war that we are fighting and neither side will make any headway in this area and that the troops are suffering heavily.
I was also awaiting your response to my proposal regarding battle casualties being reported in Parliament.Thanks for raising the issue.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby kgoan » 30 Jun 2003 23:06

Originally posted by pavannair:
. . .I must point out that no one is answering the questions I am repeatedly asking.Why did wisdom suddenly dawn in 1983. . .
.
From the article in my previous link:
. . .in 1984 ISI Generals and Brigadiers approached me with the offer: 'get us young people for training from the Valley so that they could fight India on return.

. . . Islamabad has launched a major campaign to consolidate control over the Silk Road's traditional gateways to China. Fully aware of the major strategic importance of the regional transportation system, Islamabad sees in its control over these key segments of the regional road system the key to its future and fortunes.

. . .Work on the Karakoram Highway started in 1967. A passable road was completed only in 1978, and fully opened for traffic in 1986

. . .The Pakistani strategic calculation is that if Pakistan is the dominant or hegemonic power over the western gateways to China -- a crucial component of both the Silk Road (actually) and the Trans-Asian Axis (strategically, metaphysically) -- Islamabad will be in a position to exert influence over the entire Trans-Asian Axis. Such a position, reinforcing Pakistan's already unique position as the linch-pin between the PRC and the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc, will enable Pakistan enjoy economic and political benefits in the process way beyond what it could have hoped to gain on the basis of the country's objective economic, scientific-technological, and population posture, and even the realistic future potential. Essentially, the Pakistani strategic logic behind the drive to control the western gateways to China is to transform Islamabad's strategic position as the linch-pin between the Islamic Bloc and China into a tangible reality on the ground.

Sophisticated as the Pakistani strategic grand design may be, it nevertheless confronts a very grim reality -- the tracks of road Islamabad is determined to control, or at the very least secure hegemony over, happen to be on the sovereign territory of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and India.

. . . Therefore, in pursuit of these objectives, the ISI has recently launched a relentless drive to ensure that local Islamist irregular forces -- most of them already Pakistan's proteges for they are sponsored by the ISI -- will control all key roads and axes in order to create a regional dependence on Islamabad to ensure safety of traffic -- in other words, recognize Islamabad's hegemony over the western gateways of China.
.
Since it's fashionable in India's media to portray New Delhi as babes in the international woods who always gets things wrong, it may well be that we simply "stumbled" into Siachen with nary a clue of it's long term implications.

On the other hand, it is also possible, that perhaps our babu's are not total imbeciles and even in '84 had realised that a move to forestall Pakistan in Siachen may have long term benefits.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 30 Jun 2003 23:09

Col Nair,

1. None took cognisance before because the threat perception did not warrant it possibly.
2. It is only when China occupied areas like Aksai Chin, did we sit up.
3. When Pakistan magnanimously ceded Indian Territory, our pants caught fire.
4. Great thought was given before sending troops since logistics were are nightmare.
5. Volunteers were asked and a youngster from my unit went. We were disqualified since we were married! The gravity of sending troops can be well understood that was plaguing the senior officers.
5. Col Sarwate and his unit were one of the first troops as a unit organised. Brig [then Col] Chand of the Dogras the mountaineer was also incorporated in the plan.
6. It is not correct to feel that others before were incompetent. Senior officers don’t daydream. They take action based on facts and intelligence or else juniors would feel that they are the ‘jumpy’ type making life hell for them just to progress their careers!
7. In so far as sitting below the Saltoro as OPs it doesn’t make sound military sense at all of thinking if you don’t mind. Leaving heights is not good tactics, it violates all tenets of tactics. I hope you remember that the Base Camp location was changed? Why? The answer is obvious.
8. As far as the Air Force is concerned, they have immense value but to rely on the air power alone in mountains is not advisable. If it were so, then every height occupied in Kargil could be bombarded and the Pakistanis forced to vacate! If Air Force could do the job, then the Army would not have to attack and lose lives which permitted all to have a field day in criticising how so many lives were lost because of incompetence. But that is not what happened. Also, had Air Force been the answer, then we should not be occupying Kargil with a Div when a Bde used to be there earlier! It is no better than Siachen.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Bishwa » 30 Jun 2003 23:09

Pavan,
Thanx for your observations. I have some comments on them.

2.The third pass to be occupied was Indira Col at the head of the Glacier.

I believe Indira Col is a peak (22000 ft) and not a pass. This is the first time I have found it
being referred to as a pass. I am willing to stand corrected.

3. We cannot wish Musharraf or indeed Pakistan away.To my mind he is our best bet-the most moderate of the lot and a straight forward army man.

I have noted you have withdrawn this comment. So I will refrain from expressing my opinion on this.

4.I got the report from a foreign site via google.

It seems to be AFP and appeared in a Pakistani newspaper :)

I agree in principle every jawan's sacrifice needs to be remembered and honoured.
In fact why just the PM ? As commander in chief I expect the President to do it.
However we need to keep in mind that some sacrifices can only be acknowledged after
the mission is over. Any deviation from the rest needs to be condemned.

5. This is not a pleasant subject to write on but let me reproduce a quote from a young Captain.

I own a copy of the magazine and I have read Capt Das's experience. I have also read a report quoting George Fernandez as saying they have plans for environment cleanup.

6. I know the commander of the squadron who flew in the guns in May 88.

I appreciate that. However the fact remains that inducting very heavy weapons (tanks, arty, APCs) in the base camp area was not possible in 84. Which could have effected any defense of the snout.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 23:11

For kgoan

Thanks for your advice to post the article at this site.I am quite enjoying the experience of relating to an enlightened forum even if I am on the wrong side of the stick.
I have glanced through the papers.Very relevant to the issue.A few points.The papers were written in 95 so some events have overtaken them.The beauty of the Siachen issue is that it is possible to delink it from Kashmir for geographical and geo political reasons specially in view of our warming up with China.The Pak China nexus via the Karakorum highway to my mind is a carry over of the Great Game mindset.I do feel that it is time that we recognised the reality with Pakistan as we have with China.That Pakistan is a viable state is something that some people have not accepted including people in this forum.Anyway-that is another issue.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Umrao » 30 Jun 2003 23:21

COl Pavan shaib.

SU was a viable state till Ronald Regan made it otherwise.

We are no US but Pakistan is not as strong and as resource rich as erstwhile SU either. So it is possible that the Pakistan (as)we see (it today) will fail to be a viable state (in near future), becasue it is gathering the critical mass to implode, the only thing that is delaying this implosion is unkil pumping resources to keep it afloat. This is so because we are yet to convince unkil that fractional pakistan is in the best interest of unkil. The day will soon arrive, the symptoms are there for all to see.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby kgoan » 30 Jun 2003 23:28

Col Nair, the forum is certainly one of the more enjoyable parts of my week, I must say. And I'm certainly glad you joined in.

BTW, just a quibble, it's not coming to terms with Pakistan's existence that is a problem, it's Pakistan coming to terms with India's existence that's the problem.

How do we deal with a nation that teaches it's 9 year olds to hate us? Indian media have long taught us to believe that we are at fault with respect to relations with Pakistan.

Many of us on this forum simply don't buy that anymore. As that article, with it''s plethora of Pakistani quotes indicate, this time, dear Brutus, the fault is someone elses!!

:)

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Vick » 30 Jun 2003 23:34

JU, you give Reagan waaay too much credit. Not pertinent to this thread though. The SU was well on its way to being a basketcase. By 1982, the SU was already overstretched militarily and economically. But anyways...

Back to this thread:
My thoughts on the Siachen issue is that the decision cannot be made based solely on the fact that the IA has higher than "normal" attrition there. The Siachen presence has many strategic and tactical objectives which the more learned members have already pointed out.

As I have stated in another thread, soldiers of any nation are inherently expendable... provided they are upholding national interests. The GoI and the IA believe that the Siachen presence does uphold national interests. As harsh as it may seem there are greater issues at play concerning nation-states than the lives of individuals or its soldiers.

Guest

Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Guest » 30 Jun 2003 23:58

I rememebred reading this... so i googled it out. so is this not in use?

DRDO develops Bio-digesters for Siachen

Indian defence scientists have developed a heady cocktail of bacteria to address – not security concerns – but sanitary issues in the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier.
.
.
A single bio-digester can decompose wastes from 50 people for more than 10 years.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby svinayak » 01 Jul 2003 00:15

I must point out that no one is answering the questions I am repeatedly asking.Why did wisdom suddenly dawn in 1983.There was enough activity by Pakistan much before that.Please see Bishwa's response above.Do you mean to say that all the corps/army commanders/chiefs were militarily incompetent before that point in time.Also why had Pakistan not used this route which was avilable to it all these years?

This was addressed in the old siachen thread.
The Pakistan role and position in the western camp during the cold war was firmed up after 1978 when it was brought under the islamic block to become a surrogate power. After 1979 revolution and 1980 SU occupation of afganistan, Pakistan and its location took a strategic role in the geo-political game ( new great game).

As part of Z Brezinski plan after 1980 - the entire central asia was to become a focus for breaking up SU. Centrifugal force were initiated and sustained to acheive the objective.
For this Pakistan was supposed to get total control over the northern afghanistan and tajikistan. With Karakoram highway being operational after 1980 Pakistan increased its activity around that area.

Gen Vaidya was quoted saying that India was monitering the situation and had intelligence inputs from inside Pakistan GHQ about its plan for summer 1984.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Umrao » 01 Jul 2003 00:24

vick>> Short take. RR gave a sustained tumbling moment to the (internaly) tilted SU, even went to the extent of making sure a Polish would become the pope and use Church in that effort, he left no stone unturned...

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Ashutosh » 01 Jul 2003 01:52

I must point out that no one is answering the questions I am repeatedly asking.Why did wisdom suddenly dawn in 1983.There was enough activity by Pakistan much before that.Please see Bishwa's response above.Do you mean to say that all the corps/army commanders/chiefs were militarily incompetent before that point in time.Also why had Pakistan not used this route which was avilable to it all these years?

Col Nair, what is lost here is that India's policy is basically defensive, and hence reactionary. More often than not, it is TSP playing pranks and India bearing the brunt. Eventually TSP gets pretty much pasted, but then finger pointing starts.

One can say the same about the Kargil episode - why did TSP not do Kargil untill '99? Answer is simple - it all depends on how much whisky flows in GHQ Rawalpindi.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Y I Patel » 01 Jul 2003 02:40

Col Nair, please don't feel that you are at the wrong end of a stick - you are certainly not alone in agonizing over the human cost of India's battle for Karakoram Pass (as I like to call the continuing conflict for Siachen). Many of us have poured over maps and meditated over newspaper reports, to divine the purpose and method behind the continuing bloodletting on the Saltoro Ridge.

In fact, I personally want to thank you sincerely, because your posts caused me to field test some of my own thoughts on the issue, with the gratifying outcome that they have now been corroborated (for the first time!) by Ray sahab. Since I know of Ray sahab's background, reading his posts on this subject carries for me the highest imprimatur of authenticity. While he stays restrained in what he says, a knowledgable reader can read a lot more between the lines. In that sense, this exchange of ideas has been truly educative for people like me.

That said, I do not have to tell a veteran Army officer like you to recognize ground reality. So far as I am concerned, a conclusive case has already been made that (a) India's occupation of Siachen was driven by a dramatically altered threat perception, (b) that India's strategic intent in Siachen is defensive in nature and strives to protect other strategically vital areas, and that (c) there is no way in hell that India's vital interests will be protected by abandoning patrolling and posts on the Saltoro Ridge.

I will, nevertheless, bash on "for the record". Please regard the statements that follow as not being aimed at Col Nair's article or arguments in particular, but as an attempt to further articulate some ideas that need to be preserved in this sterling thread.

(1) Let's talk about the "original sin". Lt Gen Bhagat, VC, was undoubtedly one of the finest offiers the Indian Army has produced. The team that supported him included some very impressive officers, who went on to contribute immensely to India's Army. Nevertheless, the fact remains that he and his team are responsible for shoddy treaty writing.

The proof of the pudding, they say, is in eating it. Pacts, such as the one delineating the LOC, are considered successful only if they stand the test of time. This particular pact by Gen Bhagat et al. started getting revised even as the ink was drying on the maps! India revised it by occupying Turtok, Pakistan negated it by permitting mountaineers to man expeditions to the Glaciers, and then, to seal it all, Pakistan was on the verge of occupying the glacier itself. Had it not been for some rare foresight on part of India, we would have been, given what we now know of Paki intent through Kargil, looking at Khardung La on LOC or worse.

What fuzzy intent prompted a senior general of a victorious army from explicitly asserting India's right to the Saltoro Ridge, or even beyond? This is no different from the French generals who believed that no tanks could negotiate the Ardennes forest, therefore the Magiont Line could terminate well before the forested area began. Or the famous American Army generals who argued against Billy Mitchell, to the effect that Air Power would never have any strategic impact and should therefore forever be subordinated to the Army!

Technology never remains static, and Gen Bhagat erred primarily in assuming that since the glaciers were humanly uninhabitable, they would pose a similar obstacle to military occupation. He would not have dreamt that a handicapped person would attempt to climb Everest either, but an attempt was made this year, and technology may yet permit such a person to conquer Everest! By leaving the glaciers undemarcated, Gen Bhagat's team not only failed to forsee the impact of modern medical research and mountaineering equipment on high altitude warfare, he also grossly disregarded the possibilities of plainly foreseeable advances in weaponry such as induction of artillery guns with extended ranges and with greater traverse capabilities!

(2) The Indian Army redeemed itself when it had the foresight to first send Col Narendar Kumar on a reconnaisance mission to the glaciers, and then, by preempting Pak when it became clear that Pak was going to mount a permanent occupation of the glacier. Indira Gandhi, on her part, exhibited an appreciation of geography and logistics that her father failed to show when confronted with the information of Chinese plans for a highway in Aksai Chin.

It takes great military insight to communicate an existential threat that may not materialize for decades, and it takes even rarer political foresight and finesse to act on the advice. Indira Gandhi acted on the advice of Gen Chibber, and mounted an audacious operation that now ensures that India's door to Central Asia stays open.

(3) And finally, to the strategic importance of Saltoro Ridge. The Saltoro Ridge, simply put, acts as the wedge that keeps India's door to Central Asia open. Saser Pass, as Ray sahab would undoubtedly have seen, is littered with human and animal skeletons. These are the unfortunate traders who plied the ancient trade paths of the fabled Silk Route, or muslim pilgrims seeking an access to Mecca via the ports of my home state of Gujarat. It may be pertinent to note here that during Mughal times Surat and Bharuch were among India's richest cities, thanks to the trade between India and Arabia. The prosperity was further boosted by commerce resulting from the Silk Route paths that passed over the Himalayas and connected China and Central Asia to the Middle East via India.

The glory of Bharuch port is but a memory, but geographical verities remain constant with time. It is still shorter, for example, to get to Urmuqi (the capital of Chinese Xinjiang province) from Kandla rather than Hong Kong. Pakistan knows this too, and it wants to substitute Kandla by Karachi. Hence, the importance of Kunjerab Pass. By opening Karakoram Pass for trade with China and Central Asia, we can, at one fell stroke, reduce Kunjerab Pass to a backwater.

And it is more than just trade. There are Buddha statues in Mongolia, even in Siberia. They bear witness to the Indian cultural values that were transmitted to the remote reaches of Central Asia by Indian traders and monks. The geography remains the same, and those ancient routes can now be transformed to interstate highways and broad gauge railways. If there is one monor point that I differ with Ray Sahab on, it is in my appreciation of the imporatance of Saser and Karakoram passes. I do not see them as letting China in, I see them as letting India out to China and through it to the other countries of Central Asia. That thought may have been too "visonary" just a few months ago, but if Nathu La will see traders plying their wares to Tibet again, can Karakoram La be far behind?

This, ultimately, is what India's young sons are shedding bloood in Siachen for. Money is no object. Any ruppes or dollars spent on defending Siachen will be repaid millionfold. But portraying the Battle for Karakoram as a senseless or petty struggle does grave injustice to the brave young Indians who have paid in their blood to keep this door open.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Ashutosh » 01 Jul 2003 03:10

Here is some information on Siachen: SIACHEN: THE STALEMATE CONTINUES. Maybe we should also initiate a discussion on the Shaksgam treaty.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby svinayak » 01 Jul 2003 03:35

Though Pakistan failed in its attempt to capture the Bilfond La pass but Indian also lost the strategic initiative. It failed to appreciate that takeover of Khapalu(Can somebody point out where is this ) rather than the control of either Siachen or the Saltoro-ridge line was strategic to Indian security interests in the area.

Distance between Khapalu and Saltoro passes is only forty kms as crow flies. Defence strategists believe that any attack on Leh from Pakistan via Saltoro and Siachen would be logistically and humanly difficult. The likely route can be only along the Shyok river to Khardong La, which leads on to Leh. Obviously, it would have made sense strategically, if Indian army had taken over Khapalu before Pak build up in 1987, using Shyok river route, which is militarily, viable.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Umrao » 01 Jul 2003 08:03

YIP you have very eloquently put the views of many a BRite.
Col Shaib along with Ray have authenticated the various dicussions we had on this subject.

I request eminent members like Ray sahib and Col Nair to do put their views which need not necessarily be congruent at all times, in any case they are and will be for, when it comes to India, we all have at heart the welfare of India. Thanks once again.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 01 Jul 2003 10:05

Acharya,

If the enemy uses the most obvious axis for attack it will meet defeat. The attack, at all levels, has to be multidirection that converges at the point of decision.

Such multidirection/ multi axes attacks/ offensive will divide the enemy's reaction, his reserves and his firepower to include artillery and air force. Therefore, the defender combat might would get dissipated. Hence, the attack/ offensive would have a better chance of success.

Indeed, if Pakistan plans to capture Leh and wishes to ALSO come over the Saltoro, it will be difficult. If he wishes to come SOLELY through the Turtuk route it will be even more difficult since the Indian resrves, fire power etc will remain unifocussed and not dissipated.

Likewise, if India wants to go through Turtuk alone, it the effort will not be commensurate with the success achieved.

To give an example, even though it was not convergent, the Pakistanis in Kargil, could have just come to Muskoh. They did not. They came to 5299 area, Muskoh, Tiger Hill/ Tololing and as far away as the Batalik Sector. The resultant was a video game for the Indians. We were all over. Then the second Div was inducted and the war got focussed and sector specific. The result was success.

Added Later

Further, Khapalu is at the Valley floor. Therefore, holding on to it would not be the answer. If you recall, the height 13620 just on top of Kargil town changed hands three times. While we had Kargil town itself, it was not good having it since we were at the mercy of the Pakitanis when they held 13620. Therefore, Khapalu by itself would not be an answer.
Moreover, in the mountains, onve you capture a hill, you find there is yet another one that is essential to capture to make the hill captured safe. That is why they say - mountain eats up troops!

Khapalu and Skardu maybe 40 kms as the crow flies, but in the mountains it is time which is important. Kargil - Leh is about 40 mins as the crow flies, but it is one day by road! And that too depending on which aircraft/ helicopter that one is using.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 01 Jul 2003 13:59

I would like to thank the forum specially Ray and YIP for their in depth analyses and comments.I would like to sign off now and leave some thoughts for you.Hopefully I will not be repeating myself.

1. So where do we go from here?Do we continue with the policy of a stalemate situation which has been in force for the past twenty years.I prefer Rays solution to sorting out the issue by occupying Dansam from Saltoro in conjuction with a push from Turtok.Never mind the cost.It will be worth it.If this is not accepted then we MUST get out.Continuing to occupy rocky crags at twenty thousand feet in a stalemate situation and writing off a soldier every other day is poor strategy and also poor generalship specially when it has been going on for 20 years.
2.We have extended the hand to Pakistan again.No doubt-the issue of Siachen will come up in the near future.If as a matter of national policy we are going to continue our confabulations with Pakistan on this issue then I feel we should give it a last shot before winter sets in this year.If we can negotiate a solution then let us do so now.Not the kind of negotiations we have been having on the issue for several years.If Siachen does get demilitarised in say 5 or ten years-then it would be a criminal waste of lives of the soldiers now serving there.We should otherwise go for the option in Para 1 above-WITHOUT ANY FUTHER DELAY.
3. It will be worth making a study of how the decison to occupy Saltoro was arrived at.It will worth studying who were involved and who were not.I would like to quote Major BA Prasad from an article in Combat in August 93 titled 'Siachen-The war of Sanguine Intrasigence'.
'A majority of those who served there believed that India was pushed into an avoidable situation by senior military commanders acting irresponsibly'.
4.I do believe that the shortage of officers in the army is a direct result of the kind of casualties we have been taking and accepting since 84-not only in Siachen.Also there is a tendency amongst those joining to avoid the infantry which does the actual fighting.Nobody joins the army to die or get maimed-even if you are paid for it.The parents of soldiers serving in Siachen have been approaching the RM to get their children out in one piece.Please see the latest interview in the Express.I was surprised that a journalist of the calibre of Shekhar Gupta did not ask him about plans for resolving the issue-that too while on the Glacier!
5.I would finally like to reiterate that Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal should be implemented from a position of strength.We can vacate what we want to and retain what we want to(Southern Glacier as also the Glacier proper).We are holding the cards.There is a need to change the mind set of people at large and to create an awareness of this issue so that it can get resolved one way or the other.Thanks for your time.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby ehsmang » 01 Jul 2003 14:10

a) Assuming for a moment that India denudes its presence on the Saltoro, how will a Paki intrusion on the ridgeline take place. I mean will the Pakis come on foot to occupy or it will be some kind of heliborne operation? How will this intruding force be sustained with an Indian presence on the ridgelines?

b) Is it easier to climb on the ridgeline from the Glacier side( Indian) or the enemy side?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby daulat » 01 Jul 2003 16:31

This has to be one of the best discussions on BR for a long time! However - some points to note

1. even my briefest of exposures to high altitudes convinces me that holding positions on the glacier and above must be a complete and utter nightmare, so I sympathise with Col. Nair's 'emotional' logic

2. air power must play a much more pivotal role in this arena - more so for interdicting logistics bases and not for evicting OP's - IMO this is the only way that any demanning can occur on our side.

HOWEVER this requires the political will to escalate the conflict - are we willing to tell Mushy that we will (repeat WILL) hit his logistics on his side if there is any movement on the peaks? after all, their OP's can starve and freeze to death if they want. I don't think that the TSPAF can offer any serious resistance if we wish to PGM anything within 5km's of the line (assuming that given the severity of the slopes, all significant supplies will have to be in closer than that)

other than that -its the China factor which dominates. TSP once again is a painful irritant. Do we have the will to permanently change the game?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Surya » 01 Jul 2003 17:28

Hi Col Nair,

One of the things you will realise on this forum is that certsain folks from absolutely unrelated fields have a lot more strategic vision and understanding. YIP is one of them

If only the Army could build on a layer of folks like him for out of the box thinking

Regards

Surya

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 01 Jul 2003 18:37

YIP startles with insight.

I appreciate that while I was inward looking, he is outward looking and aggressively fresh. I looked at Karakorum as China connecting to it.

YIP looked at it better - our gateway into China!!
Well done, sir.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby daulat » 01 Jul 2003 19:16

Ray

hypothetically speaking - how long could PA resist IA advance in Turtok if their logistics were fully interdicted by aggressive air?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Sunil » 01 Jul 2003 19:59

Hi,

> Where do we go from here.

If the Pakistanis want to do it bilaterally and simultaneously, then we do it, otherwise one has to sit up there.

Alternatively you clearly accept the cost of the unilateral strategic withdrawal in whatever terms it may ensue (i.e. handing Pakistan an "Indian Defeat", strengthening belligerent elements of the Pakistani military, etc...) and live with it.

I personally don't really have a problem with either.

The human cost in CI is comparable to that on Saltoro in a per capita sense, so who knows this may be the start of a new way of doing things- you know.. attrition less wars etc...

The thing that I feel should not be done is - we should delude ourselves into believing that

a) Technology,
b) International pressure on Pakistan,
c) God Almighty,
d) Moral High ground,

etc... is somehow going to magically mitigate the negative effects of the strategic decision.

A minor technical point it may be of interest here.

You can't use only dumb bombs in a mountain environment. They are extremely inaccurate and can be off by a thousand feet. In a mountain environment that could render the raid ineffective or worse still kill your OP/LP. This is where PGMs offer some hope, but even with PGMs there are problems. The ground speed of an aircraft in a mountain range is quite high, this places technological demands on PGM guidance, the US has people sitting near the target with a hand-held target designator. So there is really no way to avoid the human element in the HAA.

Ofcourse needless to say - not much can be said about the environment friendliness of a conventional bombing raid.

Millenarism has little place in security studies.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Bishwa » 01 Jul 2003 20:39

4.I do believe that the shortage of officers in the army is a direct result of the kind of casualties we have been taking and accepting since 84-not only in Siachen.A

Pavan,
I disagree. It is partly because of the economy opening up and the IT boom has opened up a lot of oppurtunities for graduates.

B.t.w the attrition the Indian Army has been taking in Kashmir is no different from that due to the Naga problem in the 50s and 60s. And Kargil casualties were of a lower scale compared to
71 or 65 or 62 I believe.

Also the armoured corp was always the no 1 choice for new recruits. IMA stats should tell us more.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 01 Jul 2003 21:00

Originally posted by Daulat:
Ray

hypothetically speaking - how long could PA resist IA advance in Turtok if their logistics were fully interdicted by aggressive air?
All have their their three lines of ammunition and are stocked in rations for the year. Therefore, interdiction really does not affect that much. Again, it is in a manner of speaking so to say.

Interdiction would have an effect on reserve management and reinforcement.

The Indian Army would not advance on just one axis. There should be enough options if we want to do so, but what would be the end result? A pin prick in the whole canvas of the problem of J&K? After all, the ratio is 1:1.2 against Pak when it should be minimum 1:7 in HAA and 1:3 elsewhere.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby daulat » 01 Jul 2003 22:19

Do we know from Kargil what impact air had on TSPA morale? I can imagine that initially the shoot down/crashes made them happy, but post PGM strikes on Tiger Hill? I think i understand the reality of 'stalemate' or atleast status quo in siachen, but i am sure that there are other dimensions in which the jhapad option becomes really very tangible indeed... :)

i fear that vacating the ridges and glacier will give TSP a huge psy-war advantage whilst the rest of the world will not even notice/care/bother - so Col. Nair, much as I appreciated your views, we must look for alternative answers. YIP i think has started something interesting here...


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