Manning the Siachen Glacier

pavannair
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Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 28 Jun 2003 13:16

I would like to have your views on the decision which was taken in late 83 to occupy Saltoro.Gen Hoon then commanding 15 Corps says in his book published in 2000 that Khardung La and Leh would have been threatened had we not done so.Gen Chibber-the then Army Commander says that Pakistan would have occupied Saltoro in the summer of 84-for which we now know they had the plans.The issue is that was there ever a real threat to Leh or Khardung La?Could this threat have been avoided by keeping a strong reserve in the Nubra Valley rather than occupying punishing heights?Have we not made our point that the line runs along Saltoro and not to KKO from NJ9842?Should not the military take up this issue with the political leadership and arrange a honorable pull out from Saltoro?
I have written a paper on this and would like to send it to those interested in hard or soft copy or post it on some sites.Any suggestions please.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby kgoan » 28 Jun 2003 13:34

Why not post it here?

There are people on this forum with probably as good an understanding of Siachen as you could possibly hope to get, outside of the IA itself.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 28 Jun 2003 14:08

HIMALYAN GAMES
By
Col Pavan Nair,VSM(Retd)

The ‘Great Game’ played in the frontier provinces of British India concluded with the creation of independent India and Pakistan.However,we the inheritors are continuing with a desi version of the Game in our backyard.No,I am not talking about Kashmir where a freedom struggle or proxy war is being waged-depending on the way you look at it.This is about the highest battlefield in the world – Siachen - far removed from anywhere,isolated,arid-the ultimate battlefield where the sheer physical and mental prowess of the soldier is constantly under test.We have entered the twentieth year of a senseless war which has drained the resources of both nations involved.It is estimated that at three crores a day,India has spent a whopping twenty thousand odd crores-give or take a few hundred crores.This is not the amount spent on the normal maintenance of the force deployed but the additional amount required to sustain the force in Saltoro/Siachen.As an example-a helicopter works at 20% efficiency at twenty thousand feet-therefore five helicopters would be required-which would consume five times the fuel as well as spare parts for the job which would require a single helicopter at lower altitudes.There are no published figures for casualties but I will hazard a guess-at one casualty every second day due to enemy action as well as the hostile weather which causes frostbite as well as pulmonary oedema-we have reached a figure of nearly three thousand five hundred out of which about seven hundred would be fatal casualties.

Question - Does national security have a price?
Answer – No

Question–Can we afford this expenditure which is but a fraction of our Defence Budget?
Answer- Yes,we can.

Question – Can the Army continue to take casualties at this rate?
Answer – Yes,it can.

BUT- It is my contention that the very basis of the operation was flawed in a strategic as well as a legal sense.Whatever threat to national security was perceived-rightly or wrongly- could have been countered by means other than the physical occupation of ground.The interpretation of an ambiguous phrase in the Karachi Agreement of 1949 was questionable.It was the ‘Great Game’ mindset of the military leadership which got us into ‘a conflict without end’ - to borrow a phrase.It is the same mindset which is preventing us from getting out of a no win situation.Any talk of a pullback is now construed as appeasing Pakistan and therefore politically unthinkable.So the firing continues.Our troops continue to win medals and continue to die and continue to get maimed.Even if we can afford the expenditure-it is no mean amount.

Is there a way out of this impasse?Should we continue with the status quo?What are the strategic and tactical implications?What have we achieved?These are some of the questions that this article will attempt to answer.

On 13th April 1984, two vacant passes on the Saltoro Ridge-which lies to the West of the Siachen Glacier and runs along it-were occupied by sending troops in helicopters. This was a disputed area since 1963 when Pakistan ceded an area along its border to China, a part of which as per our interpretation was in Indian territory.

As expected,Pakistan promptly moved its troops to secure positions on the lower Western slopes of Saltoro opposing our own.Having committed troops to the ground and to secure the positions occupied-the force level was raised to a full brigade till almost the entire ridge line extending to over a hundred kilometers was occupied.Since then,local battles are fought almost everyday.Indira Gandhi had given the go ahead after she was briefed about a threat which could develop to Leh via the Nubra Valley and Khardungla-had we not taken action to block the threat by occupying heights upto twenty one thousand feet.The military leadership of the day had come to this conclusion based on Pakistani maps which had been recovered from mountaineering expeditions and some helicopter sorties in the area.The Pakistani stand was untenable historically as well as legally.The Indian stand needs further examination.The Eastern most stretch of the border was not demarcated after the Karachi Agreement of 1949 after a point called NJ9842 since it was inhospitable and uninhabited.The langauage used and now famous is that from NJ9842- the line would run ‘thence North to the glaciers’.The Glaciers in question are the Siachen which feeds the Nubra River,the Remo which feeds the Shyok river and the Baltoro which lies further to the North of Siachen.The Pakistan stand since the 1962 Chinese aggression was that the line extended North East from NJ9842 to the Karokorum Pass.They produced maps to prove it and encouraged mountaineering expeditions in the area which prompted us to do the same-a perfectly correct reaction.It was a case of cartographic aggression and should have been dealt with as such.The approaches to Khardungla and Leh via the Nubra and Shyok Valleys were held by India as was the approach to the Karakoram Pass.Even if Pakistan had occupied Saltoro-there would have been no tactical or strategic advantage and they would have literally been left high and dry.

To my mind,the phrase ‘thence North to the glaciers’ would mean drawing a line due North of NJ9842 till it hit the glacier-in this case the Siachen- and thereafter following the glacier line- in its center-like a river- till it reached the border with China or another ridgeline-in this case the Sia Kangri massif.If this be so,then any feature to the West of this line would fall in Pak territory.The Saltoro Rigde forms the Western boundary of the Siachen Glacier.There is however another interpretation which implies that since NJ9842 lies on the Southern tip of the Saltoro ridgeline-the phrase ‘thence North’ would imply that the line would move in a Northerly direction ALONG THE SALTORO RIDGE.This stand is also tenable based on the universally recognized watershed principle though this should have been specified in the Agreement.If we accept the latter which is the official Indian stand,then the line actually passes through Bilafond La and Sia La on the ridgeline which were unilaterally occupied by India in 1984.Thus the Eastern slopes of the feature would be in India and the Western slopes in PoK.The occupation of the ridgeline is not legally tenable since any pass on a line has joint or ‘condominium’ ownership.After all if we are sitting on a line we claim-so can the other party-the line being common.Moreover,the Simla accord clearly stated that force or even the threat of force would not be used to change the existing line.There are various examples like the Karakorum Pass,Nathu La and Jelep La where no one is actually physically occupying the pass but both parties can patrol the area upto the pass.

Anyway-the crunch issue still remains-Would national Security have been compromised if we had not occupied the Saltoro and Pakistan had done so?

Lt Gen PN Hoon,then commanding 15 Corps,claims to be the brain behind the operation.There is a chapter on Siachen in his book ‘Unmasking Secrets of Turbulence’. I have failed to find the rationale for the operation except a mention of a likely build up which would threaten Leh and a vague mention of the China-Pak nexus via the Karakorum Highway which had been under construction for over fifteen years at that time and was over two hundred kilometers away.Mon Generale-you will have to do better than that.Why had Pakistan not used this route which was available all these years?

Because-it would be crass stupidity to do so!That is the simple truth.Anyone who has
crossed Khardungla will tell you that the Shyok valley- as also Nubra- is a wide and flat approach towards Khardungla which dominates the area.Only,to get troops into Nubra from POK-you would have to climb to ridiculous heights and then come down a sheer face and then travel along a glacier-whereas to reach the same place you could use the flat Skardu-Khapalu-Thoise approach through the Shyok valley.Indeed,we had planned to use this approach in the opposite direction during Exercise ‘Brass Tacks’- another game which was played a few years later.
Another few questions I would like to ask the pundits/players of the game -Even if Pakistani troops would have occupied the Siachen heights-for which they did have the plans- and had attempted to threaten the Nubra Valley-Would we have sat and watched them come upto Khardungla?Would we not have had enough time to react by the time they reached even the Snout of the Glacier? Would our Air Force not have been used to telling effect like it was when the Kargil intrusions took place?Could we not have created a reactive force located in the Shyok/Nubra Valley to counter this?

In fact,the genesis of the Kargil intrusion lies in the Siachen or rather Saltoro occupation which upped the ante and was a clear violation of the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.Mrs Gandhi, the architect of the agreement would have known this but she took the decision in the national interest based on incorrect military advice.The Kargil intrusions were planned in 1987 as a response to the occupation of Siachen but good sense seems to have prevailed at that time.Unfortunately,the Kargil intrusions of 1999 have also led to a ‘Siachenisation’ of the area – another strategic failure. It is not the intention of this article to go into the background of the Siachen impasse and the efforts made to get out of it.Even Rajiv Gandhi was convinced and had direct parleys with Zia to arrange a pullout by both sides.Unfortunately Zia was killed in a crash.Since then there have been numerous rounds of talks at various levels between both sides who have realised the sheer futility of the exercise.You can get all the material with pictures and maps if you type ‘siachen’ at Google and click on ‘go’.I would also recommend another book called ‘Siachen-Conflict without End’ by Lt Gen VR Raghavan who was closely involved with the planning and execution of operations in Siachen over a period of time.After considerable evaluation,the General has come to the conclusion that no strategic or tactical purpose is being served by continuing to hold our positions.However, it is the political will on both sides which can lead to a solution.He has a view about a long term solution to the problem.Where I disagree with him is the issue of public awareness.I feel that the intelligent Indian has no clue about what is happening in Siachen.He does not even know where Siachen is and for how long the battle has been waged.The issue has faded from public memory.More visible issues are in the foreground today.Kashmir is there-though it came up much later.So is Ayodhya.Siachen I am afraid is only a sideshow of the main ‘K’ question.Should we not try and rectify a blunder of truly himalyan proportions?Do we not owe it to our men in uniform to examine and resolve an issue which has already caused so many avoidable deaths and injuries?Do we have to wait for the K issue to be resolved-which may take another decade or two?

I am proposing an option that merits serious consideration.This course has been suggested earlier but in the current scenario,it is worth reconsidering.I am coining a phrase ‘Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal’ or USW.Unilateral, because we do not have to refer to anyone before we execute it-we did not do so when we occupied Siachen/Saltoro in the fist place.Strategic,because the benefits will accrue in the long term and Withdrawal because this is a planned operation of war.USW is nothing new.
It has been in vogue since the time of Alexander and more recently the Chinese used it to good effect in 1962.As a concept-USW should be executed from a position of strength and without prejudice to the use of force at any point in space or time.No conditions are attached and it does not imply a change of a stated position.The aim of USW is to further the national aim by a redeploying available resources to gain a tangible as well as intangible advantage.India is militarily superior to Pakistan.Besides being the Big Brother economically,India can sustain a long duration war.This implies the capture of more real estate and degradation of the adversary’s resources.For reasons which are now obvious,we need not take into account the WMD factor anymore.We are certainly in a position of strength.We could even consider making a declaration that after USW-the line should remain demilitarised.There would be no change in our stand that the line runs through the passes and any act which changes the line would be considered hostile.We could continue with a token presence on the Glacier which indeed is in our territory and retain the right to overfly the passes as also to land on them for the purpose of inspection.The deinducted force could form a reactive reserve to be located in the Shyok/Nubra Valley.In short-pull out from Saltoro,keep a few observation posts on the Glacier and a well trained and acclamatised force in reserve to react to a situation.

Let us examine a scenario,were we to pull out our troops unilaterally.Firstly,would it be an admission that our policy was wrong and would lead to a certain loss of face?I do not think so-as there would be no change in our stand.Of course there would be political implications for the BJP government-or indeed any other govermment in power.This is where public opinion can make a difference. I do believe that Atal Bihari Vajpayee has the vision and statesmanship if he is backed by the ordinary people.Secondly,Pakistan could occupy the vacated positions and claim the disputed territory as also a moral victory.To this-I say-let them-if they so desire-there is no real threat from such an occupation- in fact they would also withdraw.If they do not,we can respond in our own way-diplomatically or otherwise at a time and place of our choosing.Finally,the Line of Control beyond the now infamous NJ9842 could be taken care of at a later date by a joint delineation committee on the lines of the Prem Bhagat Committee of 1972.

Let us examine the flip side.USW would be a masterstroke which would bring out the statesmanship India is capable of.It would be the biggest confidence building measure with Pakistan and would show the world that India is not a threat to its neighbours or for that matter to anyone else.It could indeed lead to the beginning of the end of the Kashmir problem. We should be able to draw our own road map rather than having it thrust on us.A lot of water has flown down the Shyok since 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom.The writing is on the wall.The Prime Minister must show the political will-he has the vision and the authority to implement USW and start the healing process with our adversary. Notwithstanding the antics of George Bush-India and the US are vibrant democracies and natural allies.We will have the backing of the international community on this issue without prejudice to our original stand.Let us strengthen his hands by bringing this issue out in the open.It has been swept under the carpet for too long.It has been a side show for too long.How many more casualties will we accept? How many more thousand crores will we spend?Should we leave such matters to defence experts who have created the mess in the first place?It is the money of the taxpayer which is being spent.So what can you and me do?Do we matter?Yes we do.To begin with we can start discussing this issue at various forums.Did we not as a nation discuss the war in Iraq and approve/condemn it as just/unjust in no uncertain terms-even schoolchildren did so.Should we not do the same where our own soldiers are involved?There are a lot of smart people out there who can contribute-authors,editors,teachers,strategists,artists,students and cricketers.Mr Prime Minister-you have the statesmanship - even if your own party does not support you all the way-there are others who will including people in the opposition.This is too important an issue to be left to bureaucrats or even ministers.Your direct and personal intervention is required.Come on-all you discerning readers-you can spread the word.Make USW an issue.There will be a lot of people who will bless you for it-the families of soldiers who are serving there to begin with.Also the families of our comrades in arms on the other side.Coming to the last question in the opening paragraphs about what we have achieved in Siachen.ZILCH.Let us remedy that by getting out asap.The environment will benefit too.

Here is a quote from General Inder Gill in a letter to The Hindu in March 1997 with the title ‘Pull-out from Siachen’.The General became a legend in his lifetime and is highly respected in the Indian Army.
‘The amounts of money wasted by both sides is very large indeed.There is nowhere that either side can go in this terrain.You cannot build roads on glacier which are moving rivers of ice.We have no ‘strategic-tactical advantage’ in this area.Nor can Pakistan.Ask any officer who has been on the glacier what will Pakistan do if we pull out,and he will tell you at once that Pakistan will do the same.We must withdraw immediately and unilaterally and save wastage of money which we cannot afford-estimated at Rs 30,000 crores since 1985.’

Gen Jahan Dad Khan who commanded 10 Corps and planned the Pak operation has made a similar statement in his book.

During my research for this article I have come across a report on the internet about heavy casualties suffered by the IA in an avalanche on 03 March 2003.26 soldiers and 13 porters were killed.There was no press report.This tragedy should have been reported by the PM in Parliament which was in session.The Government must explain this lapse and review its policy without any further delay.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby shiv » 28 Jun 2003 17:01


Rudra
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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Rudra » 28 Jun 2003 17:04

Perhaps a mutual pullout can be organized when Kashmir peace moves fructify.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Muns » 28 Jun 2003 18:28

The Pakistani stand was untenable historically as well as legally.

The same applies to all of Pok, its not just siachen where the pakis yet again committed aggression, but the problem has its roots right to the very day jinnah ordered his taliban terrorist tribes to invade into kashmir.

A battle rages every day across the entire LOC, with the pak army and its terrorist entering and killing army and civilans alike. In Siachen the casualties are higher due to the extreme conditions, so if we were to pull back, this in no way means people would magically stop dying, it just means the war frontiers would shift deeper into Indian territory.

There are various examples like the Karakorum Pass,Nathu La and Jelep La where no one is actually physically occupying the pass but both parties can patrol the area upto the pass

Why bring Nathu la and Jelep La in sikkim into it, anyway if recent news is anything to go by, we're opening them up for trade...shows our relative ease with the chinese on the borders.

Could we not have created a reactive force located in the Shyok/Nubra Valley to counter this?


SO we give them the heights in siachen in order to move the battle to the valleys of shyok and nubra. Where they could occupy heights here and pommel Leh at their bidding. Move, occupy and kill the infidels..The war doesn't stop, the frontiers jsut change..if i remember they might still hold pt 5353 and one or two other heights along the LOC. Our airforce doesn't still bomb them for fear of an escalation and maybe possibly some 'pink' line crossing. Yet id like to agree that the time for confrontation isn't possibly now and the time will come..

In fact,the genesis of the Kargil intrusion lies in the Siachen or rather Saltoro occupation which upped the ante and was a clear violation of the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit

Occupation? Lets not forget that the whole of Pok is legally India's and its pakistan in violation here. It was pakistan who started the first agression and we seek to stop that frontier war LOC border moving one more inch into Indian terrritory.

Another point, is about the Karakoram pass, moving the battle zone to the valleys and further east gives them the chance to further reinforce their northern borders and perhaps get the chinese to supply them through the karakoram pass. Repeat ample opportunity to infiltrate jehadis and further the proxy war into Leh. Id like to think the reason Leh is pretty safe from terrorism is because of siachen. Move the frontier to the valleys and you repeat the cycle infiltration and jehadism of blowing up the infidel monks.

I think this is the main crux of your argument. the battle and terrorism won't stop even if we pound them with the air force in the valleys. USW won't solve this problem, people will still die and terrorism in Leh due to infiltration will only increase.

For the rest, i can't say that i like the siachen situation very much..but its a fact thats been forced on us. Reading through BR, we find that its more than about land and borders. Were fighting for an ideal as well, that the scourge of Islamism and terrorism plagueing the world has to be fought. Siachen is one frontier, where we've been pro active and said enough to pakistani terrorism and we occupy not willing to give an inch on land and their ideals. Ask any soldier on the border and he'll say the same...they are willing to die to fight for this and we must be supportive.

Im not sure if the casuality figures that you report are from the first few years of occupying siachen. From what i read the reports are changing.
We are now the Leaders in high altitude warfare...look through the DRDO site and see the experiance they've gained through siachen thats been invaluable to saving other lives for soldiers guarding our whole northern borders. DRDO makes high altitude clothing, MRE's, avalanche locaters etc

Now they are researching on biodegradable bacteria that can consume human waste at this altitude. All army gear must endure the rigors of siachen to be passed on the field. Theres a Hanuman temple and even some surgery can be performed....recently plans for a cable car setup are being implemented...where equipment can be sent up and trash removed. Dozens of Dhruv are being inducted every year into siachen to help ferry troops and goods

The Rohtang tunnel will be completed in a few years...giving us all weather access to Leh. As our economy grows...so will these 'comforts' increase...and we can only hope that one day siachen will become the starting point to liberate Pok.

Personally think we can extend the border further west of the saltoro ridge down the heights we control on siachen (Is it sher camp we can just throw grenades on?) while sending reinforments down the shyok river. A blitzkrieg strike on many fronts including the IAF will see a large part of Pok regained...ah well a few years away.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby member_201 » 28 Jun 2003 18:43

Dear Col Nair,

Welcome to Bharat Rakshak. Thank you for joining our forum and posting your article. I look forward to reading it.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Sukumar » 28 Jun 2003 20:33

Col. Nair:

Welcome to the forum. It is always a pleasure to hear from serving/retired officers. Let me congratulate you on a nice article. I have some comments and then some questions.

Comments on Siachen 84:
1. In retrospect, do u think - if India decided to break the spirit of Simla - that we should probably have gone a little more west and captured bases on the western foothills of the Saltoro ridge that Pak is currently using as base camps ? I am thinking of a line paralleling Dansam - Thang. We may then not have had to occupy the forbidding Siachen heights.
2. The same is still possible in a reverse Kargil with say "Balti" irregulars ;)

Questions:
1. From a humanitarian and cost view point I like your solution of pulling back to the Shyok-Nubra valley and am sure Pak will pull back too. However, who will win the publicity war ? Will Pak crow about this as a victory ? (which BTW they need badly after being whipped repeatedly).
2. Given the altitudes, is there really a need for a full brigade (with a couple of supporting brigades) to occupy the heights ? Is it possible to reduce the presence (and cost) using technology and air power ?
3. Who actually controls the Karakorum pass ? What is its military value ?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Sunil » 29 Jun 2003 01:49

I feel the following will happen, please correct me if I am wrong.

- Surveillance quality in the area will decline and this will leave the area open for the Pakistanis to mount spectaculars. A spectacular could be a simple matter of occupying one peak and then using the western and local (Indian) media to claim that they have "conquered the Siachen Glacier". The cost of "bringing them down" will be high for the Indian Army.

- Ofcourse India will cry blue murder at each international forum about Pakistani aggression but ultimately the international community led by the US will acquiese to it. Who knows they may even encourage it to do more of these stunts.

- The unilateral withdrawal will be interpreted in Pakistan as an `Indian Defeat', it will give the Pakistani Islamists a political boost.

- It is unlikely that the `reserves' maintained at Leh and elsewhere could retain the same fighting effectiveness as the present ones. What is more is that entire infrastructure which currently creates a division size HAA reserve will be depleted. Should the Pakistanis attempt to climb up the glacier again, this infrastructure may have to be replaced at great cost.

- The cost of Siachen is not so much in "crores of rupees spent", it is more in the way of lives lost. There is no way to recompense this. We lose a comparable amount in lives in CI grid in J&K, I have yet to hear the end of the "we gave away Haji Pir in 1965 and look where that left us" song-and-dance routine. If some adverse outcome comes from this unilateral withdrawal, people will slam the government.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 29 Jun 2003 08:58

A few issues require to be addressed.

1. If we had not occupied the Siachen Glacier area and if indeed the Pakistanis occupied it and rolled down the Nubra Valley, what would be the defensive line we would have occupied to stem the advance? Khardungla? If we moved into to block the Pakistanis at the Snout [flat and wide] as suggested, without heights, to my mind, the hasty defences that would have to be taken would not have the defensive potential desired. Also reacting in the High Altitude Area [to take up defences at the Snout] has attendant problems like acclimatisation etc and it cannot be perceived to be in the same light as in lower hills and plains. Likewise, without road communications, it would be slow….in fact, very slow since helicopters or even aircraft carry very low payloads [if operating from High Altitude air bases]. Moving in artillery too, which is essential, would be immense problem.

2. In this connection of the rationale to occupying the Siachen area one should also consider the strategic implication of the Pakistanis linking up with the Chinese from Siachen through Saser La and to Daulat Beg Oldi and then into the Chinese occupied Chip Chap area. The whole area of occupation would move South. What would be the threat to Leh? It would make the Skardu – Khapalu axis into India easier than it is now. One should also not miss out that the Chinese could then link up the Western Highway to the Karakorum Pass.

Therefore, one may reconsider it the occupation was a blunder or not. As far as loss of precious men, of that there is no doubt.

Unilateral Strategic Withdrawal may not be the answer. The Chinese example of withdrawal may not be an ideal example. The Chinese withdrew unilaterally, but they withdrew from de jure Indian Territory not essential to her strategic requirement. They did not withdraw from areas necessary for her strategic necessities.

3. The next issue is that – if we withdraw and the Pakistanis don’t and then they occupy the Siachen, what happens? While Pakistan would be in the international doghouse, but then Pakistanis would have achieved cheaply what has otherwise proved costly to her so far.

4. There is however no second opinion that a lot of lives are being lost and the expenditure is colossal. There has to be a solution. I reckon

4. Area Nathu La is occupied.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby khan » 29 Jun 2003 11:21

Sorry, to go OT, but:
For reasons which are now obvious,we need not take into account the WMD factor anymore.
You sure about this or just speculating?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 12:06

In response to the query by Khan-I would like to say that after the war in Iraq-Uncle Sam has got his eye on the Pak 'strategic weapon'.In fact they even inspected their facilities.I dont think the Pakis would try a nuclear misadventure.To that extent-as far as this subject is concerned-we should not be too concerned.Thanks for a great response.I will be responding to all the members.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 12:57

I would like to respond pointwise to Praneet N

1.If we intend to retake Pok then the best option would be to make a small push into the Shyok Valley from Turtok and outflank the Paki positions on Saltoro.That way there would be no need to hold the heights and that would solve the problem of infiltration.This option has been suggested by a member above.This may of course lead to an all out war.Regarding positions on the LOC- believe me that being on the LOC is like being in Chandigarh Transit Camp as compared to Saltoro.There is hot water,generators and a loo which is away from the sleeping area.Also enough oxygen to breathe.

2.If we are not going to give up an inch on our territory as far as Pakistan is concerned then what about the Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin?Is that not a part of our Motherland?Why the preferential treatment to China?Let us accept the fact that both the rounded horns on the map of Kasmir have been chopped off.Sad but true.I brought in the passes as a precedent of joint ownership.We dont have to physically hols a pass to have joint ownership.A helicopter patrol will be as effective actually more effective than a ground patrol.

3.I am not suggesting a shift in the line.However we must be able to implement our stand by taking action as suggested in Para 1 above or other diplomatic as well as military action at a time and place of our choosing.

4. The linking of Karakoram with Pok over any of the Saltoro passes in not a technically feasible proposition.Road construction on glaciers is not possible.Occupation of Siachen will not prevent terrorists from getting into Leh or anywhere else-specially if they are of the 'fidayeen' variety.I would also like to think that we are achieving something from our policy but all we have achieved is a slow but sure decimation of our army.Please think of the thousands who have been wounded and have been 'boarded out'from the army with a measly disability pension.No sir,it is not worth hoding an inch or even thousands of sqUare kilometers of strategically useless terrain when the purpose can be served by moving into a position of strength below.

5.Regarding the efficacy of DRDO equipment,please see Page 107 of Gen Raghavan's book 'Siachen-conflict without end'

6.Belive me that the problem of human waste has not been sorted out.Please see the comments of a young Captain in September 2002 in an article published by two American journalists who visited both sides last year.It makes graphic reading.

7. If we really want to tighten the proverbial 'screw' then all we have to do is to cut off river water to Pakistan.Why did we not do so even during the wars?

8.The soldier of the IA will fight for the izzat of his paltan and the fauj-wherever that may be.No doubts there.But ask his Commanding Officer that if he was given a task to defend the Nubra Valley and there were 2 ways of doing it-which option would he choose and why.You will have your answer.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 13:23

Here is a point wise response to sunil s

1.If we pull out from Saltoro then there is no question of reoccupying any height again.It will be goodbye once and for all.Good riddance according to me!However with the surveillance means now available we will be able to get early warning of any viable build up in the area.We now have a satellite in polar orbit with a resolution of 1m besides another with a resolution of 5m.The pictures produced are of very high quality and with 2 satellites the 'look in'period reduces.Besides we will have our positions on the Glacier which will have their own surveillance equipment which can be deployed on the few approaches from the passes into the Glacier.

2.I do not think that the international community would accept any violation of the line specially after we have withdrawn unilaterally.

3.If the Pakistanis continue to hold their positions-yes.But that would tie up a large force which would suit us militarily.They would withdraw in winter which is punishingly severe and patrol the region in summers using helicopters just as we would.In fact the DGMO'S can have a chat and decide the days!It would be a win win situation for both.

4.There are no reserves available as the entire force is deployed over a frontage of a hundred kilometers.On the contrary we would conserve the force below and train it in the area of operations at a fraction of the cost.

5. I have not discussed J and K in this paper.We are realising value from our deployment in J and K.Unfortunately I cannot say the same of Siachen.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby shiv » 29 Jun 2003 13:30

Col Nair (or maybe I should really say "pavavnair") - I have taken the liberty of introducing double spaces between pargraphs in your article because the forum software was not displaying your paragraphs correctly and making the article difficult to read.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby shiv » 29 Jun 2003 13:47

Pavannair your idea of USW sounds fine in the way you have presented it. But what about the objections that Ray has brought up. Some of thses little details are generally unknown to most of us - so I guess my questions and comments would be:

1)Would Pakistan be able to make some movements and occupation that puts us at further risk (as Ray has asked)

2)When Siachen was occupied in 1984, I don't think India had the means or pinpoint attack capability that is available now. Perhaps a physical occupation was the only possibility then.

Knowing Pakistan I am sure that there will be two definite responses to a USW from Siachen

1)Militarily I guess that Pakistan will do what t can and occupy some areas at least in a token fashion to show victory and progress in their war against the infidels

2)Politically - the leader of Pakistan if we do a USW - whether it is Musharraf, or Aziz or anyone will automatically claim that the "USW" is a lame excuse and that Pakistans policies are paying off, and that Indi ais getting "tired" and that a few more jears of jihad will get them Kashmir. This is the premise on which themilitary in Pakistan keeps links with Islamista nd keeps a grip on Pakistan.

So MY opinion of USW would be that the idea is good if it is backed by a "big danda"

The danda has to be a "remote" one - with the Air Force involved. ANY move by Pakistan to occupy evacuated areas should be ruthlessly bombarded and eliminated from the air as and when it is discovered. This should be made perfectly clear right from the outset. And there should be technical means to detect and destroy intrusions and the political will power to do this.

If the technical means are there I would be willing to accept that we can then try to change political minds - and satr saving Indian lives while we continue to decimate Pakistanis who enter any territory evacuated by us.

Are the technical means there? What does the air force need? How can the Army contribute? Cab the Air Force or an different sort of Air Force army combine be used to keep Pakis out while our men remain behind and below?

If the technical means are there and we can kick Pakis like we could not in 1984, then paper agreements can be considered.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 13:52

Hi Shiv,
Col Nair is fine.Thanks for correcting the layout.I would like to respond to Ray and will then revert to the points made by you.However in principle I agree wih you that USW has to be backed by the proverbial Danda.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 29 Jun 2003 14:12

Few points:

1. POK is too large for total occupation in one war. Therefore, push through Turtuk is but another good example of winning a battle but not the war. But, it surely is worth a go. Now, if we hold Siachen and push down in conjunction from the Siachen Heights to Khapalu, it would divide enemy reaction and reinforcement and guarantee greater success, especially if we pre-empt the issue. May be therefore, Siachen being held makes some sense. Though, I admit a costly and a sad sense.

2. The posts on top on the LC surely cannot be compared with Chandigarh Transit Camp. I admit things have improved, but not to that extent even though it is desirable. Unless of course the wait at the transit Camp is taken into consideration where you have to wake up in the wee hours, stand on the tarmac, get loaded into the aircraft like sheep, take off and then return because of bad weather to have the same experience day after day till the sun shines. In fact, it is most disgusting a feeling.

It is true that the air that one breathes on the LC posts is worth all the hassles. If not in HAA,at least eslewhere in the J&K where the pine smell along with it is exhilarating to say the least!In fact, after shaves claiming to ahve pine fragrance are no patch to the real thing!

3. I too cannot fathom why this preferential treatment towards China.

However, helicopter recce is not failsafe. Remember Kargil? It sounds good and impressive, but that’s about all. Foot patrol along with heptr recce is better but still no guarantees. The jagged boulder strewn terrain of the HAA hides the enemy well, especially when alerted by the approaching rotor noise of a heptr. In the snow, only the footprints or AT ft prints can be picked by the discerning eye.

4. Linking Karakorum from Chip Chap Valley I believe is feasible, though I won’t lay down for this fact since I am not aware of the ground conditions of the Karakorum area.

Terrorists can be anywhere and that point is very valid. In so far as the disable and boarded out individuals because of Siachen, I wish the country thought more about them and did something constructive and not the usual lip service.

However, Army men have to do what they are ordered to do and Siachen is a task unfortunately one has to sacrifice for and pray like mad that he comes out OK. It is only when you are a casualty of Siachen that one justifiably gets bitter and worse if boarded out with a measly disability pension and not a fantastic post Siachen health care programme. It is hoped that the government soon realises this.

5. DRDO has never been a favourite of the Army and with genuine reasons indeed. People don’t realise that while they are scientists, they are more of being bureaucrats than scientists. Their excellent PR given their funds win friends!

6. Cutting of Indus Water is an excellent force multiplier. But you require guts. We can’t even have the Wullar Barrage project through!

7. Indeed, the CO would prefer the other option. Who wants such tensions if he can ensure that it is not there?

From a human beings point of view, Siachen is a pain, but from a soldier’s point of view, as the say, one has to Grin and bear it – that is, if one can manage a grin :) !

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby khan » 29 Jun 2003 14:57

Are there any topographic maps of the Siachen are available - with the key feautres marked out. It would really help greenhorns like me put things into perspective, or am I asking for 2 much?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 15:03

This is a pointwise response to the very pertinent points made by Ray.

1.It is difficult for me to answer the question of the line of defence in Nubra.The field force commander would have taken a decision at that point of time but I would say that the Nubra Valley is highly defensible since it has ridges rising on either side which can be occupied by a defender and the valley itself can be blocked by a holding force.The airhead at Thoise could have been used to fly in reinforcements or artillery as was done for the Saltoro occupation.In fact the Gajraj flew in the Bofors guns.If required we could have flown in Armoured Personnel Carriers which can operate freely in Shyok as well as Nubra.That would have given the Pakis something to think about.The Snout would not have been the ideal place to defend the Vally-maybe a bit further back.I made a point in my paper that we would have taken him on(by air)much before he reached the Snout of the Glacier.The roadhead is upto the Snout now.I am not very sure when it was constructed but the airfield was very much there in the Shyok Valley.In fact we had pushed the line upto Turtok in 71 so I feel that there was a road existing in Nubra too.The altitude at the snout is about 13000 feet which is not so high and we would have had enough time to acclimatise troops since the decision to occupy Saltoro was taken in the early winter of 1983 and the actual occupation took place in April 84.

2. Regarding the link up with the Chinese via Saser La-I have alrady made a point is response to another member that such a link up would be technically impossible even if tactically feasible.Even if it were possible to construct a Class 9 road on which 3 Ton vehicles could ply between Karakorum Pass over Saser La into Nubra-where would the alignment proceed thereafter.The only possible choice would be to follow the track down the Nubra and join the Shyok road to Turtok and beyond.For this Pakistan would have had to capture the Nubra and Shyok Valleys which could have been held in some strength-anticipating such a course.The Saltoro occupation was in anticipation of the higly improbable if not impossible.

3.The Glacier should continue to be occupied by us by keeping a few observation posts and blocking positions.We have an existing infrastructure and can block the approaches using surveillance devices.In fact we may also continue to occupy the Southern part of the ridge line where a road is now under construction-if so required.This would entail a much smaller force at considerably lower expense in terms of casualties and cost.

4.A member has suggested that we should wait for the Kashmir issue to be solved and this issue would be a part of that solution.It is my contention that this may take another decade inspite of the ongoing posturing.Should we wait for so long.No Sir,I feel it is time to get our boys down now.We need to work out the cost benefit ration in human terms.Not only the killed and wounded but the sheer human suffering that we are subjecting out troops to.

5.I may be wrong about Nathu La-I have served at Jelep La which is unoccupied as is the Karakorum pass where we have a post at Daulat Beg Oldie.The intention was to bring out the joint ownership of passes as also the line itself which is very clearly specified in the Karachi Agreement.I can reproduce the language of the agreement-a copy of which is with me which makes it amply clear that the line(then called the CFL) going from Chalunka on Shyok River to Khor(NOT NJ9842)thence North to the Glaciers is jointly owned as it is not inclusive to either India or Pakistan.This implies that neither side can occupy the line but must reamin at least 500 yards behind it.All this is specified in the Agreement.500 yards behind Saltoro would mean that we would be occupying positions in thin air!NJ9842 came in to the picture after or during the delineation in 1972 as we had changed the line by pushing it from Chalunka to Turtok.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 29 Jun 2003 15:54

1. One wouldn’t state the Nubra Valley is defensible since it’s is wide and so mutual support would be difficult. Occupation in the Valley would mean something on the lines of defences in the plains with less defensibility. Though I will hasten to add that it doesn’t mean it can’t be defended though. One has to make good with a bad case.

2. I don’t think Nubra would permit APCs because it is too boulder strewn.
East of Saser La mechanised force [limited] can operate in the Depsang Plains.

3. The Snout is not at all defensible. Very wide, tactically speaking.

4. 13,000 feet is very much in the acclimatisation zone and you will have to do three stages. Since you have been to Jelep La, you will surely understand. It is worse since the 'scenery' is so demoralising that apparently it appears with less of oxygen. I have been to both the areas. I would prefer Jelep La to areas East of Zoji La. As Nehru said, not a blade of grass grows! In fact one CO wanting to impress the Brigade Commander said that 'Sir, if my boys are here, not a blade of grass will move'. Obviously, not a blade of grass would move as he told me later, since there was NO blade of grass. So, the CO said immaterial of whether his troops were there or not, nothing would move! :)

5. When the Pakistanis come if we don’t hold Saichen heights, we won’t have the one year that we had in 1984. High Altitude movement is awful apart from terrain dangerous like crevices and ice walls to scale.

6. While one has not gone upto Karakoram Pass, but the terrain East of Saser La is much better for movement than that of the Nubra Valley. Once the Chinese are up to Karakorum , they will link up from the other side since that terrain [I am going now by the map] apparently is OK in comparison. But as I said I can’t say for sure.

7. Keeping OPs {Observation Posts} is of no use to defend even if a platoon of Pakistanis comes. Even if they inform, it will take a lot of time to bring in the troops.

In so far as surveillance devices are concerned, they have their value but that’s about all. Great morale boosters though.

Blocking positions are alright for armour warfare, but moving infantry in High Altitude is easier said than done! In High Altitude you are either holding ground or you can forget about doing anything substantial without loss of immense amount of lives. Kargil is a live example.

8. I am with you that Siachen is very very costly in lives, but so is Kashmir or the North East. So is war for that matter. So, what can be done? All that can be done is look after those who come back and more so those who can’t come back because they died for the Nation and those who have deprived themselves of the God given gift of human existence because they are incapacitated in defence of their Nation.

All I can say is that I share your anguish, but then I wish the Nation realised the sacrifice the men are doing in such climes. As you yourself said, Counter Insurgency is the focal point now, who care about Siachen? Sad, isn’t it?

As I wrote in a poem of mine –

Memorials in gratitude stand,
Mossed with age and rain.
Forgotten by ALL.
Except –
the Bladderfull Dog.
A tribute indeed
For our Noble Dead!!

I wrote it when I saw a dog urinate on the memorial just outside the Staff College gate and none (including Service officers, who because they will be DSSC graduates feel that they are - [as DGMI told us in and address in Staff College] – you idiots you feel that after Staff Course you are God’s own BAL*S, with sun shining out of your ARS*]) salute the memorial as per the customs of Service to honour our dead comrades in arms. All these good things of life are not known to the modern officer since he is considering the army as just another method to earn his keep and damn everyone else!

The watershed principle is well taken, but then one can't trust the Pakistanis because Musharraf is a wily old fox who can lie with a straight face! But your thought about halting the Indus water is indeed thought provoking and it is time that the Pakistanis are told in clear terms that if they do any hanky panky, they will not have water to even drink!

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 29 Jun 2003 18:31

For Ray.Thanks for your thoughts and prompt response.The idea of writing this paper was to create awareness of an issue which is not on the agenda anymore.I have sent it to a cross section of people in and out of government.I am getting a few positive reponses including one from the Chief.I must however end on a dissenting note regarding your view of rolling down from Saltoro onto the other side.We will need another brigade of mountaineers to do it.It would be too ambitious,expensive and sanguine.Anyway-God bless the Indian jawan.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Muns » 29 Jun 2003 21:06

Thanks, and a few points :

1)
Aksai Chin : No doubt this is Indian territory, but at this present point in time is it wise to act in a pro active and maybe agressive stance when it comes to China. Its seems wise to consolidate our positions here and work agressively towards resolving the Pakistani, Bangladeshi problems while securing our intersts in Nepal, Bhutan and the North East before opening up another front with China.

2)
Regarding Infiltration, Will our withdrawal from the Saltoro Ridge Increase or decrease infiltration into the Nubra and Shyok valleys. If the Pakistanis Control the heights and more passes like Sia La and Bilafond La can they not increase the amount of terrorists entering into these valleys to threaten Leh.
Will we have a Srinagar situation where terrorists resort to mountain guerilla warfare attacking Jawans wherever they choose, blowing up jeeps and personnel and attacking other soft targets before taking refuge in the mountains around Leh. How many hundreds of soldiers might die in this scenario already being played in the West?

3) Haven't read the book, but i look at some of the recent successes by DRDO and im proud that they strived to achieve what they have. The new BSFR's, WLR's, Thermal imagers, Bullet proof armor, INSAS and other recent accomplishments like Nag, Pinaka, Akash, etc etc Theres tons of other stuff...
Do you have a particular deficiency in mind, perhaps we can search if any deficiencies are being addressed.
At the last Defexpo there were a large number of products shown by DRDO for high altitude warfare, which many members commented on and took pictures...perhaps some might post more info :

4)
Yes remember reading it, but there are numerous articles to show that things are being done, and huge improvements are taking place. 20 years after we first landed on the Glacier, inexperianced we indeed took a high number of casualities...but its now 2003 and id like to think we have led form the front to provide what we can to make things a little easier :

some articles dated :

Breathing
easy
http://www.the-week.com/21jan21/events9.htm

India to clean up Himalayan rubbish :
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1981920.stm

Delicacies which keep soldiers going
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020108/nation.htm

5)
Cutting off the Indus has been discussed before, and the consensus was it would take huge resources, it might not work (too many tributaries), and of course trying to evade condemnation by killing millions of the poor while the RAPE class elite go about killing Indians.

6)
As mentioned before how would the Islamists take this news. Its one more defeat for the Yindoos, they will surely break now with a stronger jihad. We wiped out their whole NLI in Kargil and they consider it a success...
As far as im concerned they need to see their high value targets lost in order to feel a pinch...people are fodder for them. K2 is but a stones throw from Sia Kangri, acquire lower bases around Gasherbrum and perhaps K2 and the message will hit home...

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Surya » 29 Jun 2003 21:15

This is a thread to be preserved. Please save this on your hard disks

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby debjani » 29 Jun 2003 22:00

For rolling down the Siachen heights by Indians one may not rquire a brigade of mountaineers. In fact, after Kargil, all inducted are trained for High Altitude Warfare on induction.

A 'double ended/ simultaneous differrent direction attack' attack [stated for simplcity of understanding without military jargon] has more chances of success than a single thrust.

Much that it may pain all, Siachen cannot be abandoned till the issue is settled.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Bishwa » 29 Jun 2003 23:49

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

India did not initially occupy the ridgeline. It dropped troops on the 2 passes initialy to block entry to the glaciar from POK side which was legitimate. It tried to send troops to a third - GyongLa- by foot but failed. The race to move up vertically on the ridgelines started when the PA was not able to dislodge the Indian Army and tried to jockey for position IMHO. They lost out is their problem.

On 13th April 1984, two vacant passes on the Saltoro Ridge were occupied by sending troops in helicopters.

I understand there were 3 passes - Bilafondla, Siala and Gyongla -(not 2). Troops were heli dropped to the first 2 and a walking column was sent to the third. The last got wiped out in snow and thus Gyongla was lost to Pakistanis. So the pakistanis lost some and got some.

USW would be a masterstroke which would bring out the statesmanship India is capable of.

Like lahore? There is a saying in hindi - latho ke bhoot bato se nahi mante. That is Musharraf for you.

in an avalanche on 03 March 2003.26 soldiers and 13 porters were killed.There was no press report.This tragedy should have been reported by the PM in Parliament

If there was no press reports how did you notice it on the internet? Just curious. Also every time a truck falls into a gorge and it results in soldiers death is it reported by PM in parliament?

6.Belive me that the problem of human waste has not been sorted out.

It will when it flows into pakistan via the Nubra and Shyok :) I believe this is being looked into. Not sure how seriously though.

In fact the Gajraj flew in the Bofors guns.

The Bofors did not make it into Siachen in 1984. It made it only after the 40T road to base camp was completed in the late 80s. During those early days 130mms and 105mms were used. I believe these were heli dropped after being dismantled. The chances of deploying APCs would have been unlikely.

We need to keep the conditions of 1984 in mind when speculating on what could be done.

India has spent a whopping twenty thousand odd crores

Sure. And as per unofficial pakistani estimates the pakistani defence budget has been badly hit by siachen. Money which could have financed a squadron of fighters a year has to be spent on Siachen. In a battle of financial attrition the pakis are loosing more than us. That counts a lot.

Also the same account says the PA tried Kargil in 1999 partly because it was finding the Siachen financial burder too heavy and wanted a way out of it. They hoped Kargil pullout could be traded for a Siachen pullout.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Muns » 30 Jun 2003 01:23

Act 1 Scene 1 :

100 gun artillary strike to soften up targets all along the LOC especially west of the saltoro ridge. Stike by 155mm Bofors, OFB upgrade 155mm, 155mm T6 on Tatra chassis, Smerch and Pinaka.

Meanwhile Commandos, pass into Pok through Chorbat La, while Marcos float in silently on black fast patrol craft to around Khaplu. On the Saltoro ridge, a mountain brigade decides the white landscape would look a lot better if the brown speck called tabish post below was to disappear.

As general Vij blows his conch the attack starts with a vice forming around Dansam from down the slopes and from the commandos behind. Quickly they setup a secure helipad where dozens of Dhruv land and despatch jawans.

Paratroopers and Marcos have already secured Khaplu, while MKI's and LCA's roar ahead chasing after a fleeing F7 PGs....a real 'super' treat, although unknown to them IAF mirages are already on an intercept from Tajikistan.

With thousands of reinforcements coming thru Chorbat La and down Siachen the drive towards Skardu begins...

Act 1 Scene 2

Three hours later in Skardu, one can sniff an aromatic masala dosa while a little more east a sikkim sherpa is racing away to plant the tri color on K2. :D :D

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Calvin » 30 Jun 2003 02:30

Col Nair: If the references to Brass Tacks, and lines of attack are not in the public domain, please refrain from posting them.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Y I Patel » 30 Jun 2003 02:51

Col Nair

In your article, your three main points are:

(1) Our occupation of Siachen is tremendously expensive in terms of lives and money; it is of no discernible strategic importance; and the legality of our posts on Saltoro Ridge is questionable.

(2) Therefore, we should abandon most posts on the Saltoro Ridge except maybe for a "few" observation posts, and withdraw unilaterally to positions at the snout of the glacier that you deem to be defensible and less expensive in terms of human life and money.

(3) This unilateral withdrawal will be hailed as an act of great statesmanship; it will act as the initiator of a chain of events leading to the solution of India's Kashmir problem and thus cause India and Pakistan to live in peace thereafter.

Let me begin by addressing point (3), which is by far the one that would generate the greatest resistance to your ideas. There is no reasonable basis to believe that abandoning Siachen on moral grounds will engender a whit of international goodwill; as far as Pakistan goes, it will only be seen as an act of weakness that should be exploited by raising rather than lowering the ante on other issues. It would be delusional to believe that any fewer Indian lives will be lost by abandoning Siachen to generate fleeting warm and fuzzies for Pakistan's terroristic regime. Please let us not forget that these are the same men that responded to PM Vajpayees historic trip to Minar-e-Pakistan by clambering up Tiger Hill, even while the Lahor Accord was in the process of being inked.

Now let's go back to point (1). Your questioning of the legality of Indian occupation of Saltoro Ridge really rests on the assumption that the Northern Areas are legally Pakistan's. Are you questioning, sir, that Maharaja Hari Singh's accession of his entire domain, including the Northern Areas, to India is not legal? Because if the accession is legal, than India is at worst merely clarifying a murky point left over by shoddy treaty writing by Gen Bhagat's team. I have no issue with you regarding the tragic cost of maintaining our presence on Siachen, but I firmly believe that Indian Army's presence there has sound strategic basis. On this, more as we go on.

Finally, to your point (2) regarding the possibility of defending Siachen with observation posts, monitoring devices and so on. Firstly, sir, it is important to point out that our current deployment is really no different from the one calls for "a few observation posts to keep an eye on Pakistani movements". In fact, our posts on the hights of Bilafond La and northwards do nothing more than that. The real fighting is done by their calling on arty to prevent any Pakistan movements up the slope. Please let us not judge the current fighting by the accounts of Subedar Bana Singh's exploits. Thanks to men like him, we are now in a position to maintain a minimal presence in actual "posts" Indirect records such as Republic day award lists point out that the overwhelming majority of units deployed to Siachen are logistics and engineering units. There are far more arty units than attached to any other indep infy brigade. And though there are a massive number of infantry units as well, this is due to the actual need to rotate individual soldiers out within the strictly imposed three month rotation period. So in effect, if we are to accept your proposal and maintain "a minimal number of observation posts" on Siachen, our numbers will not go down by much, if at all.

However, if we really do take your recommendations in their sprit an abandon Siachen (because that is what you are really advocating), then we will in effect hand over the keys to India's gateway to Central Asia, to our Pakistani friends. Consider the following:

(1) Not holding on to Saltoro heights renders our positions in both Nubra as well as Shyok valleys indefensible. There are several reports attesting that the Indian base camp in Nubra has had to be shifted because of Pakistani shelling. The current base camp is right in the lee of the Saltoro range, on the west bank of the Nubra, to prevent direct observation from Paki positions in Gyong La. By abandoning the southern Glacier, we leave our positions in Nubra Valley, right up to the confluence of Shyok and Nubra. Worse, we let them invest Saser La, and thereby choke off the best Indian access to Karakoram La, India's gateway to Central Asia. And, just to show how nice and Gandhian we are, we throw open the entire Shyok valley for them, including our so called airhead at Thoise. Remember, even in 1999, Chalunka and other vital Indian positions were shelled because of Pakistani infiltrators observing and directing arty fire. By handing them Saltoro heights on a platter, we invite much worse treatment. We will not be saving any lives, sir. We will be loosing them by the hundreds.

To be continued...

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby ehsmang » 30 Jun 2003 09:06

Not not a military man. my 2 cents!!!

a) A 100% Indian withdrawl from Siachen should be the result of a well thought out treaty between Indian and Pakistan and not a unilateral move.

b) In the interim, we could contemplate a gradual thinnning out from Siachen. ie we could identify the less important posts and vacate them. ( Ray, do we vacate some posts in winter at Siachen??)
How many posts do we have on the SIachen ( is it a secret , then maybe the approx numbers)

However, such a move should be contigent on a well thought startegy of detecting, preventing and evicting any Paki intrusion. We should test our technical ability of identifying intrusion and using PGM's, artillery etc etc in the high altitudes before thinning out. I mean there should be a clear policy of using aircrafts and any other means at our disposal short of sending troops in Kargilian charges to evict any intrusion. If I understand right, there is a unwritten agreement not to use a/c in Siachen?

IF we are so confident of our superiority in the air arm , why the reluctance to use it if we have the PGM's, lasers etc etc......

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby shiv » 30 Jun 2003 14:36

Feasible or not Col Nair's article is attracting seruious interest.

What about a more permanent place in BRM?

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 15:12

Bishwa,thanks for your comments.I would like to respond parawise.
1.True.What I meant was that the 'line'passes through the passes and hence their occupation was technically illegal as the line was not made inclusive to either party in the Karachi Agreement irrespective of the interpretation of the phrase'thence North to the Glaciers',
2.The third pass to be occupied was Indira Col at the head of the Glacier.
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.
4.I got the report from a foreign site via google.Please type 'siachen' at google and I think you will find it on page 3 of the results displayed.The title of the article is 'Indian Army abandons search for 25 missing in Siachen Glacier'.
Yes-all fatalities classified as battle casualties including battle accidents must be reported if not by the PM then the RM.Not only that but there should be a two minute silence observed-even if this has to happen every single day that Parliament is in session.This is the least that we should expect from our electd representatives.Witness the manner in which the Brits honor their dead soldiers.I hope we can agree on this
5. This is not a pleasant subject to write on but let me reproduce a quote from a young Captain.

"After a bunch of guys take a **** , it's impossible to clear it away," Das explained. "Pouring boiling water on it, or banging on it with an ice ax, won't work—it just keeps building up. So those mounds, we would have to clean them with our machine guns. Cock an LMG—tacka-tacka-tacka—and it breaks into tiny pieces of rock-**** . They fly in the air. A couple times a week is enough."
This was in September 2002 more than 18 years after the induction onto Saltoro.
6. I know the commander of the squadron who flew in the guns in May 88.
7. The cost to Pakistan is less than a quarter of what we are dishing out due to the dependence on air supply.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby merlin » 30 Jun 2003 15:43

<I>>>To my mind he is our best bet-the most moderate of the lot and a straight forward army man.</I>

I <B>really</B> don't want to hijack this rather interesting thread, but if that is what you think, I have lost quite a bit of respect for your views, no matter if you have served or not.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Jagan » 30 Jun 2003 15:52

In fact the Gajraj flew in the Bofors guns.

The Bofors did not make it into Siachen in 1984. It made it only after the 40T road to base camp was completed in the late 80s. During those early days 130mms and 105mms were used. I believe these were heli dropped after being dismantled. The chances of deploying APCs would have been unlikely.
The original statement probably meant that the Il-76s of No.44 flew the Bofors howitzers upto Thoise airfield, which was the northernmost airfield operating fixed wing aircraft supporting Siachen. The howitzers further journey was by helicopters.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 16:02

This is a general response to YI Patel's considered views.
Sir,
I think I have not been succint enough in my paper and would therefore like to say that my article is based on the single premise that it is not possible to develop and sustain operations by a viable military force over the Saltoro ridge.If this premise is wrong then I withdraw my argument.Case closed.All other arguments-legal or otherwise are not really material to the issue.I totally disagree that Shyok as well as Nubra are indefensible without holding Saltoro.If so then why was this not realised during the years from 1948 to 1984 during which three wars were fought?Why was it that this issue was raised only in the second half of 1983?Would someone on this forum like to answer this question?I would also like to say that any piece of ground irrespective of its configuration is defensible-if considered vital.If Pakistan was foolish enough to take the Saltoro route-you can be rest assured that each jehadi/mujahideen/soldier would have been hunted down like a rat.
Regarding Pok being part of India-I would say that it was the Indian State which ratified the Karachi Agreement and gave the Cease Fire Line a legal status.In 1965 too we accepted a return to the CFL and in 72 we signed the Simla Accord.
Even in his wildest dreams Gen Prem Bhagat could not have imagined that the Army would be foolish enough to occupy positions of no tactical/strategic consequence and open a new front where we have already written off a brigade.Need I say more?
Regarding the Southern Glacier-this is a consequence of our Saltoro adventure.Please see Para 3 of my response to Ray above.
The Karakorum Saser la link into Nubra and then over Bila Fond la or into Shyok is a pipe dream tactically as well as technically.
Sir,the decision to occupy Siachen was unsound.I have proposed a solution to rectify that decision.I would be very happy if memebers of the forum would suggest any other solution.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby pavannair » 30 Jun 2003 16:09

Praneet,
Just a point about K2.It is jointly owned by Pakistan and our newly found friends the Chinese.Please see Ayub Khans book 'Friends not Masters'.It could however certainly be the trijunction.
DRDO is as good or as bad as any other organisation including the army.I have no issues with them except that they tend to reinvent the wheel.Cheers

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby shiv » 30 Jun 2003 16:36

Originally posted by pavannair:

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.
Col Nair, I think you are TOTALLY mistaken here. I have spent the better part of the last 6 years reading every bit I can read about Pakistan, much of it shared by others on here.

I have also spent hours speaking to serving and retired Indian armed forces personnel.

There is a general respect that Indian armed forces personnel give to their Pakistani counterparts as "fellow peofessionals".

It would be a mistake to consider Musharraf and many high ranking officers of the Pakistani army in this light.

The first big difference between IA officers and the Paki army officers is probably their socio-economic backgeround. Pakistan Army officers either come out of the "highest classes" or rapidly get there by virtue of being in the army. They get there by influence and toeing the line and maintaining their "izzat" - which does not necessarily mean winning battles or wars.

You may have noticed that the Pakistan army rarely goes into any honest detail about where and how they got kicked in 1965, where and how they got kicked in 1971 and where and how they got kicked in 1999. They cover up each other's blunders and are not comparable to what I have seen of the Indian armed forces.

The Pakistan army has a lot of economic interests outside the armed forces and the Army is a stepping stone to wealth and power after retirement. Officers toe a particluar line to make sure they get that. The Pakistan army has been in power for over half the time since 1947 and Pakistan is literally in a shambles, with spiralling birth rates, decreasing literacy, increasing poverty and increasing fundamentalism and the Pakistani army has not really been "patriotic" enough to check that. They have only lined their pockets, bribed the mullahs and muddled through.

Musharraf himself was responsible for killing shias in Pakistan (details on Bharat-rakshak - url please someone) and you know very well that he denied involvement when his own men were dying in Kargil.

Musharraf is a liar, and not to be trusted. In this respect - I admire officers of the Indian defence forces - but they tend to rightly assess their opponents capabilities as professionals and do not see the dirty side. This is true for most Indian armed forces officers I have met.

Merlin - please do not be harsh on pavannair. As professional armed forces men in India they are not fed with information to make them complacent. They need to treat an enemy with respect. WE can afford to look at other aspects.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Khalsa » 30 Jun 2003 16:38

These very detailed graphics one of which is a coloured version of what Shiv posted as well and they bring about a better grasp of what the withdrawl means and where the current advantage is being held.
Admins Please leave the graphics here for some time, I will remove them tomorrow and convert into simple hyperlink if they become too much of a nuisance

<img src="http://www.cmc.sandia.gov/Links/about/papers/SAND980505-20/images/sand983.jpg" alt="" />
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<img src="http://www.cmc.sandia.gov/Links/about/papers/SAND980505-20/images/sand984.jpg" alt="" />

Cooperative Monitoring Centre Article on Siachen

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Gerard » 30 Jun 2003 16:54

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.
An army man without honor or sense of duty to his fellow brothers-in-arms.
How do you make treaties with such a man?

Paki soldiers died for their country and Gola refused to take their bodies. Others were buried shamefully at night.

This straight forward army man blatantly lies over and over again about the jihadi terrorists infiltating into India.

This moderate army man has stated that even if Kashmir was solved, the proxy war would continue.
He (with help from OBL) has slaughtered Shia muslims in Gilgit.

To hell with Mushy. For a straight forward paki dictator, General Aziz or even Hamid Gul would be preferable.

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Re: Manning the Siachen Glacier

Postby Khalsa » 30 Jun 2003 17:15

Forgive me Colonel for saying this but this moderate man (Mushy) is a highly intelligent person who loses little sleep over the Indian deaths.

I agree he may have become moderate but that is only because his Lunatic Jehadi schools have now grown out of his control and they are taking lead and are about to wrest control of the Kashmiri militancy/terrorism proxy war from him. If I am not too off target, he fears his life, his family is overseas and as I often say. Life is about to do a full circle on him no matter how many Billions he comes home with from papa bush. :p

Please note this the same moderate who smoked heavily and brandished Indian Army captured weapons in Kargil times and made fun of the seriousness of the Kargil War. Kargil was his brain child. I agree as an educated and an army man he is the saner of the many but he gave those lunatics extra leash, now I am not going to help him rein the hounds. He and his country now must suffer the consequences. Why should we provide him with an exit strategy.

The door is about to close on him and I couldn't care less.

One thing we have to learn, today war's are not the North African wars where the armies fought each other like Gentelmen. Gone are those days. He has bled us enough and now its out time for us to progress and move out of his grasp and grow to be a nation that eclipses him and his pukistan.

What you sow, so shall you reap!


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