A total of 135 persons, including 124 troops of Pakistan army, on Saturday were reported buried on a Himalayan glacier due to an avalanche. The army immediately deployed tracking dogs and helicopters to rescue the missing persons. Till the filing of this article, no dead or alive were recovered. Major Generalof Inter Services Public Relations told media the soldiers were sleeping when an avalanche hit their base. The incident appears to be one of the major tragedies on one of the highest battlefields in the world.
The elevation of this battlefield between India and Pakistan is estimated around 22,000 feet. The base where the avalanche hit was located at the height of around 15,000 feet. Major General Athar Abbas said the base was still covered with 80 feet of snow. Pakistan and India have waged three wars on issues of Kashmir and Siachen and the latter still remains a source of contention between both the countries. India occupied a number of posts of Pakistan army back in 1984 and intermittent exchange of fire between troops of both the countries has cost hundreds of lives on both the sides since.
Security and defence analysts say that both the countries have around 150 manned outposts along the glacier and around 10,000 to 20,000 troops of both the sides remain alert to guard their land. Since partition of subcontinent back in 1947, Pakistan and India have a number of issues yet to be settled and Siachen stands prominent among one of them. Dialogue and negotiations have been initiated for a number of times on the issue, but the issue still remains unresolved. Armies of both the countries do not agree to withdraw the troops, as the glacier has strategic importance in the region.
Pakistan army suspects India wants to occupy northern areas of the country through Siachen, while Indian army says Pakistani Mujahedeen (holy warriors) can use the place to wage a war in Azad and Jammu Kashmir. The mutual trust deficit is holding both the countries to move forward on resolving the issue with open hearts. Both are developing countries and cost to maintain the outposts is too high. Defense analysts believe that Pakistan has to spend around $2 million and India $3 million annually to maintain their control over the region.
Since 2003, Pakistani and Indian troops have been observing a ceasefire and therefore casualty rates have decreased significantly. We strongly believe that international community should intervene to help both the countries resolve the contentious issue because it will ultimately pave the way for dialogue on other core issues including Kashmir and water dispute between both the countries. The international community should also help Pakistan army in retrieving the buried soldiers. We hope sanity will prevail between Pakistan and India and both will withdraw their troops from one of the deadliest places on earth.