9/17/2007 – The Indian government has lashed out at Pakistan for protesting New Delhi’s plans to throw open Siachen Glacier to tourists.

The Indian government, that controls a large chunk of the disputed Glacier has firmly told Pakistan that it does not need Islamabad’s permission to open the glacier to tourists as they are going to a part of India.

Earlier, Pakistan had registered its protest against the Indian government’s plan to throw open the Siachen Glacier to tourists.

Pakistan has summoned the Deputy High Commissioner to officially lodge their objection to India’s move.

Saltoro Ridge is “non-negotiable”

Earlier in a clear signal to Pakistan that the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region will remain “non-negotiable”, India had decided to open the Glacier to civilian trekkers.
¼br> The Indian Army controls all of the 70-km-long Siachen glacier, as well as all of its tributary glaciers as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier, thus holding on to the tactical advantage of higher ground. The Indian troops had occupied Saltoro Ridge Heights against daunting odds, under ‘Operation Meghdoot’ in April 1984.

The Army plans to organise trekking trips as part of “civilian adventure activities” to the world’s highest, coldest and costliest battlefield which has not been witnessing the earlier fierce artillery duels due to the ongoing Indo-Pak ceasefire. But Pakistan is opposed to the same, claiming that negotiations on Siachen are still on.

“The area remains a conflict zone and a reported move by India to open up Siachen for tourism could aggravate the situation with serious consequences,” says a statement by Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam. 

 TIMES NOW spoke to defence analyst Maroof Raza who says the glacier falls within Indian territory.

“Logically if you follow the Line of Control definition as per the Karachi agreementof 1949, the LOC brings the Siachen glacier into Indian territory – so technically we are right. We are in Indian territory, Pakistan has always made claims there but these claims are not based on any accurate data.”

The frenzy of activity at the glacial heights comes after joint talks yielded little. And India stands firm, saying the expedictions will take place on the Indian side for which it need not seek permission.

The Government’s proposal

Siachen – once the highest battlefield on earth – could now become a tourist attraction with the Government’s proposal to open the glacial heights to trekkers.

A group of 20 people including eight to nine civilians and cadets from NCC, Rashtriya Indian Military College and Indian Military Academy, are to be part of the first trekking expedition from September 19.

The expeditions are meant to show that Indian troops hold all the dominating heights along the glacier.

An Indo-French expedition to Mamostong Kangri Peak, located about 30 kms east of the snout of the Siachen glacier, took place earlier this month. Next will be the first civilian expedition to the glacier.

Management Professor Charuhas Joshi who will be part of that expedition, said he couldn’t wait to get there.

“For 8-10 days there is an acclimatisation and training programme where they will teach us snowcraft, how to handle the various equipment, as well as dos and donts of mountain-climbing. They will equip us, we will get accimatised over there, and then they will put us on a trek,” said Joshi.

For those looking forward to the unique Siachen experience the move to open the glacier has been welcome.

The guns over Siachen may have been silent for some time, but the cold war over this sub-zero battlefield continues.

Video: Verbal war over Siachen: India hits back

Alternatively: Timesnow Video