Siachen costs Army dearly; 14 soldiers die in 2 months

“No proposal of withdrawal, first priority is to hold ground”

ABID BASHIR
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 3 2016 12:00AM | Updated Date: Mar 3 2016 12:00AM
Siachen costs Army dearly; 14 soldiers die in 2 monthsFile Photo
The world’s highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, is of late costing the army “very dearly” as 14 soldiers died in last two months while 41 died in last three years. On Wednesday, a porter also died at the glacier. The army, however, asserts that Siachen is of great importance for it and “for the army, first priority is to hold ground.”
A defence spokesman said that a porter hired by the army to work at Siachen was found dead five days after he fell into a crevasse. He said the army had launched a massive operation to rescue the porter Thukjay Gyasket, 40, a resident of Sasoma, Leh, from a 200-feet deep crack in Siachen’s northern glacier. “The team recovered the body on Wednesday,” the spokesperson said. 
Recently, 10 soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer were buried in snow after an avalanche hit their post located 19,000 feet above the sea level on the southern side of the glacier. Six days later, one of the army personnel Lance Naik Hanumanthapa Koppad was found alive but he succumbed to multiple-organ failure on February 11 at an army hospital in New Delhi.
According to the data available with Greater Kashmir, guarding Siachen has been turning a big challenge for the army. From January 1 to February 18 this year, 14 soldiers died at Siachen. In 2013, 10 soldiers died due to avalanche. Eight died in year 2014 and nine in 2015.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Spokesman of Srinagar-based Army’s 15 Corps, Lt Colonel N N Joshi said that weather conditions are being constantly monitored with latest equipment at the Siachen and the soldiers deployed there are informed accordingly. “We can predict natural calamities but can’t prevent them. For the army, holding ground is the top priority.” On whether army can go for troop-withdrawal at the Siachen to avoid deaths, Joshi said: “There have been tragic incidents happening at the Siachen since long, but they can’t be linked with troop withdrawal.”
Sources in the army said that the frequent deaths of soldiers due to avalanches at the Siachen are “definitely a serious concern”, but their is a “threat perception.” 
“There is every apprehension that Pakistan may play a spoilsport if Defence Ministry withdraws its men from Siachen,” a source in the Ministry of Defence revealed.
Defence Minister Manohar Parikar recently ruled out withdrawal of troops from Siachen. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested in 2005 that the world's highest battlefield be converted into a "peace mountain" without redrawing the boundaries between India and Pakistan.
Colonel S D Goswami, Spokesman of Udhampur-based Army’s northern command, said that various modern technological equipment is being utilized by Army for surveillance in Siachen which includes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and different types of Radars. “Only required forces have been deployed (at Siachen) keeping in view the threat perception, ground situation and other operational aspects,” he said.
He said that the soldiers deployed at Siachen glacier are provided with extreme cold climate clothing which includes trousers, jackets, gloves, sun glasses etc. to withstand extreme temperatures. “There is constant effort to provide better and more comfortable equipments to the troops based on requirement felt and user feedback,” he said in a statement. He said that soldiers deployed at Siachen are provided pre-fabricated insulated shelters (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) at certain locations wherein due to terrain configuration and altitude it is not possible to construct integrated shelters.”
 

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