India rules out troop withdrawal from Siachen


New Delhi: Notwithstanding the loss of 10 soldiers in avalanche in Siachen recently, India on Friday ruled out withdrawal of army from the icy heights in Jammu and Kashmir, saying Pakistan cannot be trusted and it may occupy the strategic area if India vacates.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Lok Sabha that vacating Siachen could lead to bigger loss of lives and reminded about the “experience” of 1984 when India evicted Pakistan from the strategically critical heights after a bloody fight.

“I know we have to pay the price and I salute our armed forces personnel. But we have to maintain this position. We have to man the strategic position. The position is very important from the strategic point,” Parrikar said while replying to questions against the backdrop of the recent loss of 10 soldiers in an avalanche.

“I don’t think anyone in this House can take Pakistan’s words for granted…If we vacate the position, the enemy can occupy the position and they would have the strategic advantage. Then we would have to lose many more lives. We know the experience of 1984 (Siachen conflict),” he said.

India occupies the highest point in Siachen glaciers, the Saltoro Ridge which is located at 23,000 feet, he said.

On 3 February, an avalanche hit an army post in a forward location in Siachen glacier, burying 10 soldiers, including a JCO. One of them was found alive under a huge mass of ice after six days but he died a few days later.

The Defence Minister said so far 915 people have lost their lives in the last 32 years in Siachen, which comes to 28 lives every year. This has now been reduced to 10 lives every year.

Parrikar said constant medical support is given to those serving in the Siachen glaciers which is six times more than the normal medical care. A total of 19 categories of clothing are provided to the soldiers in addition to various other assistance like snow scooters.

“There is no supply shortage. … We can’t totally conquer nature,” he said.

In Rajya Sabha, JD(U) member KC Tyagi voiced concern over the death of soldiers in Siachen recently and said India and Pakistan should work towards withdrawal of troops from such tough areas to save the lives from both sides.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Tyagi referred to the avalanche mishap and said many Indian and Pakistani soldiers die due to difficult working conditions in Siachen.

He recalled that during the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, an attempt was made to withdraw forces from both sides from such difficult terrain.

This issue should figure in talks between India and Pakistan whenever it happens next time so that untimely deaths of soldiers can be prevented, Tyagi said.


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