Siachen Conflict Zone – battling the harsh climate


The Indian troops have been deployed at Siachen Glacier at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet for decades to protect the borders. As per the DRDO bulletin published in Dec 2011, high altitude is characterized by hypoxic environment, cold and ultraviolet (UV) radiations, which causes adverse effect on work efficiency and cognitive functions of an individual along with acute mountain sickness, and sometimes debilitating frostbite or life threatening diseases like high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and cerebral edema (HACE).

More soldiers died from the threat of the harsh climatic conditions and accidents related to that than the enemy bullet.

Why do the soldiers need to be deployed, How many soldiers died, What kind of equipment would the soldiers need, what are the various efforts led by the defence ministries of both India and Pakistan – the answers to these questions may help us give more insight into the tough conditions faced by our soldiers and warrants a question, Does Siachen need to be a conflict zone?. The below is based on the govt. data and the sources are included below

Homesickness of soldiers posted at Siachen glacier

Deployment on extreme High Altitudes such as Siachen Glacier requires troops to be physically conditioned and acclimatized to enable them to withstand vagaries of terrain and be physically conditioned to effectively safeguard our borders. To ensure that soldiers are physically fit, mentally alert and psychologically motivated, a number of measures / facilities / provisions have been ensured including proper clothing, diet, habitat, regular interaction by Commanders, grant of leave etc. including counselling.

 

Why should the troops be deployed?

As per a LokSabha Q&A session, the area of Siachen Glacier is an integral part of India. Army deployment / redeployment of troops in the area is based on threat perception and other operational issues so that national interest is not compromised.

Siachen Allowance

The current Siachen Allowance per month and the revised rates recommended are as follows:

Present Proposed
i. Service Officers ₹21,000 ₹31,500
iii. JCO/ORs ₹14,000 ₹21,000

 

 

Death of soldiers:

The total number of soldiers who have died in Siachen Glacier on  OP  MEGHDOOT since 1984 till date due to climatic conditions, environmental and other factors are as under:-

Officers        –        33

Junior Commissioned Officer         –        54

Other Ranks               –        782

____________________

Total:            –        869

Clothing

Operational deployment along the borders is a dynamic process based on assessment of threat to the National Security. Out of 55 items of clothing and mountaineering equipments, only 20 items are imported. Details of Expenditure incurred for the last three years including current year are as under:-

Improvement in quality and development of indigenous sources for Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment is a continuous process.

 

Financial Year Budget Estimates Expenditure in Crores
2012-2013 2300.00 2280.5430
2013-2014 2023.3449 1919.31
2014-2015 2574.31 2366.5943
2015-2016 3332.00 938.54 ( till dec 2015)

 

 

  • Out of 55, 22 are one-time issue items, such as a down jacket or a sleeping bag, issued to an individual soldier and not recycled thereafter: nine of them are imported.
  • The balance 33 items are unit issue items, such as special tents and ice axes:
  • 11 of them are imported. These imported items are mostly made in China, although they are supplied by around a dozen foreign firms from Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Norway and UK.
  • The annual requirement of Siachen clothing for the army is around 27,000 sets.
  • The army maintains a reserve for another year’s requirement. The average shortfall of items in Siachen clothing is between 5-10 per cent every year which is replenished from the reserves.

Concerns with importing the Siachen clothing

  • The import process has a long gestation period and fluctuating foreign exchange rates further complicate it. “The biggest issue for us is the China factor.
  • Most of these items use bird feathers as a filling. Even though the items are certified for avian flu, we can never be sure about the Chinese products. Despite the quality check, we feel that we are still taking a chance of bringing infection to India,” a defence ministry official said.

 

     Plans for Siachen clothing to be Make in India

  • As per defence ministry sources, the impetus to promote ‘Make in India’ in Siachen clothing came from a meeting last February with the Indian Technical textile Association (ITTA), the apex body representing technical textile manufacturers in the country. Army had displayed all the items of Siachen clothing at an exhibition-cum-seminar in Delhi and asked Indian manufacturers to bid for supplying the imported items.
  • “This first of its kind event was supported by the Ministry of Textiles and attended by Defence Forces, DRDO, DGQA and the domestic Industry. That interaction has now started showing results and the army is moving towards both product improvement and cutting down its import bill for textiles by working with Indian companies,”

 

  • In order to fast track procurement of Clothing and Equipments for defence  personnel deployed in very high altitude areas like Siachen, an Empowered  Committee  under  the  chairmanship of Master General of  Ordnance (MGO) has been set up with full powers of Competent Financial Authority.  Special dispensation for placing 100% repeat order has also been given to the Empowered Committee. Moreover, sufficient quantities of these items are kept in reserve in Army Headquarters to avoid any shortage.

 

 

What about talks between the two nations?

There have been bilateral talks between the Defence Secretaries every single year in the last decade. As per the reports laid in loksabha, the talks always ended with the below

“Both sides welcomed the ongoing dialogue process. Both sides acknowledged that the ceasefire was holding since November 2003 and presented their positions and suggestions towards the resolution of Siachen. They agreed to continue the discussion and to meet again at a mutually convenient date”

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Image source: By Abhishek_Kumar – http://www.flickr.com/photos/abhishek_kr7/4632540462/in/photostream/

Other Sources:

 

 

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