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38 years of Operation Meghdoot: When India gained control of world’s highest battlefield Siachen Glacier

The Siachen Glacier became a flashpoint between India following a vague demarcation of territories in the Karachi Agreement of July 1949 which did not clearly specify who had authority over the Siachen Glacier area. Indian interpretation was that Pakistan territory extended only to about the Saltoro Ridge based on the Simla agreement where the territorial line's route after the last demarcated point called NJ9842 was "thence north to the glaciers."

 

This year’s April 13 completes 38 years since the Indian Army launched ‘Operation Meghdoot’ and seized control of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world. ‘Operation Meghdoot’ was the code name for the Indian Armed Forces’ operation to wrest control of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir, precipitating the Siachen conflict.

Carried out on the morning of April 13, 1984, in the highest battlefield in the world, Meghdoot was the first military offensive of its kind.

The operation pre-empted Pakistan’s impending Operation Ababeel (which was intended to achieve the same objective as Meghdoot) and was a success, resulting in Indian forces capturing the icy heights of Siachen Glacier in its entirety.

Currently, the Indian Army remains the first and only army in the world to have taken tanks and other heavy ordnance up to such an altitude (well over 5,000 m or 16,000 ft).

Siachen – a bone of contention between India and Pakistan

The conflict in Siachen stems from a vague demarcation of territories in the Karachi Agreement of July 1949 which did not clearly mention who had control over the Siachen Glacier area, merely stating that the Cease Fire Line (CFL) terminated at a point called NJ9842.

Indian interpretation was that Pakistan territory extended only to about the Saltoro Ridge based on the Simla agreement where the territorial line’s route after the last demarcated point NJ9842 was “thence north to the glaciers.”

Pakistan assumed that their territory continued northeast from point NJ9842 to the Karakoram Pass. As a result, both nations claimed the barren heights and the Siachen Glacier.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Pakistan permitted several mountaineering expeditions to climb the peaks in the Siachen region from the Pakistani side, perhaps in an attempt to reinforce their claim on the area as these expeditions received permits obtained from the Government of Pakistan and in many cases a liaison officer from the Pakistan Army accompanied the teams.

In 1978, alarmed by these expeditions, India too allowed mountaineering expeditions to the glacier, approaching from its side. The most notable one was the one launched by Colonel Narinder “Bull” Kumar of the Indian Army, who led an expedition to Teram Kangri, along with medical officer Captain AVS Gupta.

The Indian Air Force provided valuable support to this expedition in 1978 through logistic support and supply of fresh rations. The first air landing on the glacier was carried out on October 6, 1978, when two casualties were evacuated from the Advance Base Camp in a Chetak helicopter by Sqn Ldr Monga and Flying Officer Manmohan Bahadur.

Contention over the glacier escalated after these expeditions, with both sides asserting their claims. Notably, when Pakistan gave permission to a Japanese expedition to scale an important peak (Rimo I) in 1984, it further fueled India’s speculation that Pakistan was trying to legitimise its claim.

What happened on April 13, 1984?

The Indian Army decided to take control of the glacier by April 13, 1984 after an intelligence report claimed that Pakistan was planning an operation to occupy the glacier by April 17.

Led by Lieutenant General Prem Nath Hoon, Operation Meghdoot’s first phase began in March 1984 when Indian troops marched with full battle packs through an ice-bound Zoji La pass for days to avoid detection of large troop movements by Pakistani radars.

By April 13, nearly 300 Indian troops were deployed on the critical peaks and passes of Siachen, gaining control of the glacier. While India seized control of India took control of the 70-km-long Siachen Glacier and its tributary glaciers, as well as all the main passes and heights of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier, including Sia La and Bilafond La, Pakistan could only manage to control the Saltoro Ridge’s western slopes and foothills.

13 Apr 22/Wednesday                                                                                      Source: timesnownews

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