Siachen: 40 Years of Operation Meghdoot

The 40th anniversary of Operation Meghdoot, conducted by the Indian Army to preempt Pakistan and capture the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram mountains, falls on April 13, 2024.

The inception of Operation Meghdoot

  • The Indian Armed Forces launched the operation on April 13, 1984, with the goal of seizing control of the Siachen Glacier in Kashmir. This was the first attack on the world’s highest battlefield.
    • It was in retaliation to Pakistan’s operation Ababeel. 
  • Indian troops, including the Kumaon Regiment and the Ladakh Scouts, successfully took possession of vital peaks and passes such as Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La, as well as the commanding heights of the Saltoro Ridge, granting India a strategic edge in the region.
  • Operation Meghdoot produced the world’s first and only army capable of deploying tanks and heavy weapons at such high altitudes.
  • The Siachen Glacier war originated as a result of a hazy territorial demarcation in the Karachi Agreement of 1949, with both India and Pakistan claiming the barren heights and glacier, escalating regional tensions. 

The significance of Siachen Glacier

  • It lies in its role as a hub linking Shaksgam Valley, Karakoram Pass, and Aksai Chin. India must prevent incursion from both Pakistan and China.
  • Maintaining the status quo: The Indian Army’s presence in the region has helped to keep the status quo and avoid territorial changes that could jeopardise India’s security.
  • Watershed and drainage: The Siachen Glacier serves as a watershed, with its melting waters providing the primary source of the Nubra River in the Indian region of Ladakh, which flows into the Shyok River and eventually into the Indus River, a major water source for Pakistan. 

Way forward:

  • Continued Diplomatic Talks: India and Pakistan may continue to hold diplomatic talks, possibly at a higher level, to address the demilitarisation of Siachen and other concerns. These discussions could seek to discover common ground and solve shared concerns.
  • Authentication of AGPL: India’s insistence on authenticating the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) as the first step towards demilitarisation may remain a major stumbling block. Efforts may be made to provide a mutually accepted method for verifying and authenticating the AGPL.
  • Third-party mediation or involvement from international organisations could be considered to help smooth conversations and establish confidence between India and Pakistan.

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