Sunday, March 26, 2006

Op Meghdoot

Operation Meghdoot (Siachen, since 1984)

Roots of the Siachen conflict lie in the non-demarcation of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan on the map of J&K beyond point NJ9842. The 1949 Karachi agreement and the 1972 Shimla pact presumed that it was not feasible for human habitation to survive beyond NJ9842. By the watershed principle the glacier lies on the Indian side; the Nubra River rising out of the glacier curls into Ladakh and joins the Indus River. However in defiance of this principle and in a clear violation of the Shimla pact the Pakistanis claimed the entire glacier and the adjoining mountain ranges upto the Karakorum Pass as theirs. The Indian Army therefore launched Operation Meghdoot to secure the glacier and adjoining heights from Pakistani aggression. This operation has continued over the last 16 years with Pakistan making numerous failed attempts to dislodge the Indians from the Saltoro ridge along the western periphery of the glacier.

102 Brigade of the 3 Infantry Division of 14 Corps is responsible for the Siachen Sector. It maintains a base camp at the foot of the glacier while manning outposts and artillery observation posts along the Saltoro Ridge. The battalions of Ladakh Scouts are deployed in areas like Karu, Nubra, Leh and Partappur.

Major Events (Year 2004):
(See map Pre-cooked hot food for Siachen soldiers. “Gen Manchanda said cold fatalities in Siachen region has almost become zero with the use of most modern and advanced medical equipment and speedy evacuation of casualities by the authorities.” "There was no cold or pulmonary death on 42 Kms long Siachen sector during the last year due to better medicare facilities provide by AMS at Leh and Partappur hospitals," the General said.
Brigadier H P S Bedi, commanding the forces in Siachen Ten women — six Army officers, two NCC cadets and two non-commissioned officers from the Special Frontier Force — have quietly gone ahead and stormed the icy male bastion by staying at the glacial heights for a month.

President Kalam Visited Siachen in April 2004. Soldiers now live in fibreglass reinforced plastic huts, a far cry from 1984 when they had first moved in here. There are heavy-duty snow scooters, which can carry goods in attached sledges. Bedi said Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) and ‘inmarsets’ are being used for communication including soldiers’ direct contact with their near and dear ones. Under the control of 102 Infantry Brigade, commanded by Bedi, 3000 soldiers are deployed in the Glacier on a stretch of over 220 Kms near the Saltoro range and covering the Nubra valley. For the jawans here, this year’s Baisakhi (April 13) will be particularly special as "Operation Meghdoot", named after Kalidas’ Sanskrit masterpiece was launched on the day in 1984.

May 06 American and Indian Army paratroopers have carried out high altitude parajumps in the snow-capped mountains of the frontier district of Ladakh near Leh.

May 07 Siachen troops face inquiry for faking kills The Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters is investigating the possibility that least a third of 50 'kills' in Siachen last year, claimed by the battalion on that glacier, could be fake. A major, a member of the battalion, has given details of the operation to a court of inquiry headed by Brigadier H S Nagra, deputy general officer commanding, 3 Infantry Brigade. Between July and November 15, 2003, when the unit was posted in Siachen, the fraud was carried out under the direction of the commanding officer, who wanted his juniors to show 'initiative' in carrying out such acts, according to the major. The major told the court of inquiry that on July 29, a lieutenant of his company reported a kill in the Chandan Complex on Siachen, though there was no enemy (Pakistani troops) movement in the area in the days before that. On August 8, the same lieutenant shot a fake video of a kill, making a rifleman play dead. On August 24, three other 'kills' were captured on video. The colonel rang the major, asking him to ensure that it was a 'hazy video.' The unit also built an enemy 'air defence bunker' to make the entire operation look realistic and then destroyed it for the video. On September 21, the 'enemy bunker' was destroyed using rockets and mortars. A splinter hit the major during the operation and he was evacuated. He was recommended for the Vir Chakra/Sena Medal, according to the report. The major blew the lid off the unit's 'brave acts' last December. Since then he has briefed top commanders, including Army Chief General Nirmal Chand Vij.

May 08 More revelations on army's fake killings Major Surinder Singh, had been recommended by his commanding officer for a Vir Chakra which was later sought to be changed to a Sena Medal. However, the move was nipped in the bud, when the Commander of the 102 Brigade, Brigadier H S Bedi, put his foot down and did not forward the medal citation to the higher command chain. The 14 Corp Commander Lieutenant General Arvind Sharma, in his directions issued February 3, on submission of the court of inquiry report, has directed disciplinary action against Major Singh for submitting a false film on fake kills and against Colonel K D Singh for failing to inform senior officers of the Major faking encounters.

Aug 13 India, Pak to begin discussion on Siachen “Military personnel will meet for discussing the demilitarisation exercise and report back to their respective Governments," Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who made his first trip to the icy heights of Siachen, said here. However, he did not indicate when the talks might be held. “We are occupying sensitive and strategic positions on the Glacier and Pakistan knows they cannot dislodge us from there", he said.

Oct 29 Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence visits Leh The committee members visited troops deployed at Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, and had a view of forward posts. At Siachen, the MPs interacted with jawans and appreciated their untiring efforts in safeguarding the borders of the country against phenomenal odds. They were most impressed by the high morale and soaring spirits of the jawans, who are living under harsh conditions and inhospitable terrain. The Committee also visited the Food Research Laboratory which has done yeoman service to the people of the region and met local MLAs and members of LAHDC.The committee appreciated the contributions of the Army for development works, the high state of operational preparedness and above all the high morale with which soldiers are performing their duties under challenging conditions.

Dec 21 Major Surinder Singh, accused of faking encounters with the enemy in the Siachen Glacier, was today found guilty of all the charges by an Army court martial which dismissed him from service and sentenced him to three years rigorous imprisonment.

End Note:
The Glacier lies between Saltoro ridgeline in west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. The major passes on this ridge are Sia La at 20,000 feet and Bila Fond La at 19,000 feet. The battle zone comprises an inverted triangle resting on the NJ9842 with Indira Col and Karakoram Pass as the other two extremities. The revelations of imaginary battles fought in 2003, and the subsequent trial of those involved, overshadowed other important developments in Siachen. The ceasefire between the Indian and Pakistani armies in November 2003 had a beneficial effect on the soldiers manning the outposts along the Saltoro Ridge while the inconclusive talks between the two governments at least held out a hope of the eventual demilitarization of the glacier and the adjoining mountain ranges. The battle against the elements continued with help coming from the Defence Research and Development Organization—the DRDO maintains a laboratory at Partappur. Necessity is the mother of invention and over the years the DRDO has a list of scientific achievements to its credit in this unimaginable altitude and extreme climate, which have also found application in the civilian sector.