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Friday, 5 February 2016

From Today's Papers - 05 Feb 2016

All 10 Siachen soldiers dead
Tribune News Service

Jammu/New Delhi, February 4
All 10 soldiers missing in an avalanche that hit an Army post, located at an altitude of 19,600 feet at the Siachen Glacier, have died.

"Demise of soldiers in Siachen is very tragic. I salute the brave soldiers who gave their lives to the nation. Condolences to their families," Prime Minister Narendra said, confirming the fears about their fate.

“It is with deepest of regrets that we have to state that the chances of finding any survivors are now very remote,” Northern Command spokesp-erson Col SD Goswami said.

With the temperatures in the glaciated area ranging between minus 25 degrees during the day and minus 42 degrees in the night, the rescue teams were braving adverse weather conditions and rarefied atmosphere to locate the survivors, he said.

A ‘wall of ice’ buried the post, a stone bunker bang on the actual ground position line (AGPL), a 109 km-long divide between India and Pakistan, on Wednesday.
Must combat terror jointly: India
Ansari seeks coordinated action by like-minded nations to end menace
Dinesh Kumar in Bangkok
Expressing concern over the “spreading tide of extremism and terrorism”, Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Thursday said such threats required strong cooperation among like-minded nations. He said the need for maintaining safety of sea lanes, which was critical for maritime trade and commerce, maritime security and access to marine resources, continued to assume greater significance as countries in the ASEAN region strived for greater economic integration.

Expanding on the issue, which came for special mention in his speech on “India, Thailand and ASEAN: Contours of a Rejuvenated Relationship” delivered to academics at Chulalongkorn University here, Ansari said, “Non-traditional threats such as piracy, smuggling, trans-national crimes and drug trafficking are on the rise and pose a challenge for our countries and require strong and determined coordinated action.” There was a need, he added, to protect all trade routes and sea lanes of communication from both traditional and non-traditional threats and “all countries using these international waters must act with responsibility and restraint”.

Ansari, who is himself a former diplomat, had a word of advice on tension in the South China Sea. “The evolving situation in the South China Sea demands restraint from all parties. We support collective efforts by ASEAN member states and China to conclude the code of conduct to keep peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Emphasising on the importance of India’s relations with ASEAN, Ansari announced a slew of measures India was taking to deepen relations with this region. These include enhancing the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund from the current $1 million to $5 million in near future, setting up of an ASEAN-India innovation platform to facilitate commercialisation of low-cost technologies, collaborative research and development projects, implementation of a $21.53-million project on establishment of a tracking and data reception station and data processing facility for ASEAN at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, upgrading the station at Biak (Indonesia) and training ASEAN personnel in space science and technology at Dehradun.

Stating that connectivity with ASEAN in all its dimensions (physical, institutional and people-to-people) continued to be a strategic priority for India, Ansari said special efforts were being made to develop a coherent strategy, particularly for linking ASEAN and North-East India. This means that in some years Indians and residents of ASEAN nations would be able to drive all the way to Vietnam through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in the east and Singapore via Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia in the south east. Negotiations on the India-Myanmar-Thailand Motor Vehicles Agreement and the ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement have already been finalised, while the ASEAN-India Civil Aviation Task Force is expected to oversee optimisation of air connectivity.

Ansari said despite rapid growth of the Indian and Thai economies, bilateral trade and investment remained modest.
879 Army men have fallen to hostile weather at Siachen since 1984
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 4
At the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, hostile weather, icy terrain, sub-zero temperature, low oxygen and high-altitude sickness form a lethal mix, taking a heavy toll on men in olive green than any conflict with India’s arch-rival — Pakistan.

Pakistan has the same story of losing more men to the weather vagaries than skirmishes between the two countries.

As per statistics, 869 soldiers have lost their lives since April 1984 when India initiated “Operation Meghdoot”, airdropping its men to pre-empt a move by Pakistan to occupy the strategic heights.

With 10 more Army men falling to an avalanche, the death toll has now gone up to 879 since 1984.

The Army and the Air Force have been running against time to trace and rescue survivors, if any, among the 10 soldiers who went missing after an avalanche wiped out an Army camp at a height of 19,600 feet on Wednesday morning.

On Siachen’s significance to India and what makes it a dangerous place, Northern Command’s defence spokesperson Col SD Goswami said: “Siachen’s terrain, its strategic location and geographical importance have given it a paramount place in the annals of history. The soldiers deployed on the glacier endure the worst weather conditions throughout the year.

“At times, the troops have to unavoidably take up defences in the areas around steep slopes and crevices, which might send tonnes of snow and rubble crumbling down without any warning and completely obliterate the camps, communication lines, bury personnel and everything else. In such unstable conditions on the glacier, the terrain, climate or altitude can take its toll on anything.”

However, Colonel Goswami added that with rhythm in his steps, faith to serve the nation and prayers on his lips, a soldier goes on his way up to the glacier.

An Army source said that since 1984, the Army had lost 869 of its men at the 76-km Siachen Glacier. A majority of them have died of hostile weather conditions such as avalanches, landslides and floods and in some cases due to the high-altitude sickness, he added.

Indian and Pakistan have been pitted against each other at the Siachen since 1984.

“Loss of appetite, frostbite and high-altitude pulmonary edema (watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body) are some of the diseases to which our men are exposed. There were instances in the past when some of our men contracted Monge’s disease that causes loss of high-altitude tolerance after prolonged exposure, characterised by extreme polycythemia (abnormally increased concentration of haemoglobin in the blood), exaggerated hypoxaemia (abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood) and reduced mental and physical capacity, relieved by descent,” he said.

A defence official said both India and Pakistan had lost more men to hostile weather than conflicts between the two sides on the glacial heights.

“Since 2003, guns have been silent on the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line after India and Pakistan inked a ceasefire in November that year,” he added.

However, a senior Army officer said the past conflicts with Pakistan and China, growing proximity between China and Pakistan via the Karakoram Pass and trust deficit with Pakistan, made strategic Siachen Glacier indispensable to India and it could not afford to withdraw its troops

On an average, India spends Rs 5 crore a day for replenishing supplies to its men at the Siachen.

India controls about two-thirds of the glacier, besides commanding two of the three passes while Pakistan occupies the Gyong La Pass, which overlooks the Shyok and the Nubra river valleys and India’s access to the glacier from Leh district in Ladakh.

Indian soldiers currently hold the strategic Saltoro Ridge which overlooks Pakistani positions.

At 5,472 meters above sea level, the Siachen Glacier is located in the Karakoram mountain range, which has some of the highest peaks in the world. The northern mountains of the glacier mark the watershed between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Bereft of vegetation, the glacier is one of the world’s most inhospitable regions, where the temperature plunges to - 40°C.

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