Siachen means ‘rose garden’, in the Balti language, though no roses could ever grow here.
A glacier in the eastern Karakoram range, it has a height of 6000 metres, an area of over 1000 sq km and is frozen throughout the year. It is located northeast of the LOC [Line of Control] between India and Pakistan, and Indian and Pakistani soldiers man this inhospitable terrain throughout the year. The area is disputed, as here, north of the map point NJ9842, the boundary was not clearly demarcated. In 1984 Pakistan thought of seizing the glacier, but the Indian Army learnt about it and got there first. There are 150 manned outposts in this hostile region, and India has a helipad at the height of 6400 metres, to ferry supplies. Since 1984 there have been numerous minor conflicts in the region, but the tragedy is that the conflict has not taken many lives–most of the soldiers who die here do so because of the climate and terrain. One day ago an avalanche buried 10 Indian army men, who are so far untraceable. In 2012 an avalanche hit Pakistani soldiers, with 149 killed. Indians too lost their lives in an avalanche the same year. According to available records, Pakistan has lost 3000 men and India 5000 since 1984, due to the climate and weather. From time to time India and Pakistan try to come to an agreement to withdraw from the region, but so far it hasn’t worked.
Much has been written on Siachen–there is a comic book depicting the conflict from the Indian side. And among the books on it are: Myra MacDonald, Heights of Madness:One Woman’s Journey in Pursuit of a Secret War; Harish Kapadia, Siachen, A Battle of Roses, and several others. I’ll write reviews when I manage to read these.