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Operation Meghdoot was the name given to the attack launched by the Indian Military to capture the Siachen Glaciermarker in the disputed Kashmirmarker region, precipitating the Siachen Conflict. Launched on April 13, 1984, this military operation was unique as the first assault launched in the world's highest battlefield. The military action eventually resulted in Indian troops managing to gain control of the entire Siachen Glaciermarker.Today, the occpation of locations along what is known as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) continues to be known as Operation Meghdoot, with up to 10 Infantry Battalions each of the Indian Army and Pakistani Army actively deployed in altitudes up to 6,400 metres (21,000 ft).

Cause of conflict

The Siachen Glaciermarker became a bone of contention following a vague demarcation of territory as per the Simla Agreement of 1972, which did not exactly specify who had authority over the Siachen Glaciermarker area. As a result of this, both nations lay claim to the barren land. In the 1970s and early 80s, Pakistanmarker permitted several mountaineering expeditions to climb the peaks in the Siachen region. This served to reinforce their claim on the area as these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. Indian sources claim that in many cases a liaison officer from the Pakistan army accompanied the teams. In 1978 the Indian Army began closely monitoring the situation in the region and concurrently Indiamarker also allowed mountaineering expeditions to the glacier, approaching from its side. The most notable one was the one launched by Colonel N. Kumar of the Indian Army, who mounted an Army expedition to Teram Kangrimarker as a counter-exercise.

When Pakistan gave permission to a Japanesemarker expedition to scale an important peak (Rimo Imarker) in 1984, it further prompted Indian anger. The peak, located east of the Siachen Glaciermarker, also overlooks the northwestern areas of the Aksai Chinmarker area which is occupied by Chinamarker but claimed by Indiamarker. The Indian military believed that such an expedition could further a link for a trade route from the southwestern (Pakistani) to the northeastern (Chinese) side of the Karakoram Rangemarker and eventually provide a strategic, if not tactical, advantage to the Pakistan Military.

The operation

The Indian Military decided to take action to stop future expeditions from the Pakistani side and eventually to prevent Pakistan from staking its claim on the glacier. Accordingly, the Indian military brought to the glacier area troops from Northern Ladakhmarker region as well as some paramilitary forces. Most of the troops had already been acclimatized to the extremities of the glacier after having been sent on a training expedition to Antarcticamarker in 1982. Pakistan, meanwhile, felt that the Indians were planning to capture key ridges and passes near the glacier after the Indian Army's mountaineering expedition and accordingly decided to send its own troops to the glacier. However, according to one retired Pakistani colonel, Islamabadmarker ordered Arctic-weather gear from the same Londonmarker suppliers from whom the Indians sourced their outfits. The Indians were soon informed about this development and immediately put their plan into action, providing them the all-important head start.

On April 13, 1984, the Indian Army made its move onto the glacier to defend the territory and the peaks and passes around it when it launched "Operation Meghdoot". The operation was launched under the command of Lieutenant General P N Hoon, the then army commander of the Indian Army's Northern Command based at Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir state of India. The operation was also based on intelligence inputs that Pakistan was also preparing for an action in these areas. Reportedly the operation pre empted Pakistani Army by about 4 days, as intelligence reported that Pakistan was to launch an operation on 17 April 1984. Named after the divine cloud messenger (Meghaduuta) in a Sanskrit play, the operation involved the airlifting of Indian Army soldiers by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and dropping them in the glacial area. The IAF used planes such as the Il-76, An-12 and An-32 to transport stores and troops as well to airdrop supplies to high altitude airfields. Helicopters like Mi-17, Mi-8, Chetak and Cheetah carried provisions and personnel to areas near hitherto unscaled peaks. Approximately 300 troops were soon up on the important peaks and passes of the glacier. By the time Pakistan troops managed to get into the immediate area, they found that the Indian troops had occupied the major mountain passes on the Saltoro Ridge west of Siachen Glaciermarker. Handicapped by the altitude and the limited time, Pakistan could only manage to control the Saltoro Ridge's western slopes and foothills despite the fact that Pakistan possessed more accessible routes to the area, unlike Indian access to the Siachen which was largely reliant on air drops.

In his memoirs, former Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf states that Pakistan lost almost of territory. TIME states that the Indian advance captured nearly . of territory claimed by Pakistan. Camps were soon converted to permanent posts by both countries. The number of casualties on both sides during this particular operation is not known.

Aftermath

There are divergent views on the strategic value of the Operation. Some view it as a futile capture of non-strategic land which antagonized relations with between India & Pakistan. Others consider the operation to be a "daring" success by the Indian Military and ensured that the Indian military held tactical high ground on the strategic Saltoro Ridge just west of the glacier, albeit at a high cost. The Indian Army currently controls all of the long Siachen Glacier as well as all of its tributary glaciers as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier, Sia Lamarker, Bilafond Lamarker, and Gyong Lamarker, thus holding onto the tactical advantage of high ground.. .

The operation and the continued cost of maintaining logistics to the area is a major drain on both militaries. Pakistan launched an all out assault in 1987 and again in 1989 to capture the ridge and passes held by India. The first assault was headed by Pervez Musharraf (later President of Pakistan) and initially managed to capture a few high points before being beaten back. Later the same year, Pakistan lost at least one major Pakistani post, the "Quaid", which came under Indian control as Bana Post, in recognition of Subedar Major Bana Singh who launched a daring daylight attack, codenamed "Operation Rajiv", after climbing ice cliff. The only Param Vir Chakra (PVC) — the highest gallantry award of India — in the ongoing battle was awarded to then Naib Subedar Bana Singh who was instrumental in capturing the post. Bana Post is the highest battlefield post in the world today at a height of above sea level.[284852][284853] The second assault in 1989 was also unsuccessful as the ground positions did not change. The loss of most of the Siachen area and the subsequent unsuccessful military forays prompted Benazir Bhutto to taunt Zia ul Haq that he should wear a burqa as he had lost his manliness.

Operation Meghdoot was seen by some as the blueprint behind the Kargil War in 1999 when Pakistan backed guerillas and paramilitary forces covertly occupied the Kargil region. It is said that Operation Meghdoot was the inspiration for this abortive operation in Kargil launched by Pakistan later in 1999. Despite this, some obvious similarities do exist between Siachen and Kargil, including their preemptive nature and the tactical advantage held by the entity who holds the heights. But while Operation Meghdoot was launched in an area of ambiguous border demarcation, the Line of Controlmarker in the Kargil regionmarker is clearly demarcated and therefore India received complete international support during the Kargil episode.

Casualties

India: 1000 dead

Pakistan: 1300 dead

See also



Notes

  1. (pp. 68-69)
  2. The Himalayas War at the Top Of the World July 31, 1989 - TIME
  3. http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE6-1/Siachen.html
  4. http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2304/stories/20060310001704400.htm for a detailed, current map.
  5. Demilitarisation of Siachin by Air Marshal [R Ayaz A Khan]

References



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