There are many folks in India who get all mushy mushy when Pakistan raises the “Peace” card and starts negotiating Siachen. One place that they lost and its strategic.
The way the argument is cloaked is always on the basis of high human principles – like lives being lost and the climate change. Those are true. But that are some other damning truths as well.
Thankfully, the Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh has spoken on why we cannot let Siachen go.
As long as the glacier is under India’s control, the Pakistani army can’t link up with the Chinese and pose threat to Ladakh. It acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan.
The Trans-Karakoram pact, where Pakistan transferred a large amount of land to China and hence facilitated the Karakoram Highway, which has led to so much of trade in arms and missiles that have been highly detrimental to India – shows how such strategic areas matter.
What is Trans-Karakoram tract and region and how does Siachen come into play there as well:
The Trans-Karakoram Tract (Chinese: 喀喇昆仑走廊; pinyin: Ka-la(ku-nlún zo(uláng) is an area of nearly 5,800 km2 (2,239 sq mi) along both sides of the Shaksgam River, is entirely administered by the People’s Republic of China as a part of Kargilik County and Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in the Kashgar Prefecture of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but claimed by Pakistan until 1963. It is still claimed by India as part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan gave up its claim to the tract under a border agreement with China in 1963 with the proviso that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Kashmir dispute.
Most of the tract, also called Shaksgam, is composed of the Shaksgam Valley. Most of the tract was administered as a part of Shigar, a valley in the Baltistan region. The Raja of Shigar controlled most this land until 1971, when Pakistan abolished the Raja government system. A polo ground in Shaksgam was built by the Amacha Royal family of Shigar, and the Rajas of Shigar used to invite the Amirs of Yarkand to play polo there. Most of the names of the mountains, lakes, rivers and passes are in Balti/Ladakhi, suggesting that this land had been part of Baltistan/Ladakh region for a long time.
The tract is one of the most inhospitable areas of the world, with some of the highest mountains. The tract is bounded by the Kun Lun Mountains to the north, and by the Karakoram peaks to the south, including Broad Peak, K2 and Gasherbrum. On the southeast it is adjacent to the highest battlefield in the world in the Siachen Glacier region.
As you can see, nearly 6000 sq km of area was lost to China when Pakistan just gave it off to them for all the benefits it gets. In doing so, it has created a big danger on the Northern front.
Siachen is the ONLY piece that keeps the Chinese and Pakistanis at bay in that region from openly confronting India from its North. And even taking away Ladakh and much of Kashmir.
Here is some history on how it all started from an article by Lt. Gen Vijay Oberoi.
Following the 1947-48 war between India and Pakistan, the Cease Fire Line was delineated under the Karachi Agreement of 1949 only up to a point on the map known as Point NJ 9842. The area to the north, being highly inaccessible and glaciated, was not delineated, but the direction of the CFL beyond NJ 9842 was unambiguously stated as ‘thence north to the glaciers.’ The same happened when the CFL was replaced by the LoC after the 1971 war.
In 1984, having received hard intelligence that the Pakistani army was about to secure the area, the Indian army, in a preemptive move, occupied the Saltoro Ridge, which constitutes the watershed and runs parallel to the length of the Siachen Glacier on its western side. It has been called the Actual Ground Position Line since. The Pakistani army made many attempts to throw us back, but all such attacks were repulsed. Having failed militarily, Pakistan decided negotiations were a more pragmatic option.