The real enemy on the world's highest battlefield

The real enemy on the world's highest battlefield
Sat Dec 30, 2017 10:46:27

India and Pakistan both claim the area and have thousands of soldiers stationed there. It can be a deadly posting - but not because of ongoing fighting.

BBC--  At Siachen, heroes are not made from a hail of bullets or under enemy mortar fire. For the men posted at altitudes that range from 13,000-22,000ft (4,000-6,7000m), death mostly comes from freezing temperatures, falls into crevasses or from being swept away by avalanches.

Since the conflict started in April 1984, Pakistan and India have lost between them close to 2,500 soldiers, according to official figures. Unofficially some put this figure at between 3,000 and 5,000. Nobody disputes that about 70% of all deaths at Siachen have been due to the harsh weather and terrain.

In fact, since India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in November 2003, not a single soldier from either side has died due to a battle wound.

"You have to understand that the soldiers' biggest enemy is nature - frigid weather and the lack of oxygen, not the troops stationed across from them," one medical doctor and Pakistan army veteran said. Like several of the soldiers I interviewed, he asked not to be named.

The worst loss of life in a single incident occurred five years ago, on 7 April 2012, when 140 members of Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry were buried in an avalanche. Ice and rock up to 150ft deep in places engulfed the Pakistan Army's Gayari Sector Battalion Headquarters, 20 miles west of Siachen.

Last year, India suffered a similar incident when a massive ice wall came crashing down on an Indian post, killing all nine men there.

None of this has ended the military stand-off, despite multiple rounds of talks.

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