Islamabad: The Siachen glacier has proved an invincible foe to the Pakistan army claiming 30 soldiers at an average every year, say Pakistani officials. the Pakistan Army has been suffering huge fatal casualties on the Siachen glacier, the highest battlefield in the world without a shot being fired.
Despite a ceasefire that has seen no targeted firing since a 2003 agreement, the Pakistan Army has been losing an average of 30 soldiers a year on Siachen. The deaths are associated with the perils of deployment at high altitude – medical complications, avalanches, bad weather and more. With a total of 213 deaths recorded at Siachen between 2003-10, the glacier has been taking its toll. The average of 30 deaths a year does not include the 140 soldiers that Pakistan lost in a fatal avalanche that hit a military camp in April 2012.
On the other hand, Indian casualties on glacier have progressively decreased over the years and are currently in single digits. Official data released in parliament shows that Indian soldiers have died due to climatic conditions at an average of 10 a year.
In recent years this number has almost come down to single digits, with 5 soldiers lost this year, six in 2014 and ten in 2013. This despite the fact that the Indian Army is manning higher posts and is deployed across the length and breadth of the glacier, unlike Pakistan that is restricted to the mountains surrounding the area. In both 2007 and 2008 for example, the Indian army suffered four fatal casualties. Correspondingly, the Pakistan Army lost 13 in 2008 and 12 in 2007 in the Siachen region.
The difference in casualties between the two nations is attributed by the Army on better equipment, resources, training and medical facilities on the Indian side. Indian Army officers who have served on the glacier say that a strictly followed acclimatization procedure, along with standard operating procedures that are implemented sternly have brought down casualties.
The laying down of a kerosene line on the glacier, as well as the procurement of pre fabricated huts and better clothing has reduced deaths due to the bone chilling cold. Lt Gen Ata Hasnain (retd), says that one of the success stories of DRDO has been on high altitude research and the medicine and material they have put together for the glacier is saving lives.