New Delhi: The Army is considering a proposal to re-open Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, in Ladakh for tourists, sources said on Tuesday.
Mountaineering expeditions used to be allowed to Siachen till 1984 before the ice-clad high altitude region was militarized following machinations by Pakistan.
The sources said the proposal is being considered with all earnestness since it has come directly from Army Chief General Bipin Rawat but no concrete road map has yet been laid out in this direction.
“The remark was made by the Army chief during a closed-door meeting recently. The chief said that he is thinking over a proposal to open the Siachen Glacier to people,” a senior Army official told IANS.
The Siachen Glacier, which once used to be a demilitarized zone, came under the strategic control of India in 1984 following ‘Operation Meghdoot’.
The operation had been launched by the Indian armed forces, under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after Pakistan allowed a Japanese team to undertake an expedition to a strategic peak in the glacier.
The peak directly overlooked the Aksai Chin, an area that is under dispute between India and China.
Since the boundaries between India and Pakistan in the Siachen region were not properly defined in the Karachi Agreement of 1949, Pakistan used to send tourist expeditions to the glacier in the 70s and the 80s. The Indian Army had also been allowing expeditions to Siachen in the late-70s.
In June this year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, accompanied by General Rawat, had visited Siachen and praised the “tenacious resolve and unstinting commitment” of soldiers deployed in the region.
Singh had undertaken an aerial reconnaissance of the Siachen Glacier and interacted with troops at one of the forward posts.
The thought over opening the glacier to tourists has come at a time when Ladakh, where Siachen is located, is being carved into a Union Territory.
The Union government is working on a range of other proposals to develop the Ladakh region after it was carved out as a separate entity from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. To revitalise health and medical education in the Himalayan region, the central government on Monday announced a new medical college in Leh, the capital of Ladakh.