India cancels civilian trek to Siachen due to Leh arelief work



New Delhi: India on Monday shelved a plan to send a civilian mountaineering team to forbidding Siachen Glacier heights in October-November this year due to the Army's preoccupation with relief work in cloudburst-hit Leh.

"As of today, we have cancelled the Siachen trek in view of our preoccupation with the Leh relief and rescue efforts," the Army sources told a news agency here.

However, the Army may consider sending the 35-member civilian team to the world's highest battlefield later if the situation in Leh vastly improves and relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work was through soon.

If the trip happens this year, it would be the fourth consecutive year that India has sent civilian mountaineers to Siachen.

The expedition -- which has now become an annual affair involving women, journalists, scientists from the DRDO and other glacial studies institutes, and mountaineers – was meant to showcase to the global community that Indian troops hold the Siachen glacial heights and Pakistan is nowhere near the Glacier

Guns had boomed in the 78-km-long Glacier at an altitude of 18,875 feet till November 25, 2003, when a formal ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan came into effect along the 740-km Line of Control (LOC) and 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).

The participants were to be trained in mountaineering, skating and other such skills required to go through the arduous month-long trek to the Glacier at Leh, but due to the present situation there it would not be possible, the sources said.

The civilian Siachen expedition had run into controversy when it began in 2007, after Pakistan lodged a strong protest, calling it "incongruous" to ongoing peace efforts between the two countries.

Though the Army halted the trip immediately after the protest that year, it went ahead with the trekking expedition after a go-ahead was given by the government later.

Every year since then, India continued with its Siachen expedition of civilians and mountaineering enthusiasts, even as Pakistan had voiced its concern.

Despite the protests, India maintains it does not need Islamabad's approval to send trekkers to Siachen, which is essentially Indian territory.

Pakistan, in its protest against the civilian trek to Siachen, had stated that the issue was part of the framework of the composite dialogue between the two countries and hence, sending civilians to an area that was part of the bilateral talks would vitiate the situation.

PTI