Parrikar rules out withdrawing troops from Siachen

Visakhapatnam, Feb 7 (IANS) Terming the recent death of 10 soldiers in an avalanche on the Siachen glacier “painful”, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Sunday that withdrawing troops from the world’s highest battlefield could not be a solution.

“This incident is painful to me personally, but the solution that is suggested is not a proper analysis,” he said, referring to demands that Indian soldiers be withdrawn from the glacier.

Asked if the proposal to convert Siachen into a “peace mountain” still exists, the minister said: “The decision (on deploying troops) on Siachen is based on the security of the nation.”

He said the loss of human lives on the Siachen had come down in recent years due to improved facilities.

“We have lost thousands of soldiers to get control (of the glacier)… The loss of life is less in the last few years,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an International Maritime Conference here.

He said the incident had nothing to do with preparedness. “I don’t find any loose ends. It’s an avalanche… These are unpredictable in nature.”

Parrikar said the search operation was on though there was little hope of survival of the soldiers.

“The hope of any survival is nil. They are covered in tonnes of ice,” he said.

Then prime minister Manmohan Singh suggested in 2005 that the world’s highest battlefield be converted into a “peace mountain” without redrawing the boundaries between India and Pakistan.

India and Pakistan maintain permanent military presence at heights of over 6,000 metres or 20,000 feet. Both have lost many men to extreme cold in the area where temperature can dip to minus 50 degrees Celsius.

The army has meanwhile deployed advanced equipment to search for its men. These include wall penetrating radars.

Ten soldiers, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were buried on Wednesday after an avalanche hit their post located 19,000 feet above the sea level on the southern side of the glacier.

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