846 Indian soldiers have died so far on Siachen - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 28 August 2012

846 Indian soldiers have died so far on Siachen

Defence minister AK Antony, on a visit to Siachen, presents sweets to Indian soldiers

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Aug 2012

For the first time ever, the government has announced the number of Indian soldiers who have laid down their lives in the Siachen sector, ever since the Indian Army made its first headlong rush to secure that strategic area in the summer of 1984.

Defence Minister AK Antony, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today stated, “A total number of 846 Armed forces personnel have made supreme sacrifices on the Siachen glaciers since 1984.”

This includes deaths due to the extreme climate and terrain conditions, which causes more casualties in that sector than battle does. Hypoxia, high altitude pulmonary edema (or “altitude sickness” in mountaineering lexicon), avalanches and crevasses have taken a heavy toll of Indian lives. Early in this high-altitude war, New Delhi decided not to differentiate between those who died in combat and those who were, say, swept to their deaths in an avalanche.

“(Environment-related) death during the course of duties on Siachen glaciers is treated as 'battle casualties' and enhanced compensation is paid to the next of the kin,” Antony told the Lok Sabha today.

 “Operation Meghdoot”, the military nickname for operations in Siachen, began on 13th April 1984, when Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters airlifted a platoon of hardy hillmen from the Kumaon Regiment onto the Saltoro Ridge, which overlooks the Siachen Glacier from the west. Building up quickly, more Indian troops moved onto the three main passes on the Saltoro Ridge --- Bilafond La; Sia La; and Gyong La.

According to Lt Gen (Retd) VR Raghavan, a respected Indian authority on Siachen, the Pakistan Army had planned a similar operation to occupy the Saltoro Ridge that summer. But they arrived on the Saltoro a month after the Indians, only to find most of the key heights on the ridge already occupied.

For years, Pakistan has mounted bloody, but eventually fruitless, attacks to get atop the Saltoro Ridge. But the Indian army still controls all of Siachen, all its tributary glaciers, and all the key passes and heights of the Saltoro Ridge. Shut out even from a view of the Siachen Glacier, Pakistani troops suffer a severe tactical disadvantage all along the 109-kilometer-long Actual Ground Position Line, as the frontline in that sector is called.

Forced to fight uphill, Pakistan is believed to have suffered the lion’s share of battle casualties on the Saltoro. Indian troops, who hold higher positions with more difficult access, were estimated to have initially suffered more environment-related deaths, before better equipment, procedures and training brought casualties down to a trickle since the mid-1990s. But on 7th April, an avalanche that slammed into a Pakistani headquarters at Gyari swept away more than 130 soldiers. The next day, Pakistan’s President Zardari asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to cooperate in demilitarising Siachen.

New Delhi, however, is sticking to its demand for authentication of ground positions on the Saltoro Ridge before any demilitarisation could be conducted. The Indian Army says that, without authentication on signed map sheets, its hard-won high ground on the Saltoro Ridge could be occupied by Pakistan with impunity. As a result, the 13th Round of Siachen Talks between the two countries’ defence secretaries in June this year adjourned without making any headway towards settling the Siachen dispute. No dates have yet been fixed for the next round of discussions.


  1. More interesting would be to see the list of casualties by year. That would indicate what progess the Army has made in improving living conditions and safety precautions for the soldiers based on our long experience operating at the heights.

  2. Ajai: do you happen to have the following breakdown of data:

    a) How many were KIA each year? As you say, the numbers have dwindled to single digits these past few years

    b) How many in total were KIA due to weather versus enemy action

    Thanks for sharing this information. The news about the # of soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our nation just reiterates why we must never give up Siachen or trust Pakistan

  3. When Pakistan Army suffered casualties (130+) arising from avalanche,their govt requested India for demilitarization. My question is, if India has asked for demilitarization of Siachin, citing reasons of casualties in last decade, would they have accepted India's plea.
    Are Pakistani lives valuable, and Indian lives worthless??
    Conclusion: We need to support, encourage our troops at Siachin, and no discussion with any parties. We may give assurance that we will not move into their territory, so they are free to act on demilitarization unilaterally.

  4. well... sombody thought... we majority indians are spineless... cowards... and tried to showcase this... with kargil... and to their religious fighters... and religious masters... giving a clarion call... to take over india by their fighters... our resolve in siachen will again... showcase our Indian resolve to... gaurd our Indian Nations resolve... to gaurd it from threats... foreign and domestic... Jai Hind...

  5. If in a deep forest any man catches a big poisonous snake by its throat, then the snake forms a coil around his hand and body. Now the situation is locked and that man has no option to release the snake. Otherwise he will be dead. So he has to find a rough tree trunk and repeatedly rub the mouth of the snake patiently and forcefully against it till the whole portion of the snake's mouth and head gets disappeared. Any deviation from this procedure can only invite the inevitable death.

  6. Anon at 12:51

    Dear sir/ madam-

    Could you please write proper sentences without the "...." It does not make your comments appear any deeper or more poetic or philosophical or any such thing... its merely irritating like a fly (makhi) buzzing around one that one cant get rid of. And in some ways it even devalues any valid comments/ observations you might make.

    Kindly do not take this constructive criticism personally.

    Many thanks, and apologies if your sentiments have been hurt.

  7. The loss of 846 brave Indian soldier's once agian solidifies the major facts like-
    1. A very very hard earned peaceful border against an irresponsible neighbour.
    2. Indian politicians are hypocrites to have even thought to give Siachen away. They are fools to fall

    in paki trap of sweet talk
    3. Corrupt Indian government doesn't give a damn about soldier's lives. It even scammed in the ration

    supply and cold suites for army men and even coffins.
    4. We are in dire need for some strong and sensible political leaders and military chiefs

    We need a new breed of strong, stable and open minded political, economic and military leaders to take

    some strong and ground breaking decisions. Otherwise, the alarming rate at which china has grown in the

    past 10-15 years both economically and militarily, with its growing assertiveness, it might be even too

    late for India if we allow the current red tapism to exist..


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