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Army plans Siachen trek despite Pakistan protest

New Delhi, June 17
Notwithstanding Pakistan’s vociferous protests, the Indian Army will organise a civilian mountaineering and trekking expedition to the Siachen Glacier for the second year in a row in October-November this year.

Even before the planned Siachen trekking kicks off, the Indian Army will take out its own expedition to the glacial heights of Khatling on the Indo-Tibetan border in Uttarakhand later this month.

“The Siachen trekking expedition this year is in its planning stage and we are determined to take civilian mountaineers to the glacier this year. Khatling expedition by the Army’s 15 Mechanised Infantry Regiment will take place from June 25 to July 7,” a source in the Army headquarters said. Both the expeditions are meant to show to the international audience that Indian troops hold both the Siachen and Khatling glacial heights and that neither Pakistan nor China were anywhere near the two glaciers.

Amidst reports of frequent intrusions by China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) into the Indian territory along the Indo-Tibetan border, the Khatling expedition would leave imprints of the Army team’s visit to the glacier.

“The imprints could be anything from an Indian-made shoe or a copy of an Indian newspaper adequately sealed in a plastic folder to ensure it does not get wet or damaged in the snowy terrain. This would enable India to assert Khatling Glacier is its territory and counter any future threat of a Chinese claim,” a source said.

The civilian Siachen expedition last September had run into a controversy 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, it went ahead with the trekking expedition after a go-ahead was given by the UPA government.

Despite protests from Pakistan, India maintains that it does not need Pakistan’s approval to send trekkers to the 78 km-long Siachen, which is essentially an Indian territory. The Khatling expedition team will comprise two officers and an equal number of junior commissioned officers (JCOs), apart from eight other ranks (ORs), all volunteers from the regiment.

Inducted 10 days prior to the expedition, the team would also have an eight-member support team comprising a JCO and seven ORs.

The volunteers would undertake graduated acclimatisation and endurance exercises in coordination with 2 Rajput Regiment, apart from liaising with the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering at Uttarkasi to gain experience of trekking and survival skills in high altitude. — PTI



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