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Despite Pak protest, India plans civilian trek to Siachen

New Delhi, May 14
Notwithstanding Pakistan's vociferous protests earlier, India will organise a civilian mountaineering and trekking expedition to the forbidding Siachen Glacier for the fourth year in a row in October-November this year.

“The Siachen trekking expedition this year is in its planning stage and is likely to take place some time in October-November," an Army officer involved in the planning of the trek said here.

The expedition, which has now become an annual affair, is meant to showcase to the global community that Indian troops hold the Siachen glacial heights and Pakistan is nowhere near the Glacier, regarded as the world's highest battlefield.

Guns had boomed in the 78-km-long Glacier at an altitude of 18,875 feet till November 25, 2004, when a formal ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan came into effect along the 740-km Line of Control and 110-km Actual Ground Position Line.

During this year's expedition, the Army plans to take along 35 civilians. They would also be visiting some of the Army positions on their way up the glacier and back.

The civilian Siachen expedition had run into a 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 UPA 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 protests from Pakistan, India maintains it does not need Islamabad's approval to send trekkers to Siachen, which is essentially in 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





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