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India’s Siachen adventure tourism plan angers Pakistan

19 September 2007

Pakistan has strongly and formally protested against India’s decision to allow tourists to visit the disputed Siachen glacier. India has permitted trekking expeditions on the 72-kilometre-long Siachen glacier, to promote tourism, from the third week of September 2007.

Siachen is on the border of Pakistan-controlled and Indian-controlled Kashmir, a region that the two sides have fought and argued over for decades. India had said a week ago that it would take trekkers to the mountain region.

Manpreet Vohra, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan, was summoned by the Pakistan’s Foreign Office and given a “strong protest” and handed over a demarche stating that Siachen was a disputed region and that Pakistan was opposed to the Indian Army’s plans to initiate any tourist activity.

Pakistan and India have been locked in a bitter dispute over the Siachen glacier since 1984.

Both countries have deployed thousands of troops on what is described as the highest battlefield in the world, around 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) above sea level.

There have been various attempts by both countries to reach a compromise through talks.

The talks did lead to some improvement in transport and diplomatic links, but as yet there has been no substantial progress on their main disagreement – the divided Kashmir Valley.

Pakistan claims that, after the talks in 1989, both countries had agreed to pull back troops to their pre-1984 position. Pakistan has accused India of not honoring this agreement. India denies this charge.

Fighting continues in the region, and both India and Pakistan continue to deploy thousands of troops at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

In fact, more soldiers, on both sides, have died from the -40C temperatures than from enemy fire.

General J J Singh, Chief of Staff of India’s Army, had declared a week ago: “Since Siachen is a part of India, I have decided to allow adventure tourism
so that people enjoy the natural beauty there and also tell the whole world.”

But, Pakistan maintains that this move could lead to higher tensions in Siachen.

Tasnim Aslam, spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Office responded to General J J Singh’s words, saying: “Siachen is a battlefield. Allowing tourists into the area could have severe consequences.”

However, the Indian Army has decided to go ahead with the expedition to Siachen glacier despite Pakistan’s strong opposition.




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