They are vital to the country’s defences in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Naravane said

India needs to retain control of the strategic heights of the Siachen Glacier as they are vital to the country’s defences in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief General Manoj Naravane said on Thursday.

“It is a strategically important location at the very head of our defences and it is absolutely important to remain ever vigilant and in control of these strategic heights because they form the key to the rest of the defences in Ladakh and the rest of Jammu and Kashmir,” Gen. Naravane said on his maiden visit to the Glacier since assuming charge as the Chief of Amy Staff on December 31.

Acknowledging that all personnel deployed there were operating in very tough conditions, given the inhospitable terrain and weather, Gen. Naravane said, “We are doing our best to make sure that whatever is required by the troops is made available to them including clothing and better rations.”

Weather is the biggest enemy on the glacier and more soldiers have lost their lives due to weather related incidents than enemy fire.

India has been holding the dominating heights on the Siachen glacier since it occupied them in 1984 during Operation Meghdoot. While there are transit camps after the Base Camp, the actual posts are located at altitudes of 18,000 feet and above with the Bana post being the highest on the glacier, at close to 22,000 feet. At 18,000-19,000 feet, Indian and Pakistani posts face each other. However, beyond 20,000 feet, the Indian troops have sole command of the heights.