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Siachen Glacier
Satellite imagery of the Siachen Glacier
Satellite imagery of the Siachen Glacier
Type Mountain glacier
Location Kashmir
Coordinates 35°30′N 77°00′E / 35.5°N 77.0°E / 35.5; 77.0Coordinates: 35°30′N 77°00′E / 35.5°N 77.0°E / 35.5; 77.0
Length 70 km (43 mi)
Status India controls the entire Siachen Glacier, including all tributary glaciers.[1] [2] [3] [4] Disputed between India and Pakistan.

The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains at about 35°30′N 77°00′E / 35.5°N 77.0°E / 35.5; 77.0, just east of the Line of Control between India-Pakistan. India controls all of the Siachen Glacier itself, including all tributary glaciers. At 70 km (43 mi) long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas.[5] It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its head at Indira Col (pass) on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,875 ft) at its terminus.

The Siachen Glacier lies immediately south of the great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent in the extensively glaciated portion of the Karakoram that is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram range to the east. The Saltoro Ridge originates in the north from the Sia Kangri peak on the China border in the Karakoram range. The crest of the Saltoro Ridge's altitudes range from 5,450 to 7,720 m (17,880 to 25,330 feet). The major passes on this ridge are, from north to south, Sia La at 5,589 m (18,336 ft), Bilafond La at 5,450 m (17,880 ft), and Gyong La at 5,689 m (18,665 ft) The average winter snowfall is 10.5 m (35 ft) and temperatures can dip to −50 °C (−58.0 °F). Including all tributary glaciers, the Siachen Glacier system covers about 700 km2 (270 sq mi).

The Siachen Glacier boasts the world's highest helipad, built by India. The world's highest battlefield is also located on the glacier at a height of 21,000 feet (6400 m) above the sea level.[6] GSM mobile service was launched in 2009 near army base camp.[7]





The Siachen Glacier area is the smallest orange area.

"Sia" in the Balti language refers to the rose family plant widely dispersed in the region. "Chun" references any object found in abundance. Thus the name Siachen refers to a land with an abundance of roses. The naming of the glacier itself, or at least its currency, is attributed to Tom Longstaff.


The glacier's melting waters are the main source of the Nubra River in Indian controlled Ladakh, which drains into the Shyok River. The Shyok in turn joins the Indus River, thus the glacier is a major source of the river Indus. Global warming has had one of its worst impacts here in the Himalayas with the glaciers melting at an unprecedented rate and monsoon rains now appearing north of the mountains. The volume of the glacier has been significantly reduced over recent decades; military activity since 1984 has also been blamed for much of the degradation of the glacier.[8]

Border conflict

United Nations map of Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Siachen Glacier area was not defined in 1972 Simla Agreement.

The glacier's region is the highest battleground on earth, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 1984. Both countries maintain permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The site is one of the most eminent examples of mountain warfare.

Both India and Pakistan have wished to disengage from the costly military outposts. However, after the Pakistani incursions during the Kargil War in 1999, India abandoned plans to withdraw from Siachen unless there's an official recognition of the current line of control by Pakistan, wary of further Pakistani incursions if they vacate the Siachen Glacier posts without such recognition.

During her tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ms Benazir Bhutto, visited the area west of Gyong La, making her the first premier from either side to get to the Siachen region. On June 12, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the area, calling for a peaceful resolution of the problem. In the previous year, the President of India, Abdul Kalam became the first head of state to visit the area.

India based Jet Airways plans to open a chartered service to the glacier's nearest airlink, the Thoise airbase, mainly for military purposes. Pakistan's PIA flies tourists and trekkers daily to Skardu, which is the jumping off point for K2, the world's second highest point just 33 kilometres (21 mi) northwest of the Siachen area, although bad weather frequently grounds these scheduled flights.

Since September 2007, India has opened up mountaineering and trekking expeditions to the forbidding glacial heights. The first group included cadets from Chail Military School, National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, NCC, IMA, RIMC and family members of armed forces officers. The expeditions are also meant to show to the international audience that Indian troops hold "almost all dominating heights" on the important Saltoro Ridge and to show that Pakistani troops are not within 15 miles (24 km) of the 43.5-mile (70 km) Siachen Glacier.[9] Ignoring protests from Pakistan, India asserts maintains that it does not need anyone's approval to send trekkers to Siachen, in what it says is essentially its own territory.[10] In addition, the Indian Army's Army Mountaineering Institute (AMI) functions out of the region.

See also


  1. ^ See for perhaps the most detailed treatment of the geography of the conflict, including its early days, and under section "3." the current status of Indian control of Gyong La, contrary to the oft-copied misstatement in the old error-plagued summary at
  2. ^ See for a detailed, current map showing Pakistan control west of the Saltoro Ridge crest, Indian control of the entire Siachen Glacier and the top of the Saltoro Ridge.
  3. ^ "Indians have been able to hold on to the tactical advantage of the high ground. Most of India's many outposts are west of the Siachen Glacier along the Saltoro Ridge." Bearak, Barry (May 23, 1999). "THE COLDEST WAR; Frozen in Fury on the Roof of the World". The New York Times.,%201999%22%20%22Roof%20of%20the%20World%22&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  4. ^ In an academic study with detailed maps and satellite images, co-authored by brigadiers from both the Pakistani and Indian military, pages 16 and 27: "Since 1984, the Indian army has been in physical possession of most of the heights on the Saltoro Range west of the Siachen Glacier, while the Pakistan army has held posts at lower elevations of western slopes of the spurs emanating from the Saltoro ridgeline. The Indian army has secured its position on the ridgeline." Hakeem, Asad; Gurmeet Kanwal , Michael Vannoni, Gaurav Rajen (2007-09-01). "Demilitarization of the Siachen Conflict Zone". Sandia Report. Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, USA. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  5. ^ Siachen Glacier is 70 km (43 mi) long; Tajikistan's Fedchenko Glacier is 77 km (48 mi) long. The second longest in the Karakoram Mountains is the Biafo Glacier at 63 km (39 mi). Measurements are from recent imagery, supplemented with Russian 1:200,000 scale topographic mapping as well as the 1990 "Orographic Sketch Map: Karakoram: Sheet 2", Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Zurich.
  6. ^ "Siachen: The world's highest cold war". CNN. Wednesday, September 17, 2003 Posted: 0550 GMT ( 1:50 PM HKT). Retrieved 2009-03-30.  
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Zee News - Siachen glacier melting fast due to military activity: study
  9. ^ India opens Siachen to trekkers Times of India 13 Sep 2007
  10. ^ India hits back at Pak over Siachen issue Times of India 17 Sep 2007


External links

Simple English

Satellite image of the glacier

The Siachen Glacier (Urdu:سیاچن گلکئر) is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan interim border at approximately 35.5° N 77.0° E. It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second longest in the world's non-polar areas.[1] It ranges from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col (pass) on the China border to its snout at 3,620 m (11,875 ft)


  1. Siachen Glacier is 70 km long; Tajikistan's Fedchenko Glacier is 77 km long. The second longest in the Karakoram Mountains is the Biafo Glacier at 63 km. Measurements are from recent imagery, supplemented with Russian 1:200,000 scale topographic mapping as well as the 1990 "Orographic Sketch Map: Karakoram: Sheet 2", Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Zurich.


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