India will not vacate Siachen, says defence minister

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India will not vacate the Siachen glaciers as Pakistan may occupy the strategic location once it is vacated, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said while speaking in Lok Sabha during Question Hour on Friday.

India occupies the highest point in Siachen glaciers, the Saltoro Ridge, which is located at 23,000 feet, he said.

“If we vacate the position, the enemy can occupy the position and they would have the strategic advantage. Then we would have to lose many more lives. We know the experience of 1984 (Siachen conflict).

He said: “I know we have to pay the price and I salute our armed forces personnel, but we have to maintain this position. We have to maintain the strategic position. The position is very important from the strategic point. I don’t think anyone in this House can take Pakistan’s words for granted.”

The defence minister said that so far 915 people have lost their lives in the last 32 years in Siachen, which comes to 28 lives every year. This has now been reduced to 10 lives every year.

Parrikar said constant medical support is given to those serving in the Siachen glaciers, which is six times more than the normal medical care. A total of 19 categories of clothing are provided to the soldiers in addition to other forms of assistance like snow scooters.

“There is no shortage of supply. … [but] We can’t totally conquer nature,” he said.

Replying to another question, the minister said the 7th Pay Commission has recommended substantial increase in benefits to those serving in hostile terrain and the Defence Ministry will ensure that defence personnel working in hostile terrain are compensated properly.