Operation Meghdoot, a.k.a Operation Cloud Messenger, reminds us of one of the most violent wars between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Ranges is known as the world's highest militarized zone,and sits astride two disputed nations. It is the highest battlefield post in the world today. This operation can be regarded as a tale of the Indian Army's unmatched bravery and heart-wrenching patriotism.
The disagreement regarding the Siachen Glacier has been deeply rooted in the 1949 Karachi Agreement, signed between India and Pakistan, which established a ceasefire line in Kashmir, but did not specify who will have authority over the Siachen Glacier.
Both the rival nations, India and Pakistan, had their interpretations about their claim over these barren heights. Both of the nations allowed mountaineering expeditions from their side, to reinforce their claim over this area.
Operation Meghdoot was led by Lieutenant General Prem Nath Hoon of the Indian Army who recently passed in January 2020, on 13 April 1984, along with the Indian Air Force and paramilitary forces. Brigadier Vijay Channa launched the operation to occupy the Saltoro ridge by 26 Sector. He is lauded for occupying positions in Siachen before Pakistan could take any action, due to which India won the war.
D - Day
The first step towards preparations for Operation Meghdoot was the airlift of Indian Army soldiers by the Indian Air Force. To supply airdrop, troops and scores to high altitude airfields, the Air Force used Russian military transport aircrafts, Il-76, An-12 and An-32. From there, Mi-17, Mi-8 and HAL Chetak helicopters carried provisions and personnel to the east of the hitherto unscaled peaks. The military action helped Indian troops gain control of the entire Siachen Glacier.
What Did We Gain in this Battle?
The operation acquired India the 70 kilometres long Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers. Sia La, Bilafond La, and Gyong La, the three main passes of a huge ridge lying west of glacier were conquered in this conflict, thus, giving India the tactical advantage of holding higher grounds.
No Victory Without Cost
As no victory comes without a cost, despite lack of reliable information regarding casualties, soldiers on both sides suffered frostbite, high altitude sickness, while some getting lost in avalanches and terrain. The military officially confirmed that figures pegged the Siachen deaths at 869, mainly due to the harsh climatic conditions.
One of the most notable expeditions was led by Colonel Narinder 'Bull' Kumar of the Indian Army to Teram Kangri. He was instrumental in the success of operation Meghdoot in 1984 and passed away in December 2020. The battalion headquarters on the glacier ,the Kumar post, is named in his honour.
As of today, almost ten infantry battalions of the Indian Army are actively deployed on the highest and coldest battlefield of the world. Over the past 36 years, they have continued to safeguard the nation's frontiers in extreme weather conditions and fight off neighbouring foes. Salute!!!
This article has been written by Rutuja Gosavi for The Paradigm
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