Published on : Wednesday, September 29, 2021
The first batch of domestic tourists led by Member of Parliament and state BJP president Jamyang Tsering Namgyal reached Siachen Base camp on the occasion of World Tourism Day on Monday.
This has thrown open the doors for civilians to explore the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh.
Before this, civilians were allowed no further than the village of Warshi, which falls on the way to the Siachen Glacier, for various reasons including security concerns.
Located on the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalayas, the Siachen Glacier is the highest battlefield and one of the most inhospitable terrains on earth.
It is also the second-largest glacier outside the polar region. India took over the territory in 1984 during Operation Meghdoot.
The Siachen Glacier base camp is situated at an altitude of 3,657 metres, whereas Bana, the highest military post, lies at an altitude of 7,010 metres (23000 feet); the temperature falls below minus 40 degrees during peak winters here.
A STRONG MESSAGE ACROSS THE BORDER
The roots of the conflict over Siachen lie in the ambiguous line of control delineated by the UN in 1949, which became the Karachi Agreement that ended the 1947-48 India-Pakistan war over Kashmir.
After 1984, Pakistan launched several attempts to displace Indian forces from these heights, but with little success. However, a ceasefire came into effect in 2003 which marked the end of everyday artillery battles.
Though the guns have fallen silent, both armies remain vigilant and battle-ready.
Opening the Siachen base camp to tourism sent a strong message across the border and to the international forum. The message says that the glacier rightfully belongs to India’s sovereignty and every citizen of India has the right and freedom to move freely in our own territory.
Until now, civilians were restricted from visiting the Siachen Glacier mainly due to poor road infrastructure, lack of medical facilities and poor connectivity in case of any emergency.
But things have significantly improved in recent years, rendering it easily accessible to tourists.
LOCALS WELCOME THE OPENING UP OF SIACHEN
Nubra valley is amongst the top tourist destinations in Ladakh. The valley is bifurcated by two rivers — Shayok and Siachen.
Currently, the villages located along the Shayok river reap the benefits of tourism, whereas hardly any tourists visit places along with the Siachen River.
There are more than 30 villages on the bank of the Siachen River, which will get an economic boost with the opening of Siachen Glacier to tourism.
Since the announcement of the opening of Siachen Glacier in 2019, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Leh, along with UT Ladakh, has supported, encouraged and invested in this region to improve the tourism infrastructure such as homestays, road expansion work and installation of telecom towers to facilitate tourism.
Moreover, this side of the valley is endowed with amazing natural beauty, a serene environment, heritage sites, historical structures, old monasteries and unique cultural flavour which is unexplored till now.
Civil organisations, religious representatives, pubic representatives along with people from different villages offered a grand reception to the tourists on their way to the Siachen base camp.