Over a week after having lost ten soldiers in an avalanche in Siachen, the Army on Friday ruled out any withdrawal from the glacier, the highest battle field in the world.
Responding to the statement from Pakistan in this connection, General Officer Commanding-in Chief of the Northern Command, Lt General D S Hooda, said, “No question of troops withdrawal from Siachen as proposed by Pakistan unless Indian position on ground is authenticated.”
“I see no reason at all to connect this to any withdrawal from the Glacier. That being absolutely clear to us, we are committed to defending our borders and we will continue to do that,” he added.
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“For anybody to link avalanche and the tragedy that has befallen there with the withdrawal is absolutely unwarranted and incorrect,” he said. “Our stand in this context is very clear that if we have to begin talks for withdrawal, our actual position on ground…where Indian Army is positioned, should be authenticated first and that should be agreeable to both the sides”.
“That first step is not being taken and therefore any agreement on withdrawal is not being agreed, ” Lt General Hooda said.
Nine troopers including a JCO were buried alive under snow after an avalanche hit their post at Siachen ten days ago. A tenth soldier, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa was evacuated in a critical condition to Army’s R&R hospital in Delhi, but he passed away at the hospital on Thursday.
General Hooda said the bodies of the nine troopers have been shifted from the avalanche site to a helipad on the glacier. However, it has been snowing there since then, he said, adding that “even if we get an hour break, we will immediately send helicopters to pull them out”. “We are in touch with families and all arrangements have been made to get them to Delhi and then to their respective places onward,” he said, adding “unfortunately weather has not cleared up”.
On a separate note, the Northern army commander described the recent joining of local youth into terrorist ranks as a “matter of concern”. He assured all help from army in their rehabilitation who have not committed any heinous crime.
“If we see it from only security point of view, we seem to appear that things are improving….terrorism is on the decline…number of terror incidents have been reduced as what had been two years ago, a number of terrorist leaders have been killed,” he said. “But I think we also need to view it with a larger perspective. For example, recruitment is an area of concern for us. It is not good that young recruits, who were supposed to be the future of the state and who were supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, are actually joining militancy”.
Pointing out that their life span is six months to one year from the time of their joining militancy, the army commander said “it is a tragedy and we all need to look at it”.
“From our side, we are committed as we have said that who have recently joined militancy and want to return and who have not committed any heinous crime, we will help them in rehabilitation…in their education…and in any other respect. But out concern is leave the gun and come back,” he added.