Nation Building at Altitude: How the Indian Military Sustains War on the Siachen Glacier
The partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 sparked the development of an Indian military complex specifically dedicated to addressing the foreign threats posed at the new nation’s mountainous borders. The Siachen Glacier, north of Ladakh, now lay at a strategic point where the borders of India, Pakistan, and China now met. This project investigates how the ongoing war ravaging the Siachen Glacier persisted, despite the extreme costs and difficulties inherent to high-altitude warfare. While scholars of geopolitics and military generals on both sides have expounded upon the strategic importance of the Siachen Glacier region, no one has investigated how military leaders won consent and generated enthusiasm toward such a risky and costly endeavor. Using accounts by army officials and mountaineers, this project pieces together the fraught history of clashes at Siachen, and subsequently delves into the archives of Sainik Samachar, the Indian army newspaper, to understand how the rhetoric and reasoning provided in this publication swayed the military community at large in favor of perpetuating an Indian military presence at Siachen. Close reading of articles in Sainik Samachar concerning the Siachen conflict reveal several definitive strategies that various writers employed to firmly set the Indian military’s sights on the Siachen Glacier. These strategies consist of appeals to burgeoning nationalism, martyrdom, competition with a rival power, and a culture of adventure that pervades the Indian military. This work addresses an important contemporary issue in the Himalayas from an historical perspective. It aims to shed light on a growing menace for international relations and mountain peoples in the form of military intrigue on mountain borders.
Relevant fields: History, South Asian Studies, Himalayan Studies, Military History, Interdisciplinary Studies