Operation Meghdoot || How India captured Siachen!

Operation Meghdoot was the code name given to the military operation of the Indian Armed Forces to capture Siachen glacier in the Kashmir region. This military operation was unique because it was the first assault launched in the world's highest battlefield. The military action resulted in tactical and strategic Indian victory and Indian troops gaining control of the entire Siachen Glacier. In this article we are going to have a look on this operation and as to what makes it so important.

Quick Facts

Date - 13 April 1984
Commanders - Lt. Gen. Prem Nath Hoon (India) and Lt. Gen. Zahid Ali Akbar (Pakistan)
Strength - Around 3000 soldiers each side
Casualties - 36 for India and more than 200 for Pakistan (most of the casualities happened due to the weather and the exact number of casualties is still not known)
Territorial Changes - India holds all of the Siachen Glacier and its tributary glaciers
Present condition - Up to ten infantry battalions each of the Indian Army and Pakistani Army are actively deployed in altitudes up to 6,400 meters

Cause

Operation Meghdoot was a part of the major Siachen conflict that happened in April 1984 and ended in November 2003.

The conflict in Siachen was because of the incompletely mentioned territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. This point is of great strategic importance to India as it is located east of the Siachen Glacier which overlooks the northwestern areas of the Aksai Chin area which is occupied by China but claimed by India. If Pakistan has control over this area, a link for a trade route from the northeastern (Chinese) to the southwestern (Pakistani) side of the Karakoram Range will be established which can eventually provide a strategic, if not tactical, advantage to the Pakistani Armed Forces.

The 1949 Karachi Agreement and 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that the Cease Fire Line (CFL) terminated at NJ9842 and the UN officials presumed there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a cold and barren region.
Maps from Pakistan, the United Nations and other global atlases depicted the CFL correctly till around 1967–72.
The United States Defense Mapping Agency in 1967 started showing the CFL proceeding from NJ9842 east-northeast to the Karakoram Pass at 5,534 m on the China border. India believed it to be a cartographic error.
As a result, both India and Pakistan claimed this glacier.
By Nehapant19 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55161338

Then in 1977, Colonel Narendra Kumar persuaded his superiors to allow him to lead a 70-man team of climbers and porters to the glacier. They returned in or around 1981, climbed several peaks and walked the length of Siachen.
During this time, Pakistan also sent its climbers and porters in the same region to claim this land as theirs. So the Pakistani Generals wanted to secure the area before India did and launched Operation Ababeel from their side.
In all this hurry, Pakistanis made a tactical error. "They ordered Arctic-weather gear from a London outfitters who also supplied the Indians. Once the Indians got wind of it, they ordered 300 outfits—twice as many as we had—and rushed their men up to Siachen", says a now retired Pakistani army colonel.

This was the start of Operation Meghdoot!

Operation Meghdoot

The Indian military decided to deploy troops from Northern Ladakh region as well as some paramilitary forces to the glacier area. Most of the troops had been acclimatized to the extremities of the glacier through a training expedition to Antarctica in 1982 before eventually launching the operation.
The Indian Army planned an operation to control the glacier by 13 April 1984, to preempt the Pakistani Army by about 4 days, as intelligence had reported that the Pakistani operation planned to occupy the glacier by 17 April.
The task of occupying the Saltoro ridge was given to 26 Sector, commanded by Brigadier Vijay Channa, who was tasked with launching the operation between April 10 and 30. He chose April 13, supposedly an unlucky date, because it was the Vaisakhi day, when the Pakistanis would be least expecting the Indians to launch an operation.

Preparations for Operation Meghdoot started with the airlift of Indian Army soldiers by the Indian Air Force.
The first phase of the operation began in March 1984 with the march on foot to the eastern base of the glacier. A full battalion of the Kumaon Regiment and units from the Ladakh Scouts, marched with full battle packs through an ice-bound Zoji La pass for days.The units under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel (later Brigadier) D. K. Khanna were moved on foot to avoid detection of large troop movements by Pakistani radars.
The first unit to establish position on the heights of the glacier was led by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) R. S. Sandhu. The next unit led by Captain Sanjay Kulkarni secured Bilafond La. The remaining forward deployment units then marched and climbed for four days under the command of Captain P. V. Yadav to secure the remaining heights of the Saltoro Ridge.

By the time Pakistan troops managed to get into the immediate area, they found that the Indian troops had controlled all three major mountain passes of Sia La, Bilafond La, and by 1987 Gyong La and all the commanding heights of the Saltoro Ridge west of the Siachen Glacier. Pakistan could only manage to control the Saltoro Ridge's western slopes and foothills despite the fact that Pakistan possessed more ground accessible routes to the area, unlike Indian access which was largely reliant on air drops for supplies due to the steeper eastern side of the glacier.

This is how India successfully executed Operation Meghdoot.

Aftermath 

Pakistan launched an all out assault in 1987 and again in 1989 to capture the ridge and passes held by India. The first assault was headed by then-Brigadier-General Pervez Musharraf (later President of Pakistan) and initially managed to capture a few high points before being pushed back. 
Later the same year, Pakistan lost at least one major Pakistani post, the "Quaid", which came under Indian control as Bana Post, in recognition of Bana Singh who launched a daring daylight attack Operation Rajiv, after climbing 1,500 ft (460 m) of ice cliff.

Read more about Bana Singh and Operation Rajiv by clicking here

Another assault in 1989 was also unsuccessful as the ground positions did not change.
In his memoirs, former Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf states that Pakistan lost almost 2553 sq km of territory.  Camps were soon converted to permanent posts by both countries.

Must Watch : Video on Operation Meghdoot by ADGPI-Indian Army

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The Radical: Operation Meghdoot || How India captured Siachen!
Operation Meghdoot || How India captured Siachen!
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