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A warrior's tale: How it all began

June 26, 2007
Mohammad Ali Jinnah was an impatient man. Hardly two months after he obtained a separate homeland for Muslims, he decided to grab Kashmir by force and sent tribal raiders to the valley.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, the marauders did not have the same motivation as Jinnah; they did not care for the 'Two Nation' theory, they just wanted to loot and rape. While they mauraded around Baramulla, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession; the next morning Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. Kashmir had legally become a part of India. The hostilities that began then continue to this day.

On January 1, 1949, India and Pakistan agreed to a Cease Fire under the United Nations' auspices. A Cease Fire Line, CFL, remained to be demarcated. In July, a UN conference attended by Indian and Pakistan representatives signed an agreement defining this line, but unfortunately the CFL stopped in Ladakh at a point named NJ9842; at that time no one thought about the possibility of a war on the glaciers.

The agreement mentioned that the line continued 'thence north to the glaciers'. The demarcation was done on a clear principle: If a territory was no man's land and not occupied by any of the two armies, it was deemed to be part of India. This was implicitly accepted by the UN Commission for India and Pakistan in the August 1948 UN resolutions, which acknowledged that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had legally acceded to India through the Instrument of Accession.

To India's surprise, in 1984 Pakistan began sponsoring mountaineering expeditions in the Siachen area and showing the glacier as its territory. The situation worsened in early 1987 when the Pakistanis established a post on a feature overlooking Indian defences located near the Bilafond Pass on the Saltoro ridge.

The post was so important for Islamabad that it was named the 'Quaid' Post, after its first Quaid-e-Azam, Jinnah. When the Pakistanis started sniping at Indian helicopters, some Indian posts maintained by air suddenly became untenable.

The Indian Army then planned a daring, secret, operation to evict the Pakistanis from the post.

At a time when the de-militarisation of the Siachen glacier is in the news, Claude Arpi spoke to retired Captain Bana Singh, one of only three living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest award for gallantry, who captured the 'Quaid' Post, 20 years ago this day, June 26, 1987.

Image: Crossing a crevasse in Siachen
Photograph, courtesy Colonel Ashok Choudhary

Also see: 'I feel more inspired than ever to fight'


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