Saturday, January 10, 2009

War does not Work (4) - Siachen Glacier

Eric Margolis tells the story of a ridiculous little war over the Siachen Glacier in the area where the borders of India, Pakistan and China meet on the slopes of the Himalayas. The altitude is so high that the air is almost to thin to breath. Soldiers who spent too long there are at risk of going blind or suffering from altitude sickness. Access is so difficult that only a few hardy, experienced mountaineers have ever been there. Yet the Pakistan and Indian armies moved into the area and fought a mini war to gain control of the region. They built rough tracks up into the mountains, pulled their weapons and started lobbing shells at each other.

The native people who do live there have no connection and no allegiance to any of the governments that sought to control their villages. Life is tough at this altitude, so they mostly just got on with the struggle to survive and ignored the soldiers. The armies did nothing to relieve their poverty and sickness.

What was the point of fighting over an area where it is nearly impossible to live? What is the point of maintaining permanent military bases at 20,000 feet. What was the point of spending so much money on a pointless war, when many of their people are living in poverty? Political posturing, I presume?

Siachen was another war that did not work.

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