Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

First GSI Survey of the Siachen


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Siachen Glacier

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • NJ 9842 vs. 5Q 131 05 084: Exploring India-Pakistan’s last demarcated point and the Siachen glacier’s assigned number by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).
  • Lack of recognition: Despite the historical importance, the first Siachen survey remains overlooked by scholars and mountaineers.

About Siachen

  • Location: Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas, just northeast of the point where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends.
  • Significance: As the second-longest glacier in the world’s non-polar areas, Siachen Glacier stretches for 76 km, holding historical and strategic importance.

Geographical and Political Context

  • Border dispute: Both India and Pakistan claim sovereignty over the entire Siachen region, leading to intermittent conflict since 1984.
  • Military presence: The region houses the highest battleground on Earth, with permanent military outposts at altitudes above 6,000 m (20,000 ft).
  • International recognition: Efforts to establish a transboundary peace park and nominate the region for the World Heritage List have been made.

Why discuss Siachen?

  • Human casualties: Harsh weather conditions have claimed more lives than combat, with both India and Pakistan sustaining significant losses.
  • Failed demilitarization attempts: Despite the desire to disengage from the costly military outposts, the lack of official recognition of the current line of control has hindered progress.
  • Mountaineering expeditions and awareness: Limited expeditions have been allowed to showcase the dominance of Indian troops and raise awareness about the region.

The First Siachen Survey

  • V.K. Raina’s leadership: In June 1958, V.K. Raina, an Indian geologist, conducted the inaugural Siachen survey.
  • Unforeseen conflict: The peaceful region surveyed in 1958 became a disputed area between India and Pakistan, leading to Operation Meghdoot in 1984.

Geologists’ Himalayan Exploration

  • Previous expeditions: Raina’s involvement in the Saser Kangri expedition and the geological survey of the Leh-Manali Highway.
  • International Geophysical Year: The significance of 1958 as a year of geological studies worldwide.
  • GSI’s limited resources: GSI’s plan to study the Himalayan glacier systems, assigning Raina the responsibility of surveying five glaciers in Ladakh.

Raina’s Journey and Findings

  • Expedition details: Raina’s team’s journey from Calcutta to Siachen, traveling by train, bus, and foot.
  • Glacier characteristics: Raina’s observations of the Siachen glacier, including the appearance of ice caves and the Nubra River’s flow.
  • Survey procedures: Mapping the snout region, establishing reference points, and capturing photographs for future analysis.

Pakistan’s Response

  • No objections raised: Despite the expedition’s significance and publicity, Pakistan did not lodge any protests or objections against India’s presence on the glacier during the survey.
  • Reasons for indifference: The lack of objections can be attributed to the mutual demarcation under the Karachi ceasefire agreement and the absence of perceived threats or intentions of occupation.

Challenging Pakistan’s Claims

  • Significance of the expedition: The 1958 GSI survey holds immense historical and geostrategic importance as it contradicts Pakistan’s early claims to the Siachen glacier.
  • Pakistan’s delayed claim: It was only 25 years later, in 1983, that Pakistan formally extended the Line of Control, staking its claim to the region, violating the Simla Agreement.
  • India’s response: India pre-empted Pakistan’s actions by occupying the strategic Saltoro Heights in April 1984, in response to Pakistan’s attempts to claim the Siachen glacier.


  • Debunking myths: The survey establishes India’s early presence on the glacier and counters Pakistan’s claims.
  • Understanding the geostrategic implications: The survey’s role in shaping subsequent events in the Siachen conflict is vital to comprehend the significance of this expedition.

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