In a recent statement given by National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, the Indian troops stationed at Siachen were urged to leave the region due to their effects on the present glaciers. Reports given by sources in Siachen reveal that the Indian troops have been disposing items of daily use into the glacier, thereby directly threatening one of Pakistan’s most important water sources. Mr. Aziz also implored that the environmental impact caused by the presence of the troops in Siachen could lead to irreparable consequences. In the past few years, environmentalists have stated that the glacial retreat on the Himalayas and the Karakorum ranges has accelerated tremendously due to increased human presence.
The issue is of great importance for both sides given its long lasting effect on the environment; glacier retreats directly affect water supplies. Glacial shrinking leads to the resurfacing of the plateau beneath it and that subsequently causes a decrease in the discharge of melted water springing from the glacier. People, specifically in Pakistan, who remain dependant on the water source, can feel its repercussions on their agriculture and even basic needs like drinking water. Furthermore, increased glacial shrinking can lead to complete droughts. Despite not being rocket science, this reality seems lost on many across the border.
With climate change consistently threatening the quality of life for common people, the issue of Indian troops pulling out of Siachen garners even more significance considering the potential and grave implications of water scarcity. India should consider this change of policy on a priority basis instead of remaining entangled in hostility. Troops on both sides of the border have suffered a number of challenges and sadly enough, most of those crises were of the natural kind – not manmade. By pulling out of Siachen, not only will the water issue revolve but we may even experience some peace for a change.