1984: Operation Meghdoot

Operation Meghdoot was the name given to the attack launched by the Indian Military to capture the Siachen Glacier in the disputed Kashmir region, precipitating the Siachen Conflict. Launched on April 13, 1984, this military operation was unique as the first assault launched in the world's highest battlefield. The military action eventually resulted in Indian troops managing to gain control of the entire Siachen Glacier.

The Siachen Glacier became a bone of contention following a vague demarcation of territory as per the Simla Agreement of 1972, which did not exactly specify who had authority over the Siachen Glacier area. As a result of this, both nations lay claim to the barren land. In the 1970s and early 80s, Pakistan permitted several mountaineering expeditions to climb the peaks in the Siachen region. This served to reinforce their claim on the area as these expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. Indian sources claim that in many cases a liaison officer from the Pakistan army accompanied the teams. The peak, located east of the Siachen Glacier, also overlooks the northwestern areas of the Aksai Chin area which is occupied by China but claimed by India. The Indian military believed that such an expedition could further a link for a trade route from the southwestern (Pakistani) to the northeastern (Chinese) side of the Karakoram Range and eventually provide a strategic, if not tactical, advantage to the Pakistan Military.

The Indian Military decided to take action to stop future expeditions from the Pakistani side and eventually to prevent Pakistan from staking its claim on the glacier. Accordingly, the Indian military brought to the glacier area troops from Northern Ladakh region as well as some paramilitary forces. Most of the troops had already been acclimatized to the extremities of the glacier after having been sent on a training expedition to Antarctica in 1982. On April 13, 1984, the Indian Army made its move onto the glacier to defend the territory and the peaks and passes around it when it launched "Operation Meghdoot". The operation was launched under the command of Lieutenant General P N Hoon, the then army commander of the Indian Army's Northern Command based at Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir state of India. The operation was also based on intelligence inputs that Pakistan was also preparing for an action in these areas. Reportedly the operation pre empted Pakistani Army by about 4 days, as intelligence reported that Pakistan was to launch an operation on 17 April 1984. By the time Pakistan troops managed to get into the immediate area, they found that the Indian troops had occupied the major mountain passes on the Saltoro Ridge west of Siachen Glacier. Handicapped by the altitude and the limited time, Pakistan could only manage to control the Saltoro Ridge's western slopes and foothills despite the fact that Pakistan possessed more accessible routes to the area.

The operation and the continued cost of maintaining logistics to the area is a major drain on both militaries. 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 Pervez Musharraf and initially managed to capture a few high points before being beaten 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 Subedar Major Bana Singh who launched a daring daylight attack, codenamed "Operation Rajiv", after climbing 1,500 ft (460 m) ice cliff. Operation Meghdoot was seen by some as the blueprint behind the Kargil War in 1999 when Pakistan backed guerillas and paramilitary forces covertly occupied the Kargil region. It is said that Operation Meghdoot was the inspiration for this abortive operation in Kargil launched by Pakistan later in 1999.

Sankalp Unit