India and Pakistan, the two sparring nuclear-armed nations, have deployed their troops in large number in an area which is facing clear signs of an impact from climate change, adding to the looming threat of a water crisis. The conflict between India and Pakistan, historically, has been over land, both claiming the Kashmir valley. Water woes are a part of the picture.

The Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan had its premise in the fear that India could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war, as the Indus, the river that brings life to most of Pakistan, flows out from India.

The melt water of Saichen glacier is the main source of the Nubra river, which drains into the Shyok river. The Shyok then joins the 3,000 km-long Indus river which flows through Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan had their claims on the glacier. In 1983, Pakistan decided to deploy troops on the glacier. India acted swiftly and launched Operation Meghdoot.

At present, India occupies most of the glacier, Pakistan being only on the western side of the Saltoro ridge. Both armies have been stationed here, losing more soldiers to climate than to bullets.This year alone, India has lost 12 soldiers and one porter in Siachen.

In a reply in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said India has lost 915 soldiers in Siachen in the last 33 years. The number on Pakistan's side are similar.

While neither India nor Pakistan have admitted to the water angle of the dispute, Pakistan did accuse India of threatening the ecology of the glacier with its troop presence.

Latest News from India News Desk