Siachen, world's highest battlefield, now open for tourists
The announcement regarding the opening up of Siachen for tourists comes a few days ahead of Ladakh being declared a separate Union Territory on October 31.
Meanwhile, while explaining that India and China have handled the boundary issue with maturity, Singh added that Kashmir is India’s internal matter and Chinese President Xi Jinping didn’t mention it during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai.
Singh made the announcement on Siachen while inaugurating the newly constructed ‘Colonel Chewang Rinchen Bridge’ over the Shyok River in Eastern Ladakh. “The Siachen area is now open for tourists and Tourism. From Siachen Base Camp to Kumar Post, the entire area has been opened for tourism purposes,” the Defence Minister said through his official handle on Twitter.
Siachen base camp at Partapur is at an altitude of 12,000 feet and temperatures can dip as low as -60 degrees during the winter. The highest post in Siachen is Bana Post, which is 23,000 feet. Other than an annual civilian expedition, this is the first time that the area has been opened by the army for tourists. The army, which is deployed in the glacier, will be examining who all will be coming to the area. The Siachen glacier is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan and the Indian Army had gained control of it in 1984.
Singh added, “Ladakh has tremendous potential in tourism. Better connectivity in Ladakh would certainly bring tourists in large numbers.”
He said that the Colonel Chewang Rinchen Bridge, which has been constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in record time of 15 months, will not only provide all weather connectivity in the region, but also be a strategic asset in the border areas. Colonel Chewang Rinchen is known as the “Lion of Ladakh” for his extraordinary acts of courage in defending Leh and Partapur sector. He is one of only six armed forces personnel to have been twice awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest Indian Gallantry Award.
The 430-metre long bridge located at an altitude of 14,650 feet between the strategic Karakoram and Chang Chengmo ranges will connect Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldie in Eastern Ladakh. “Keeping in view the current security situation, strengthening our borders is the need of the hour. Border area development is an integral part of our government’s plan and this bridge is a part of that strategy,” he said, according to a defence ministry statement.
While explaining that the BRO is using over Rs 900 crore for the development of Ladakh, the minister said that the region will soon become a hub for domestic and foreign tourists. The BRO has constructed 1,200 km of road in 2018-19.
While commenting on China, Singh said, “India shares cordial relations with China. There are perceptional differences between both the countries on the boundary issue but the issue has been handled with great maturity and responsibly. Both the countries have not allowed the situation to escalate or go out of hand.”
He added, “Kashmir is India’s internal and integral matter. Even the Chinese President Xi Jinping did not mention Kashmir in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mahabalipuram. China’s recent statement for action against terror is also significant.”
Explaining that with the decision to make Ladakh a separate union territory, Singh said “Like the rest of the country, Ladakh will now become a destination for investment. There will also be a boost in revenue generation and employment opportunities for local people.”