The Siachen Glacier conflict shows signs of thawing. This week Pakistan’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Haji Muhammad Adeel has called for Siachen Glacier to be declared a non-military zone. India and Pakistan have disputed ownership of the 70 km glacier, and 1000+ square kilometers of surrounding territory, since it was occupied by India in 1984. In the subsequent three decades of conflict India and Pakistan are estimated to have each suffered approximately 2000 fatalities, primarily due to extreme environmental conditions (a ceasefire was declared in 2003). The border between Pakistan and India in the Siachen Glacier region was left undeclared in the 1972 Simla Agreement.
Of interest to glacier watchers: Haji Muhammad Adeel cited increased human activities on the glacier that have accelerated surface melt, as well as increased natural hazards in the form of flash floods and changing weather patterns, in his call for both countries to withdraw their troops from the glacier basin. With approximately 3000 soldiers from each country stationed in the valley, the Siachen Glacier is presumably the most densely populated glacier in the world. If withdrawal does happen, the extensive military infrastructure would offer great logistical support for civilian science in a region where glaciers are an exceptionally important water source in a changing climate!