Contemporary Articles

Beyond Civilisation

 ©Frontline- Vol.21, Issue 07, March 27 - April 09, 2004

In December last year, India and Pakistan initiated a ceasefire along the Line of Control. Troops from both countries, however, remained deployed along the high Himalayas in conditions most armies would consider impossible. For them, the end of the shooting war has not meant the beginning of peace. Praveen Swami was granted permission to visit Gurkha Post, a forward position at 4,590 metres above sea level in the Dras sector, which is cut off for up to six months a year by winter snow. La Rinconada, a village in Peru at 5,099 metres, records the May 2003 issue of National Geographic, is the highest permanent human habitation. Above this altitude, the magazine records, "There are no permanent settlements" and "civilisation stops." India has many posts much higher than that in the Siachen glacier, and its troops have fought at upwards of 7,000 metres. In Siachen, however, all-volunteer troops stay for just three months. No one has a choice about serving in Dras, and the troops spend two entire years inhabiting posts higher than La Rinconada. That is, until, and if, India and Pakistan learn to live in peace.

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