India controls the highest battlefield in the world, Siachen glacier. Located in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalayas, is one of the five largest glaciers in the Karakoram, situated at an average altitude of 18,000 ft above sea level. At 78 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second longest in the world’s non-polar areas. Most of Siachen Glacier falls under the Line of Control, a hotly contested territory between Pakistan and India. Since 1984, both countries have been fighting intermittently for sovereignty over this region, because of which Siachen Glacier is sometimes called the highest battleground on earth.
In 1984, when the Pakistan army attempted to move into the region, India launched a successful military operation and has since maintained control over all of Siachen Glacier and its tributaries. Between 1984 and 1999, frequent fights took place between India and Pakistan. However, more soldiers have died in Siachen from harsh weather conditions than from enemy firing. Both India and Pakistan maintain permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and continue to deploy thousands of troops in Siachen.
Although a cease-fire went into effect in 2003, by then the two sides had lost an estimated 2,000 personnel primarily due to frostbite, avalanches and other complications. Together, the nations have about 150 manned outposts along the glacier, with some 3,000 troops each. Siachen Glacier also boasts of the world’s highest helipad built by India at Point Sonam, 21,000 ft (6,400 m) above the sea level, to supply its troops. India also installed the world’s highest telephone booth on the glacier.
Aside from the Indian and Pakistani military presence, the glacier region is underpopulated. The nearest civilian settlement is the village of Warshi, 10 miles downstream from the Indian base camp. The region is also highly remote with limited road connectivity. On the Indian side, roads go only as far as the military base camp at Dzingrulma 72 km from the top of the glacier.