Notwithstanding Pakistan's vociferous protests, India will organise a civilian mountaineering and trekking expedition to the forbidding Siachen Glacier for the fourth year in a row in October-November this year.
"The Siachen trekking expedition this year is in its planning stage and is likely to take place some time in October-November," an Army officer involved in the planning of the trek said.
The expedition, which has now become an annual affair, is meant to showcase to the global community that Indian troops hold the Siachen glacial heights, regarded as the world's highest battlefield.
Guns had boomed in the 78-km-long glacier, located at an altitude of 18,875 feet, till November 25, 2003, when a formal ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan came into effect along the 740-km Line of Control and 110-km Actual Ground Position Line.
During this year's expedition, the Army plans to take along 35 civilians including women, journalists, scientists and mountaineers from among civilian enthusiasts as well as military training establishments. The participants would be trained in mountaineering, skating and other such skills required to go through the arduous month-long trek to the glacier, the officer said.
They would also be visiting some of the Indian Army bases on their way up the glacier and back. The civilian Siachen expedition had run into controversy when it first began in 2007, after Pakistan lodged a strong protest, calling it 'incongruous' to the ongoing peace efforts between the two countries.
Though the Army halted the trip immediately after the protest that year, it went ahead with the trekking expedition after a go-ahead was given by the United Progressive Alliance government later. Every year since then, India continued with its Siachen expedition with civilians and mountaineering enthusiasts, even as Pakistan continued to voice its concern.
Despite protests from Pakistan, India maintains that it does not need Islamabad's approval to send trekkers to Siachen, which is in Indian territory.