The President of India, Droupadi Murmu, on her first visit to the Union Territories (UTs) of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, will be in Leh and Srinagar in the first week of May 2023, even as her interaction with the Indian Army officers and soldiers at the Siachen Glacier is also under consideration.
Highly placed sources in New Delhi and Leh told INDIA NARRATIVE that the President’s visit to the two UTs was being scheduled around 3-5 May but her final programme will be available in the next 10 days. Attempts are underway to arrange for her visit to Siachen Glacier, which, at an altitude of 18,875 ft, has had the distinction of being the highest battleground on earth. She is said to be keen to meet the soldiers defending the country in the harshest weather conditions.
On 8th April 2023, President Murmu, as Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces flew a sortie in a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft from Tezpur Air Force Station in Assam.
In Ladakh, President Murmu’s proposed programmes are mostly limited to Leh. On her return, she is likely to have a brief halt at Srinagar. Sources said that her schedules were being worked out in consultation with senior Army and Indian Air Force Officers in Ladakh and J&K. As per the tentative programme, she will be received at Leh by top Army and IAF officers, including General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Udhampur-based Northern Command.
Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Brig (rtd.) BD Mishra, who called on President Murmu in New Delhi on 14 March this year, would personally attend her reception along with top officers of Police and civil administration at Leh.
If her programme matures, President Murmu would stay at Siachen Glacier for one hour. She would be accompanied by top Army Commanders who would brief her about the Army deployment at the key strategic field between India, Pakistan and China. However, her visit to Drass War Memorial in the Kargil district which was set up in memory of Army and IAF personnel who attained martyrdom in the 1999 Kargil war, has not been finalised.
During her stay in Leh, the President is expected to visit some places of religious and historic significance besides meetings with LG Mishra and top Army commanders. The President’s Secretariat, in coordination with Army and IAF, according to sources, is planning her brief visit to some Defence installations including the headquarters of Srinagar-based Chinar Corps on her return.
This is going to be her first visit to the UTs of Ladakh and J&K after Droupadi Murmu’s election as the President of India in July 2022. Since Ladakh ceased to have Assembly representation after becoming a UT in 2019 and the J&K UT’s Assembly has not become functional yet, Murmu didn’t visit during her campaigning. All six Lok Sabha members from J&K and Ladakh participated in her election.
The President’s visit to Ladakh assumes significance as she happens to be the Supreme Commander of the three Services in the backdrop of skirmishes between the Indian and the Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in the last three years. Tensions have remarkably reduced after the disengagement of troops at several points in the last several months.
The situation in eastern Ladakh is one of the major topics of discussion in the five-day conference of top Army Commanders in New Delhi from April 17-21. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to address the conference. Security scenarios along the LAC with China in other States and the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan besides counterinsurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and other strategic issues across the country are being discussed at the conference.
On 10th May 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind visited the Siachen Glacier and interacted with the troops. It was for the first time in 14 years that an Indian President visited Siachen. Previously, President APJ Abdul Kalam had visited Siachen in April 2004.
President Kovind also visited Ladakh in July 2019 and planned another visit to the Kargil War Memorial at Drass in July 2021. However, both times his visit to Drass was cancelled due to inclement weather. In July 2021 he, nevertheless, visited a War Memorial at Baramulla and addressed the 19th annual convocation of the University of Kashmir in Srinagar.
Later, in October 2021, President Kovind, along with daughter Swati Kovind, attended the Sindhu Darshan puja at Sindhu Ghat in Leh and also paid a visit to the Kargil War Memorial at Drass.