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Word of the Day: Oropolitics

In exploring the India-Pakistan dispute over the Siachen Glacier (called the “highest battleground on Earth”), we came across the word “oropolitics.” According to Joydeep Sircar, who coined the term in the early 1980s, it refers to the “political aspect and use of mountains and mountaineering.”  This word, a paragon of the English language, merits the creation of a “word of the day” post to accommodate it.

In the case of the Siachen territorial dispute, the word was needed to describe the phenomenon of Indians and Pakistanis organizing mountaineering expeditions to the peaks surrounding the glacier, as a thinly disguised (though thickly-cloaked) way of laying claim to the glacier. Who owned the glacier was left unhelpfully vague by the 1972 Shimla Agreement, brokered by the UN, which quaintly stated that from the coordinate NJ9842, the boundary between India and Pakistan would proceed “thence north to the glaciers.” It might as well have stated “there be dragons.”

Since then, mountaineering expeditions designed to further claims to disputed territories have become common enough to warrant the acceptance of a new word to describe the practice:

Oropolitics.

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UPDATE: Joydeep “Sircar” was previously spelled “Sicar”. This has been corrected.


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