The Indian Army, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) and National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) have been unable to identify these Unidentified Luminous Objects or ULOs, dubbed thus for the glow they give off “at day and by night.” Reports say these yellow spheres rise up on the horizon from the Chinese side, gliding across the sky for three to four hours before disappearing.
The Indian military officials, who studied the hazy photographs taken by ITBP, have ruled out Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Chinese drones or low-orbit satellites. There were reportedly 99 documented sightings of Chinese drones between January and August 2012, as noted by the India Today magazine.
Perturbed by persistent sightings of the mysterious lights by the Leh-based military unit 14 Corps in September, the Army reportedly deployed a mobile ground-based radar unit and spectrum analyzer which captures frequencies emitted from any object on a mountaintop near the 160-km-long, ribbon-shaped Pangong Lake that lies between India and China. The machines did not detect any signals, indicating that the ULOs are non-metallic. The army also sent a drone in the direction of the object but lost sight of it, reported India Today.
Astronomers from the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle, 150 km south of the lake, were summoned to study the flying objects. Army officials reported that although the team saw the ULOs, their findings were inconclusive and the only assessment they could come up with was that these were “non celestial” in nature.
This unexplained mystery has caused more embarrassment than fear in the Indian military.
"Something is clearly wrong, if our combined scientific resources can't explain the phenomena," says a senior Army official in Delhi as quoted by India Today. These objects may be a crude psychological operation put forth by the Chinese or sophisticated probes to gauge India’s defense preparedness in Ladakh.
Director of New Delhi's Nehru Planetarium N. Ratnashri says these could be ambient light-reflecting objects borne by balloons, as reported by Los Angeles Times. "I wouldn't put much faith in photographs of a shape that could be anything," she said. "There's nothing to tell us there isn't extraterrestrial life, but nothing to tell us there is."
Sightings of UFOs have been occurring with greater frequency in the last 10 years. Indian troops along the Siachen border often see floating lights but are wary of reporting the occurrences for fear of ridicule. The Indian Air Force investigated sightings of ULOs in 2010, only to dismiss them as Chinese lanterns. Military unit, 14 Corps, had also sent a detailed file on sightings of luminous objects to the Army headquarters, reports India Today, which was angrily brushed aside as hallucinations by the then army chief, General N.C.Vij.
"We can't ignore these sightings. We need to probe what new technology might have been deployed there,” former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (retired) P.V. Naik said as stated in India Today.
Acclaimed Pune-based astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar says, “There is no evidence of UFOs being of extra-terrestrial origin. The implication of them being alien objects is fancy, not fact.”
Scientists aver that due to the rough topography and sparse demography of the Himalayan regions, sightings that may seem out of this world are quite common.
"The region is snowbound in winter, has few roads and is one of the most isolated places in India," says Sunil Dhar, a geologist at the government Post Graduate College in Dharamshala, who has studied glaciers in the region for 15 years.
One of the most unusual sightings to date has been that in the Lahaul-Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh, less than 100 km south of Ladakh, in 2004.
During a research expedition in the barren Samudra Tapu Valley in 2004, a five-member group of geologists encountered a 4-foot tall robot-like figure, walking some 50 meters from them. The scientists filmed the humanoid object, which went from metallic white to black and hovered in the air before dematerializing.
The whole episode, which lasted 40 minutes, was witnessed by 14 people including the researchers. Dr. Anil Kulkarni, the team lead, separately interviewed every member of the expedition to validate the sighting. Kulkarni confirmed that it was an unnatural phenomenon. A detailed report of the occurrence was sent to the PMO, ISRO, the Army and several intelligence agencies, states India Today. The report was, however, suppressed and has yet to see the light of day.
For Dhar, who was a part of the 2004 expedition, it is an indelible experience. These inexplicable enigmas need intensive examination, feels Dhar.
The UFO conundrum could just compound the already numerous points of contention, ranging from the border dispute to the Tibetan Dilemma, between the two countries.