M A I N   N E W S

India may not pull out troops from Siachen
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 27
India is unlikely to withdraw its forces from Siachen on the basis of verbal assurances from Pakistan, though British High Commissioner Michael Arthur today told The Tribune that he found the report “interesting” and would like to await New Delhi’s response.

A section of the Pakistani media has reported about Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s verbal assurance to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their September 24 meeting in New York that Pakistani forces would not move into Siachen if Indian forces were to withdraw from the strategic glacier.

There is no confirmation of the issue having been discussed in New York and even the spokesman of Pakistan’s Foreign Office in his weekly press briefing today refused to confirm any such discussion between Dr Manmohan Singh and Gen Musharraf.

Informed sources here, when asked to react to unsourced Pakistani news reports, said the Government of India’s position on the issue remained the same as was worked out by the two countries’ Foreign Ministers earlier this month.

This position is that the issue will be discussed further when the Defence Secretaries of India and Pakistan meet again in the framework of the Composite Dialogue process.

Moreover, international problems and inter-state relations are not conducted on verbal assurances. This is even more so when verbal assurances are given by leaders whose political longevity can always be subject of doubt.

The British High Commissioner, Mr Michael Arthur, told this correspondent during the course of a free-wheeling interview at the High Commission premises this afternoon that London had taken note of the Pakistani media reports on the Siachen issue.

The British envoy said his country did not see any role for itself to broker peace between India and Pakistan as it was purely a bilateral dispute between the two South Asian neighbours which needed to be resolved bilaterally.

However, Mr Arthur said the reports on Siachen issue were “interesting” and he looked forward to the Indian response.

The Government of India has already made it obvious on several occasions in the past that it cannot do any business with Pakistan on the basis of mere verbal assurances.

The latest example of this was some months ago when India dropped its opposition to Pakistan’s inclusion in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) fold only when Pakistan gave a written undertaking to ARF Secretariate that it will not raise any bilateral issues on the ARF forum. 

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