M A I N   N E W S

Siachen truce to continue

Islamabad, May 27
Agreeing to maintaining the 18-month-old ceasefire on Siachen Glacier, India and Pakistan today decided to meet yet again for talks aimed at demilitarising the world’s highest battlefield.

In deliberations at the Defence Secretary level, both neighbours — seeking normalisation of relations after more than 50 years of animus — described the two-day talks held at the Pak Defence Ministry in Rawalpindi as “frank and constructive with a view to taking the process forward”.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the ceasefire currently in place on the glacier since November, 2003, and agreed to its continuation, an official spokesperson told mediapersons here.

Both sides further agreed to continue their discussions “to resolve the Siachen issue in a peaceful manner”, the spokesman said.

Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh and his Pak counterpart Lieut-Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi (retd) had met here on May 26-27 for talks aimed at easing tensions on Siachen — the world’s highest battlefield.

“We discussed several options to amicably resolve the issue,” Mr Ajay Vikram Singh told mediapersons at the conclusion of the talks in Rawalpindi.

Averring that never before had the two sides discussed “so many options”, he hoped the two countries would “soon reach an understanding to settle the problem”.

He said the discussions would “move forward” when the two sides meet again “in New Delhi soon”. He did not disclose when the next round of talks would be held.

General Ghazi, too, said the two delegations discussed “many options”. He did not elaborate.

The secretary-level meeting was part of the second round of talks in the Composite Dialogue Process between the two neighbours witnessing a stand-off on the glacier since 1984.

During their interactions, the two defence secretaries — assisted by their respective delegations — were understood to have discussed their differences over withdrawing troops from Siachen where the two sides have remained deadlocked over their stated positions for the past nearly 15 years — Pakistan calling for removal of troops but India stressing delineation of the boundary first.

India first wants “authentication” of the 150-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), since it would show that most of the “dominating positions” on Saltoro Ridge, including passes, are occupied by Indian soldiers.

Pakistan, in turn, wants the pre-1972 troop positions to be recognised since it feels that India “violated” the Simla Agreement by occupying the heights in 1984.

In the prevailing bonhomie between the two neighbours, there was an interest on both sides to put irritants like Siachen — as also Sir Creek — behind.

More so in view of the joint statement at the end of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to New Delhi last month affirming a sense of urgency to “finding mutually acceptable solutions” for the Sir Creek and Siachen disputes. The keyword then was “expeditiously.”

There had so far been eight rounds of talks between the defence secretaries and both sides came close to reaching an agreement in 1989 when a press note issued at the end of the talks stated: — UNI

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