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India, Pak talk Siachen
Defence Secys’ meet focuses on glacier’s boundary; Delhi not keen on demilitarisation
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, May 30
India and Pakistan today started discussions on the vexed issue of boundary demarcation along the Siachen Glacier. Though a joint statement may emerge at the end of the two-day talks tomorrow, the stance of New Delhi is not tilted towards demilitarisation of the glacier, which at 21,000 feet, is the highest militarily-occupied zone in the world.

This was the 12th round of the Defence Secretary-level talks between the two neighbours on Siachen. Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and his Pakistan counterpart Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Ather Ali today conducted two rounds of meetings in New Delhi where officials and senior Army personnel from both sides were present.

A senior Indian functionary said the talks were conducted in a “cordial atmosphere with a constructive approach from both sides”.

Sources said the Indian Army has made it clear to the ministry that Siachen cannot be left undefended as there was sizeable Chinese presence in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Even if the boundary is demarcated, it will not be advisable to leave the glacier, said a senior official.

Pakistan has routes along the Saltoro range which make it easier for its troops to access Siachen while India relies on choppers and it will take more time for its troops to regain any lost ground.

Also, Pakistan has violated the Line of Control a few times despite having signed the Simla Agreement in 1972. So there can be no guarantee that Siachen would remain free of interference, feels the Army.

In April 1984, the Army and the IAF in a joint operation — ‘Megdhoot’ — had gained control of the glacier. Since then, Pakistan has made a few major attempts to evict the Indian troops.

The two countries had decided to resume the bilateral dialogue on all outstanding issues following the meeting of two Prime Ministers in Thimphu in April 2010. It was followed by the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of both sides in February 2011.

Sources said a joint statement may fructify tomorrow when the two secretaries conclude their talks. If it does, it will be the third such joint statement between two warring neighbours in the past two months. The first was joint statement was made by the two Home Secretaries on March 29, just a day ahead of the “Mohali round of cricket diplomacy”. The second one came on April 28 when the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries announced the setting up of expert groups to expand trade.

The Cease Fire Line (CFL) and the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K were delineated by the Karachi Agreement (1949) and the Simla Agreement (1972) up to a point in the Karokaram range called NJ 9842. The area beyond this point has remained un-delineated. This has led to different interpretations. The Karachi Agreement describes the CFL up to point NJ 9842 and says that it thereafter lies northwards towards the glaciers. Similarly, the Simla Agreement is also silent on the delineation beyond NJ 9842. Pakistan claims that the line joins NJ 9842 with Karakoram pass, which is northwest of NJ 9842. The Indian position is that the line runs towards the glaciers along the watersheds formed by the Saltoro Range as per the internationally accepted principle of border delineation.





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