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Indian Defence Secretary in Pakistan for talks on Siachen

PTI 10 Jun 2012, 21:57:30 IST
PTI
Islamabad, Jun 10: Indian Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma arrived in Pakistan today for crucial talks on the military standoff on the Siachen glacier against the backdrop of calls to demilitarise the world's highest battlefield following an avalanche that killed 139 people.





The two-day talks on the Siachen issue, part of the resumed dialogue process between India and Pakistan, will begin at the Defence Ministry in the garrison city of Rawalpindi tomorrow.

The Pakistani side will be led by Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, a close confidant of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Officials said Sharma will also hold talks with Pakistan's Defence Minister Naveed Qamar, who recently took over the portfolio as part of a minor reshuffle.

Despite Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's call for the resolution of issues like Siachen after an avalanche buried 139 people at a high-altitude army camp on April 7, analysts believe the two sides are unlikely to make progress in the talks on ending the standoff that began in 1984.

Ahead of the talks, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony cautioned against expecting any breakthrough at the meeting of the Defence Secretaries.

“Do not expect any dramatic announcement or decision on an issue which is very important for us, especially in the context of national security....You cannot expect a dramatic announcement from one discussion,” he told reporters in New Delhi.

India has a “clear-cut position” on the Siachen issue which the Defence Secretary will explain to the Pakistani side during the talks, Antony said.

India's Cabinet Committee on Security also discussed the Siachen issue at a meeting on Thursday.

Stung by the occupation of strategic heights in the Kargil sector in 1999, India has insisted on the authentication and demarcation of current military positions along the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line on Siachen.

The move is aimed at thwarting the possible re-induction of troops by Pakistan after any possible demilitarisation of the glacier.

President Asif Ali Zardari raised the issue of demilitarising Siachen when he meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a private visit to India a day after the glacier hit the Pakistan Army camp at Gyari.

The avalanche raised questions in Pakistan about the troop deployment in the hazardous terrain.

Despite an extensive search involving hundreds of troops, only 13 bodies have been found so far at the site of the avalanche.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a standoff on Siachen, described as the world's highest and coldest battlefield, since 1984.

The guns have largely been silent since late 2003, when the two countries put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, and more troops have died on the glacier due to the adverse weather than combat.