Siachen avalanche: Pakistan Army offers to help rescue missing Indian soldiers

Published: February 5, 2016
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Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah. PHOTO: FILE

Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Thursday offered to assist India in locating and possibly rescuing its soldiers who went missing after an avalanche at the Siachen Glacier early Wednesday.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a statement said Pakistan’s director general military operations (DGMO) had telephoned his Indian counterpart and volunteered to aid rescue efforts.

Ten Indian soldiers are feared buried in the avalanche which hit the portion of the Siachen Glacier held by Indian forces on Wednesday. The soldiers were hit while on duty at a post some 19,000 feet above sea-level.

However, the offer was politely declined with the Indian army stating its own teams were already working in the affected area even as hopes for their survival faded.

“It is a tragic event and we salute the soldiers who braved all challenges to guard our frontiers and made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” General DS Hooda of the army’s Northern Command said in a statement. The Indian premier termed the demise of the 10 soldiers as ‘tragic’.

Siachen is one of the 10 items listed in the agenda of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue Pakistan and India agreed to resume in December last year. The two countries’ foreign secretaries were scheduled to meet in mid January to work out a roadmap for the series of meetings but talks could not take place due to the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.

Speaking at his weekly news briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said no dates have been finalised for the foreign secretary-level talks so far. The delay has seemingly been attributed to ongoing investigations into the Pathankot attack. India is believed to be waiting for the outcome of Pakistani investigations.

Talking about a recent controversy over a Pakistani visa for renowned Indian actor Anupam Kher, Qazi clarified that Islamabad had not denied him the travel document.

“Our high commissioner in New Delhi spoke to Anupam Kher three days before the Literature Festival to which he was invited. He was offered a visa. However, Kher conveyed that he would not be able to visit Pakistan due to other commitments,” he explained.

In response to a question, the spokesman confirmed that Pakistan’s high commissioner in Dhaka was called in by Bangladesh’s foreign ministry on Tuesday to discuss various issues. The high commissioner, Qazi said, raised the issue of a Pakistani official who was illegally detained by Bangladeshi authorities.

“Pakistan has always desired to maintain a positive relationship with Bangladesh,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2016.

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