Islamabad will renew a proposal seeking the immediate demilitarisation of the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen, and a troop pullback to the 1984 positions, when senior officials from Pakistan and India begin talks here today (Monday) to resolve the 28-year-old dispute.
The two-day discussions between the defence secretaries of both countries are taking place amid calls by Pakistan to seek a settlement on the icy heights after an avalanche buried 140 people, including 129 soldiers and 11 civilians on April 7 at Giari sector.
Indian Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma will lead the India delegation at talks with Pakistan authorities.
A Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that Islamabad had handed over a ‘non-paper’ to India envisaging a clear roadmap for the longstanding problem during the last round of talks held in New Delhi last year.
“We expect to hear India’s response in the discussions,” added the official, requesting anonymity.
Pakistan, according to the proposal, wants India to pull back troops to the 1984 positions while India wants Pakistan to authenticate the 110-kilometre actual ground position line (AGPL) along the Siachen Glacier and the Saltoro ridge in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistani officials claim that India fears that a troop pullback would set a troubling precedent and put pressure on New Delhi to resolve the festering dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Siachen conflict began in 1984 when Indian forces launched a successful operation to force Pakistani troops to retreat west of Saltoro ridge. Since then, the two countries have fought intermittently in the region, only to agree on a ceasefire in 2003.
Over 2,000 troops have died from both sides, a majority of them due to harsh weather rather than combat.
The agreement on Siachen was almost reached in 1989 between former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her Indian counterpart Rajiv Gandhi. However, it was widely believed that the final deal could not be sealed due to opposition by the Indian Army.
The two sides again came close to striking an agreement on Siachen and Sir Creek during General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s regime but political upheaval in Pakistan prevented the historic breakthrough.
Earlier this year, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had said there should be a peaceful resolution of the Siachen issue, which had kindled hopes that a negotiated settlement to demilitarise the area might be on the anvil.
But Indian Defense Minister AK Antony played down the hype by suggesting that no major breakthrough was expected in the upcoming talks between the two neighbours on the Siachen dispute.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.
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