ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Friday that it would host the next round of talks with India over the disputed Siachen Glacier, dubbed the world’s highest battlefield, on June 11-12 in Islamabad.
Troops from India and Pakistan have faced off on the glacier in the mountains of disputed Kashmir since the 1980s but calls for the stand-off to end have been growing after an avalanche on April 7 which buried 140 people at a Pakistani army camp.
“Siachen is part of the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and defence secretary level talks on Siachen will be held on June 11 and 12 in Islamabad,” foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan told AFP.
“We want to resolve all issues through meaningful and result-oriented dialogue, and Siachen is an issue which is a source of concern for both the countries,” Khan added.
Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, last month called for a negotiated end to the confrontation and said the glacier should be demilitarised.
Previous rounds of negotiations between Delhi and Islamabad on Siachen have ended in stalemate. Pakistan has said a redeployment of forces is one of “several proposals” made during the dialogue process.
India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament this week that Pakistan would have to reveal its troop positions before any disengagement could be undertaken and he cautioned against high expectations.
“Don’t expect dramatic results (from the next round of talks). It is a complicated issue,” he said.
Sections of the Indian media have also raised doubts about the talks and any suggestion that India should relinquish a strategically important territory where hundreds of troops have lost their lives.
“Could PM gift away to Pakistan what Army has won?” read a headline for a front-page article in this week’s India Today current affairs magazine which detailed the opposition from within the Indian army.
An editorial said an agreement on Siachen would be an achievement for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who yearns for a peace deal with Pakistan, but “for the country it may however amount to surrender for very little gain”.
Relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, have been plagued by border and resource disputes, and accusations of Pakistani militant activity against India.
This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna pressed Pakistan to do more to combat militant terror networks, saying its territory should not be used as a launch pad for terrorist attacks anywhere.
Washington believes rapprochement between arch-rivals India and Pakistan can help ease regional tensions over Afghanistan as US combat troops prepare to leave in 2014.