India Brushes Off Pakistan Anger Over Glacier Treks
19 November 2007
New Delhi: India's defence minister on Monday brushed off Pakistani anger over New Delhi's decision to allow trekkers to visit its side of a hotly disputed Himalayan glacier in Kashmir. Speaking to the Indian parliament, A.K. Antony said treks to the Siachen glacier should not derail the nuclear-armed rivals' slow-moving peace process. 'The area (of the expedition) falls within the state of Jammu and Kashmir which, is an integral part of India,' he told deputies. 'Pakistan had protested against the expeditions in Saichen, expressing deep concern,' Antony said in a debate on opening up the heavily militarised 6,300-metre- (20,800-feet-) high glacier to tourists. He added that after Pakistan complained over the latest trek, 'a suitable reply was given, clarifying that trekking expeditions have been taking place in the past and India does not see how these will have an adverse impact on the dialogue process.' A trek to the Siachen glacier in September took place amid much fanfare in the Indian media, and was the first time New Delhi had allowed large numbers of civilians into the world's highest battlefield. Observers say the trip was part of an Indian effort to underscore its presence on the Siachen, which has been fought over since 1984 but largely quiet since a 2003 ceasefire. India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim all of it. Kashmir has sparked two of their three wars since independence 60 years ago.