India, Pak Finalising Details On Siachen Talks

India, Pak Finalising Details On Siachen Talks

19 April 2012
Kashmir Observer


Islamabad: Pakistan said Thursday it was finalising details for the next round of talks with India over the disputed Siachen Glacier, a day after the army chief called for the area to be demilitarised. There have been several rounds of negotiations between Delhi and Islamabad on Siachen in recent years and Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said Thursday that the plans for the next talks were in hand. “It is being discussed at defence secretary level. The next meeting will be held in Pakistan and they are finalising the dates,” he told reporters. “We have made several proposals under the Siachen dialogue process, including the redeployment of forces.” However, the Foreign Office spokesman stressed that Pakistan had not changed it’s position on Siachen, and that there was no policy change on the issue. “It is in our mutual interest that we address all the issues in a meaningful and result-oriented manner,” he said. The two countries would have to find some way to move forward, he added. On Wednesday, General Ashfaq Kayani had called for a negotiated end to the confrontation and said the glacier should be demilitarised. The move was reciprocated from the other side of the border when Indian Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju on Thursday welcomed Kayani’s call for Siachen’s demilitarisation, according to Indianmedia reports. Kayani, speaking after visiting the Gayari camp where the army says 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were buried by the avalanche, stressed the importance of “peaceful coexistence” between India and Pakistan. “This conflict should be resolved, but how it is resolved, the two countries have to talk about it,” he said. Pakistan and India invest significant resources in maintaining a military presence on the Siachen Glacier - dubbed “the world’s highest battleground” - and the tragedy has sparked lively debate about the human and financial cost of defending an uninhabitable patch of snow and rock. Kayani said soldiers would do their duty come what may, but defending borders should not be the country’s sole priority. “We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development,” he said. “Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.” He said national security should be a comprehensive concept. “And therefore we would like to spend less on defence, definitely,” he said. He said the decades of enmity between India and Pakistan should be resolved through negotiation and stressed the urgency of halting the damage to the environment caused by troop deployment on the Siachen Glacier. “Ultimately it’s going to affect the River Indus adversely and we understand water is important and water management is very important,” he said. Kashmir has been the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan and the nuclear-armed rivals fought over Siachen in 1987, though guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent since a peace process began in 2004. India Welcomes Kayani's Remarks India on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's remarks on resolving the Siachen issue and demilitarization there and said the money spent on deployment of troops can be spent on development of the two countries. 'I am glad that our neighbouring country Pakistan is also realising the challenges and the economic problems of maintaining troops on the Siachen Glacier,' Minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju said. Observing that the deployment of troops in glacial heights take an economic toll, he said both the countries have their concerns. 'They have their concerns and we have our concerns but it does take an economic toll. This money can be better spent on development of both countries,' the minister said. Official sources in Delhi also termed the remarks as a 'positive development' since they are made by none other than Pakistan Army chief, reflecting the readiness of the military to resolve the issues between the two countries. 'One has to see who has made the remark, when it is made and the place. All this is very positive,' they said.