India, Pak Discuss Siachenís Demilitarisation30 May 2011
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: India and Pakistan today discussed demilitarisation of Siachen, a mountainous region where borderline is not demarcated, in a 'constructive framework', picking up the threads of the issue after a gap of three years. The issue came up for discussion during the 12th round of two-day Defence Secretary level talks between the two sides. 'The talks were held in a constructive framework. Both sides apprised each other of their perception about the Siachen issue and also discussed the surrounding issues,' Defence Ministry officials said. Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar led the Indian delegation at the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Lt General (Retd) Syed Ather Ali. The decision to resume the talks between the two countries was taken last year during the meeting of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu when they decided to take forward the dialogue process. While the Pakistani delegation has two civilian officials and four military officers, the Indian side includes Special Secretary R K Mathur, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt General A M Verma and Surveyor General S Subha Rao. The Pakistani Defence Secretary met Defence Minister A K Antony in the afternoon for over 20 minutes. The two sides may come up with a joint statement tomorrow after the talks, the officials said. Pakistan has been asking for demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier and raised the issue of climate change there due to presence of troops from both sides and its effects on the environment. Siachen, with an area of over 2500 sq km, the world's highest militarised zone, has been a long pending issue between India and Pakistan over differences on the location of the 110-km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which passes through the Soltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier. 'The AGPL is not clearly marked beyond the grid reference point of NJ-9842. The two countries have decided to demilitarise the Siachen Glacier, but the matter is stuck as there are apprehensions on both sides,' officials said. India wants Pakistan to authenticate the AGPL, both on the maps and the ground, as it occupies most of the dominating posts on the Saltoro Ridge, they said. Pakistan, in turn, has been insisting on maintaining the pre-1972 troop positions as agreed in the Simla Agreement. During the talks, the two sides are also expected to take up the issue of the existing ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and the AGPL, sources said. The issue of existence of 42 terror camps may also come up for discussion in the talks tomorrow. New Delhi has held that despite several assurances from Pakistan that its soil will not be allowed to be used for terror acts against India, the terror infrastructure remained intact. The Defence Secretary-level talks between the two countries on Siachen dates back to 1985. The decision to hold joint talks was taken by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Pakistan President General Zia-ul-Haq. The Pakistani delegation arrived in India on Saturday and yesterday visited Agra to see the Taj Mahal there.