India, Pakistan begin talks on Siachen today

India and Pakistan talks on Siachen

ISLAMABAD: No breakthrough is expected on the Siachen issue as top defense officials from Islamabad and New Delhi begin their two-day talks on the demilitarization of the world highest battlefield today (Monday), mainly owing to India’s refusal to drop its demand for the authentication of current troops’ positions on the glacier.

Indian Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma will hold talks on Siachen, one of the eight issues on Pakistan-India composite dialogue agenda, along with Kashmir and some other conflicting matters with Pakistani Defense Secretary Nargis Sethi.In the aftermath of the Gayari incident in which 139 Pakistani soldiers were killed after being hit by a massive avalanche in April, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani had asked for early settlement of the Siachen issue and it was expected that some progress would be made by the two states when their defense secretaries met to discuss the thorny issue.

However, diplomatic circles see no change in Indian stance that before the demilitarization of the battlefield, the present troops’ positions must be authenticated, something that was unacceptable to Pakistan and hence there appears little chance of a breakthrough in the two-day talks.Pakistani and Indian troops have been deployed in Siachen since 1984 when the Indian Army advanced and occupied most of the heights around the glacier.The two sides have been observing a ceasefire since 2003, but despite holding several rounds of talks on the issue, Pakistan and India could not resolve the vital matter with reason being the same, New Delhi’s insistence on the authentication of current troops’ positions.

“Pakistan is unwilling to accept the Indian demand for the authentication of current positions of the troops but in the past it has offered to India that these positions could be indicated in an annexure but that was unacceptable to New Delhi,” said a diplomatic source.He said the dialogue on Siachen would continue in the coming months as well because in the current round of talks, no tangible outcome was expected.Pakistan and India will also hold talks on June 18-19 in New Delhi on another important issue on their agenda, Sir Creek, to resolve the row over maritime boundary.

In the previous rounds, Islamabad and New Delhi had held talks on Siachen and Sir Creek together but now it had been decided to have separate meetings on these two important issues. A Pakistani official said the talks on Sir Creek would be followed by an important meeting between the two foreign secretaries scheduled to be held in New Delhi on June 29. The two foreign secretaries would prepare ground for conclusive talks between the foreign ministers who would meet in Islamabad in mid-July to review the progress made in the Indo-Pak dialogue. – PT