Indo-Pak talks fail; Siachen standoff continues

India and Pakistan were on Tuesday unable to make any forward movement in ending the military standoff on Siachen.

Islamabad: India and Pakistan were on Tuesday unable to make any forward movement in ending the military standoff on Siachen, merely committing themselves to "serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts" for an amicable settlement of the issue over the world`s highest battlefield.

"Both sides reaffirmed their resolve to make serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts for seeking an amicable resolution of Siachen," said a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day talks on the issue here.

It was agreed to continue the dialogue on Siachen in keeping with the desire of the leaders of both countries for early resolution of all outstanding issues, the statement said.

The two countries "acknowledged that the ceasefire (in Siachen) was holding since 2003."

They further agreed that the next round of talks on Siachen would be held in New Delhi on mutually convenient dates to be fixed through diplomatic channels.

Emerging from talks with a delegation led by her Indian counterpart Shashikant Sharma, Pakistan`s Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi said Islamabad wants both sides to simultaneously pull out troops from Siachen.

The deployment of troops on the glacier is affecting the environment and talks on the issue should be speeded up, she told reporters.

During the talks, the two sides "explained their respective stances" and reiterated stated positions, diplomatic and official sources from both sides told PTI.

The second day of talks today was largely devoted to working out the joint statement, the sources said.

The joint statement said the talks were held in a "cordial and friendly atmosphere."

According to Pakistani media reports, the Pakistani side
renewed its call for demilitarising the Siachen glacier and pulling back troops to the positions in 1984.

The Pakistani side further called for the resolution of the issue in the light of arrangements discussed in 1989 and 1992.

The Indian government has made it clear that any settlement must include the authentication and demarcation of current military positions on Siachen.

The move is aimed at thwarting the possible re-induction of troops by Pakistan after any demilitarisation of the glacier.

Pakistan`s Defence Minister Naveed Qamar told The Nation daily: "There is a realisation among both the sides that confrontation would lead to very negative implications that hinder economic and social development.

"Peace is the ultimate solution to bring prosperity to the region. Pakistan and India need to keep peace measures intact so as to eradicate misgivings and move on. Cooperation is the key to success," he added.

During a meeting with the Indian delegation yesterday, Qamar called for the amicable resolution of all issues between India and Pakistan.

He said it was in the interest of both countries to "seek the amicable resolution of all the outstanding issues, including Siachen, as it would tremendously contribute" to peace and prosperity in South Asia.

Islamabad has stepped up calls to demilitarise the Siachen glacier in the wake of an avalanche that killed 139 people at a high-altitude Pakistan army camp on April 7.

The two-day talks on Siachen, part of the resumed dialogue process between India and Pakistan, were held at the Defence Ministry in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Despite Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani`s call for the resolution of the Siachen issue after the avalanche, analysts had said the two sides were unlikely to make progress on ending the standoff that began in 1984.

Ahead of the talks, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony too cautioned against expecting any "dramatic announcement or decision" at the meeting of the Defence Secretaries.

Stung by the occupation of strategic heights in the Kargil sector in 1999, India has insisted on the authentication and demarcation of current positions on Siachen.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a standoff on Siachen, described as the world`s highest and coldest battlefield, since 1984.

The guns have largely been silent since late 2003, when the two countries put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, and more troops have died on the glacier due to the adverse weather than combat.