Islamabad: Days after an avalanche buried 138 people, mostly soldiers, at a Pakistani Army camp in the Siachen sector, a top Pakistani diplomat has called on India to honour, what she claims, a 1989 "agreement" for resolving the military standoff on the Himalayan glacier.
Over the years, Pakistani officials have claimed there was an agreement on Siachen following back channel contacts between the governments of the then prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi. However, these claims have been dismissed by the Indian side.
"A 1989 agreement exists, which settled the principles for the resolution of the Siachen conflict," Zehra Akbari, Director General (South Asia) in the Pakistan Foreign Office, told a news briefing yesterday.
"The time has come for the implementation of that agreement. It has to be resolved to prevent such mishaps from happening again," Akbari said during the briefing arranged by the army in Rawalpindi to inform the media about the search operation in the Siachen sector.
Akbari said Pakistan had been persistently seeking the resolution of the issue of Siachen, described as the world`s highest battlefield.
She was referring to a statement issued on June 17, 1989 after a meeting between the defence secretaries of the two countries.
The statement, according to the local media here, had said: "There was agreement by both sides to work towards a comprehensive settlement, based on redeployment of forces to reduce the chances of conflict, avoidance of the use of force and determination of future positions on the ground so as to conform with the Simla Agreement and to ensure durable peace in the Siachen area. The Army authorities of both sides will determine these positions."
A resolution of the Siachen issue has been held up as the Pakistan government has refused to accept India`s call for demarcating the positions held by troops of the two sides along the Actual Ground Position Line.
Last weekend`s massive avalanche, which hit the Pakistan Army`s battalion headquarters at Gyari and buried 127 soldiers and 11 civilians, brought the standoff on Siachen into focus.
Pakistani experts have questioned the strategic value of positioning troops on the glacier, where the sub-zero temperatures and weather hazards have killed more soldiers than combat.