Islamabad: Pakistan`s powerful Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday contended that India had hardened its position on the Siachen issue, especially compared to the situation in 1989, when the two sides were "close to a resolution".
Speaking to the media during a visit to a high-altitude Army camp in Siachen sector that was hit by an avalanche on April 7, Kayani indicated that India had toughened its stance on the issue and there had been "some kind of regression".
He reiterated that there should be "a peaceful resolution of the issue".
"We were close to a resolution in 1989 when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came to Pakistan. It didn`t materialise. I don`t want to go into technicalities. There have been several meetings," Kayani said.
"At the last Defence Secretary-level meeting, there was some kind of regression. Because the term used earlier was authentication but in the last meeting, the Indian side said they want demarcation of the LoC (Line of Control)," he added.
"Having said this, we still have to talk. There is nothing like a peaceful resolution. The best thing is a peaceful resolution but short of that, we will do what we are supposed to do," the Army Chief said while responding to questions.
"It takes two hands to clap," he added.
Asked about the Indian response to his comments last month about the demilitarisation of Siachen, Kayani said his remarks were "received positively except for some ifs and buts, but that is understandable because there have to be CBMs between the two countries and then we have to move forward. Let`s hope we can move forward."
In Pakistan, he said, there was support "across the board" for what he had said.
"It was received positively here," Kayani said.
During an earlier visit to the site of the avalanche at Gyari on April 18, Kayani had called for all issues between India and Pakistan to be resolved to ensure "peaceful co-existence" which would allow the two sides to focus on development and welfare of the people.
Kayani had also said at the time that Pakistan hoped that the Siachen issue is "resolved so that both the countries don`t have to pay the cost".
Pakistani officials have for long contended that the two countries came close to an agreement on Siachen in 1989 during a meeting between then Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto.
In recent days, senior Pakistani officials have called for the implementation of that "agreement".
Responding to a question on whether Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership had revised the policy on Siachen after the avalanche, Kayani said he would not comment on the issue as it was "too early" to say anything.
"When the time comes, we will talk about it. The next (round of) talks are coming up," he said.
Kayani travelled to the Gyari sector for the third time today to review the search for 139 people, including 127 soldiers, who were buried under dozens of feet of snow by the avalanche.
Search teams are yet to find any trace of the buried men.
"The rescue operation will not be called off. The minimum we can do is recover the bodies," he said.
The Army Chief was briefed about progress in the search operation, including efforts to create a water course to drain a lake that was formed after the avalanche blocked Gyari River.
Officials told him a satellite data link, made operational today, would allow real time video monitoring of the operation from the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Kayani spent time with the troops and lauded their motivation in the face of tough conditions and extreme weather, a military statement said.
He appreciated their resolve to uphold the Army’s tradition of "not leaving a man behind, until humanly possible, regardless of the cost".
The avalanche has raised questions in Pakistan about the troop deployment in the hazardous terrain.
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.