ISLAMABAD, June 12: Two days of talks between Pakistan and India on Siachen ended on Tuesday without a breakthrough. However, the two sides agreed to continue dialogue on the decades-long dispute for an “amicable” settlement.
“Both sides reaffirmed their resolve to make serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts for seeking an amicable resolution of Siachen. 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,” said a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the current round of discussion.
The dialogue resumed on Tuesday and insiders said after the first day of proceedings that there were hardly any substantive discussions. The two sides met on the second day virtually only to draft the joint statement.
It was said that on the first day both sides had exchanged fresh proposals for resolving the dispute, but one diplomatic source dismissed them as old wine in a new bottle. “There is hardly anything new or innovative in the proposals,” the source noted.
Pakistan reportedly insisted on resolving the matter in accordance with the defence secretaries’ agreement of June 1989, which calls for redeployment of forces in accordance with the Simla agreement.
Indians reiterated the demand for authenticating the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) — the current position of the troops — both on ground and on the map.
Pakistan has been refusing to do so because it could be implied as legitimisation of the Indian intrusion into Siachen.
During the course of discussions Pakistan also raised the issue of environmental impact of the presence of Indian troops on the glacier which is said to be receding at a very fast pace. Conservative estimates say that it could be melting at the abut 10.5 metres annually.
After the talks, Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi told reporters that Pakistan asked for simultaneous withdrawal of troops to the pre-1972 position.
The outcome was very much expected in the absence of any mutually acceptable process for demilitarisation of the zone.
Deep running mistrust between the two arch rivals has further complicated the issue. Indian’s insistence on Pakistan authenticating the AGPL is based on fears that Pakistani troops could reoccupy the region, once the Indian army moves back. Indians use Gen Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure to substantiate their concerns.
Both sides in private agree on the futility of confrontation at the world’s highest battlefield, which has cost both of them billions of dollars and lives of about 9,000 troops since 1984. Most of the deaths have been because of extreme weather and not actual combat.
Pakistan lost 139 soldiers after an avalanche buried the battalion headquarters in Gayari in April. Bodies of most of the soldiers killed in the incident are still be retrieved.
The incident had led to calls from both sides of the border, including Pakistan’s army chief Gen Kayani, for ending the standoff by demilitarising the region.