Pakistan said yesterday that it would host the next round of talks with India over the disputed Siachen Glacier, dubbed the world’s highest battlefield, from June 11 to June 12 in Islamabad.
Troops from India and Pakistan have locked horns on the icy terrain in the mountains of disputed Kashmir since the 1980s, but calls for the stand-off to end have been growing after an avalanche on April 7 which buried 140 people at a Pakistani army camp.
“Siachen is part of the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and defense secretary level talks on Siachen will be held on June 11 and [June] 12 in Islamabad,” Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said.
“We want to resolve all issues through meaningful and result--oriented dialogue, and Siachen is an issue which is a source of concern for both the countries,” Khan added.
Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani last month called for a negotiated end to the confrontation and said the glacier should be demilitarized.
Previous rounds of negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad over the disputed mountain top have ended in stalemate. Pakistan has said a redeployment of forces is one of “several proposals” made during the dialogue process.
Indian Minister of Defense A.K. Antony, told his country’s parliament this week that Pakistan would have to reveal its troop positions before any disengagement could be undertaken and he -cautioned against high expectations.
“Do not expect dramatic results [from the next round of talks]. It is a complicated issue,” he said.
Sections of the Indian media have also raised doubts about the talks and any suggestion that India should relinquish a strategically important territory where hundreds of troops have lost their lives.
“Could PM gift away to Pakistan what army has won?” read a headline for a front-page article in this week’s India Today current affairs magazine which detailed opposition from within the Indian army.
An editorial said an agreement on Siachen would be an achievement for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who yearns for a peace deal with Pakistan, but “for the country it may however amount to surrender for very little gain.”
Relations between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, have been plagued by border and resource disputes, and accusations of Pakistani militant activity against India.
This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna pressed Pakistan to do more to combat Islamist terror networks, saying its territory should not be used as a launch pad for terrorist attacks anywhere.
Washington believes rapprochement between India and Pakistan could help ease regional tensions over Afghanistan as US combat troops prepare to leave in 2014.