No breakthrough in Pakistan, India Siachen talks

ISLAMABAD – Staying glued to their respective positions, Pakistan and India have agreed to continue dialogue process for the resolution of Siachen and all other ‘outstanding’ issues and hold discussions at the relevant platforms.

The two-day secretary-level talks between the defence secretaries of both the countries saw progress on strategic cooperation for troops’ withdrawal from the world’s highest militarised region. The deliberations, to be followed by the issuance of a joint statement today (Tuesday), would be taken up at the foreign ministers meeting likely next month and the expected defence ministers-level discussions.

An eight-member Indian delegation led by the Indian Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a three-day visit to participate in the 13th round of secretary-level talks, according to defence ministry. Secretary Defence Nargis Sethi headed Pakistani side. Senior Indian defence ministry officials Shankar Aggarwal and Deepak Anurag are also part of the Indian delegation, according to sources.

“The preliminary discussions were held in a very pleasant and cordial atmosphere. Both sides explained their respective stances on Siachen issue-a joint statement after the concluding session will be issued in this regard,” a defence ministry statement said.

According to official sources, the joint statement would be a suggestive document urging both the sides; India and Pakistan, for the settlement of outstanding issues but it would not contain any recommendations. The document would not specify rest of the unresolved issues between India and Pakistan other than Siachen (Kashmir and Sir Creek)

Reportedly, the draft recommendations for the resolution of Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir issues would be prepared during the concluding session of Pak-India foreign ministers meeting in the coming July. During the Monday’s deliberations, Pakistani delegation is reported to have called for the resolution of Siachen dispute in the light of 1989 Pak-India agreement on Siachen and a follow up agreement signed three years later by both states, in 1992. The Indian side is said to have favoured further discussions on phase-wise troops withdrawal from Siachen and proportional troops pullout from the valley by both the countries-a reported policy that envisages early troops evacuation of base posts and eviction of forward posts at later stages.

“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 in 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,” Federal Minister for Defence Syed Naveed Qamar told TheNation.

He said the joint statement on the two-day deliberations would be incorporated in the foreign ministers and defence ministers-level talks. To a query, the minister said, his meeting with the Indian Defence Minister AK Anthony was expected soon but the schedule and venue were not finalised as yet. “The foreign ministers meeting will be another step towards the settlement of contentious issues. The defence ministers meeting would follow it.”

Earlier, according to a press release, Indian delegation also called on the Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar. “Matters of bilateral interests were discussed in the meeting, the minister expressed that it was in the interest of both India and Pakistan to seek the amicable resolution of all the outstanding issues, including Siachen as it would tremendously contribute towards the peace and prosperity of South Asian region,” it said.

In a demonstration of flexibility in its otherwise toughened stance on Siachen issue, Pakistan’s military command had called for the resolution of Siachen issue through demilitarisation. The development followed Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s visit to Gayari in April after an avalanche had wiped out a Pakistan Army battalion there. General Kayani had urged for troops withdrawal by both the sides for ‘peaceful coexistence.