Indo-Pak next Siachen talks on June 11-12

Islamabad: India and Pakistan will hold their next round of talks on the military standoff on Siachen glacier in Islamabad during June 11-12 against the backdrop of renewed calls from the Pakistani civil and military leadership for the demilitarisation of the world`s highest battlefield.

"Pakistan and India will hold talks on the Siachen issue on June 11-12 at Islamabad," Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said in a brief statement on Thursday evening. He did not give details.

The last round of talks on Siachen was held in Delhi by the Defence Secretaries of the two countries almost a year ago. The announcement by Khan came shortly after diplomatic sources told PTI that Pakistan had asked India to reschedule talks on the Sir Creek border dispute which were to be held in New Delhi next week.

The Pakistani side has sought fresh dates later this month or in June for talks on the Sir Creek issue, the sources said. They said fresh dates would be decided through diplomatic consultations. The reasons for Pakistan`s decision could not immediately be ascertained.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan had recently announced that officials of the two countries would meet in New Delhi during May 14-16 to discuss the Sir Creek issue.

Some reports have suggested that Islamabad wants to assess progress on the Siachen issue before holding talks on Sir Creek. Representatives from Pakistan`s powerful military play a key role in talks on both Sir Creek and Siachen.

There have been calls from Pakistani politicians, including main opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, for the demilitarisation of Siachen after 139 people were buried under dozens of feet of snow when an avalanche hit a high-altitude Pakistan Army camp at Gyari on April 7.

Pakistani commentators and security analysts have questioned the strategic value of deploying of troops at Siachen and also highlighted the environmental costs of the standoff on the glacier.
Search teams are yet to find any trace of the buried men, including over 120 soldiers.

During recent visits to the site of the avalanche, Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called for the demilitarisation of the glacier and said the India and Pakistan should resolve all outstanding issues to ensure "peaceful co-existence" which would allow the two sides to focus on development and welfare of the people.

Kayani said Pakistan hopes the Siachen issue is "resolved so that both the countries don`t have to pay the cost". However, he also contended that India had hardened its position by seeking the demarcation of the Line of Control instead of the authentication of troop positions on the ground. "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," Kayani said during a visit to Gyari on May 3.

Defence Minister A K Antony has made it clear that there is no change in India`s stand on Siachen. Pakistan has also considerably hardened its stand on the Sir Creek issue in recent months though the two countries had said they had made progress after a joint survey of the marshlands.