India, Pakistan continue to disagree on Siachen; to meet again (Lead)

May 31st, 2011 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) At the end of two days of talks on Siachen Tuesday, India and Pakistan failed to arrive at any common ground on the lingering 27-year-old dispute over the ownership of the world’s highest battlefield or on demilitarising the 70-km-long glacier in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

But they expressed their disagreements without the acrimony witnessed on certain occasions in the past, and agreed to meet again for the 13th round of talks in Islamabad “at a mutually convenient date” to discuss the issues.

Pakistan, in fact, presented a “non-paper” — an unofficial presentation of government policy — to India on what it thinks about the Siachen dispute. India would respond to the non-paper only after studying it, as the document was handed over by the Pakistan delegation only at the end of the two-day meeting, a defence ministry official said.

“Both sides presented their positions and suggestions towards the resolution of Siachen,” a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said.

In effect, the defence ministry official said, there was “status quo” on the stated positions of both countries on the Siachen dispute. “It is a good meeting. But there has been no change in both our positions,” the official added.

The joint statement was the fourth between India and Pakistan since February this year, the earlier ones being issued after the meetings of their foreign, commerce and home secretaries to discuss bilateral relations.

The talks between Indian Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and his Pakistani counterpart, Lt. Gen. (retd) Syed Athar Ali, held after nearly four years, was the 12th round of discussions on Siachen.

Both sides, the joint statement said, “welcomed” the ongoing dialogue process. Acknowledging that the ceasefire on the Glacier was “holding” since November 2003, the discussions between the defence secretaries were held in “a frank and cordial atmosphere, contributing to an enhanced understanding of each other’s position on Siachen.”

Apart from the delegation-level talks, the two defence secretaries met one-on-one, and the Pakistani delegation also called on Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday.

The talks were part of the two nations’ larger efforts to resolve the outstanding issues between them. The two countries decided to resume their dialogue, which was put on hold after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack, following meetings between their prime ministers in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu in April 2010.

The Siachen Glacier is under India’s control since April 1984 when its troops beat the Pakistani Army by a day to occupy the icy heights, ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet, along the Saltoro Ridge in Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the ceasefire between the two sides began in November 2003, Pakistan has wanted India to demilitarise the glacial heights, but New Delhi has asked Islamabad to first authenticate the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) before any talks can begin on withdrawing troops from the glacier.

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