Siachen, Sir Creek issues solvable: India

May 20th, 2008 - 10:22 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) India Tuesday said it was “determined” to make the Siachen glacier “a mountain of peace” and stressed on the “narrowing of differences” with Pakistan over the disputed glacier as well as the Sir Creek marshland that separates Kutch region in Gujarat from Sindh in the neigbouring country. “We have made considerable progress in narrowing down differences and in finding common ground,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters when asked by a Pakistani journalist why India and Pakistan have not been able to resolve these two disputes which many think are ‘doable’.

“All these problems are solvable,” Menon told reporters here after he and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir reviewed the fourth round of the two countries’ Composite Dialogue.

“But we have not reached an agreement on it. It will be discussed in External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday,” he said.

The two sides have been discussing demilitarization of the world’s highest battlefield where more Indian and Pakistani soldiers have died due to extreme weather than in fights for many years, but without a breakthrough.

The talks are still mired in differences over the actual ground position of troops with India insisting on it before it can consider withdrawal of its troops and Pakistan not keen to accept it as it would amount to legitimising what it considers the Indian occupation of the glacier.

“In Siachen, we have to deal with environmental consequences and explore the possibilities of mountain climbing. Another proposal is to make it a mountain of peace,” Menon said.

He was alluding to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal for making Siachen a mountain of peace.

“We are determined to do it,” Menon stressed.

Last year, then Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri had said the Siachen glacier could become a mountain of peace if India accepts Islamabad’s proposal for unconditional withdrawal of troops from the glacier.

“In the Sir Creek case, a lot of progress has been made. We have completed a joint survey and have a common map now,” Menon said.

India and Pakistan have conducted a joint survey and agreed on a common map of the 60-mile long estuary in the desert of Kutch separating India’s Gujarat from Pakistan’s Sindh province that will help in demarcating maritime boundary between them.

Some basic differences, however, continue to shadow negotiations over the issue. India asserts that the Sir Creek boundary lies in the middle of the channel whereas Pakistan claims that it is on the east bank.

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