ISLAMABAD: Top Pakistani and Indian defence officials would reopen stalled talks on the world’s highest battlefield - Siachen - in yet another attempt to demilitarise the area.
“The defence secretaries of both the South Asian countries will be meeting on April 22 to resume talks on the Siachen glacier and Sir Creek,” a senior official told The News on Saturday.
The Pak-India talks on Siachen and Sir Creek would be resumed after four years, though both sides have maintained a ceasefire since November 2003. It would be yet another attempt, starting in the mid-80s, to resolve the dispute through “peace talks”, though all earlier parleys ended in deadlock with both the sides sticking to their guns.
To be held in Rawalpindi where the Defence Ministry is located, Indian defence secretary would be coming to Pakistan for these renewed efforts of demilitarisation of Siachen glacier and resolving the Sir Creek issue.
Following a successful round of talks between interior/home secretaries last week, Pakistan and India would be holding talks on defence and commerce issues. The commerce secretaries of Pakistan and India would hold talks on April 29.
“These rounds of talks are meant to steer confidence building between the two countries,” said a senior official, who hailed the way Interior Secretary Ch Qamaruzzaman held talks with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi last week.
Many officials say the environment has become conducive for holding talks at the senior officials level and this time the leadership of both the countries mean business and defeating the agents of hostilities.
Pakistani leaders and officials, who travelled to Mohali for witnessing Pak-India semi-final of the World Cricket Cup, are showing their cautious optimism on the readiness of Indian leadership and officials to build confidence for resolution of several thorny issues.
“The Indians hosted us well and they showed a lot of inclination with practical steps to work with Pakistan on several matters,” said a member of the Pakistani delegation which recently visited India for interior/home secretary level talks.
So much so, said the official, one conducting Indian official of the rank of DIG in Agra recalled his mother’s memories of their residing at Gujar Khan, a town 30 miles away from Rawalpindi, in pre-partition period.
“That conducting officer brought his wife to chat with us about their ancestors’ place of living in pre-partition period,” said the official. “All they wanted to see end of hostilities between the two countries.”
The Pakistani delegation also visited Golden Temple in Amritsar, and that opportunity fell into their lap when their flight got delayed by one and a half hours. “Excellent arrangements were made there to greet us at the Golden Temple,” said the official, who added that pleasantries were exchanged with recalling memories.
In the context of talks on Siachen and Sir Creek, Pakistan maintains implementation of an agreement reached between the archrivals in 1989 under which soldiers in the permanently frozen combat zone were to be brought down to the positions held by them prior to the Indian advance in 1984.
The South Asian neighbours each keep a few thousand troops deployed across the 6,300-metre glacier where weather claims more lives than actual fighting.