NEW DELHI: Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh Wednesday said that India had "lost lot of lives" and "shed a lot of blood" to command the icy heights and favoured holding on to the 70-km-long glacier in northern Jammu and Kashmir, Indian media reported.
General Singh also noted that Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield, is of "strategic importance" to India and that the Indian Army's position on withdrawal of troops from one of the most uninhabitable spots on earth remained unchanged.
"We have lost a lot of lives over there. We have shed a lot of blood in trying to get to that area and occupy our positions. These positions are of strategic importance to us," he told reporters during an interaction in the national capital.
"It has not changed at all," he said when asked about the Indian Army's position on Siachen and the demilitarization proposed by Pakistan.
"It is very important...we must continue to hold that area and that's what we have maintained always," he asserted.
India and Pakistan are currently negotiating a settlement of their 18-year dispute over the Siachen glacier and one of the issues being discussed is demilitarization.
During the latest defence secretary-level talks held in Pakistan in June, the two nations reaffirmed their resolve to make "serious, sustained and result-oriented" efforts for seeking an amicable resolution to the Siachen dispute.
"It (Siachen talks) was not concluded when it was discussed and I suppose they will take the discussions forward at the next meeting (to be held in New Delhi). So the modalities have to be worked out," Gen. Singh said.
"The negotiations are carried out by the government at the national level. We have conveyed our concerns to the government. It is for the government to decide," he added.
Siachen became a dispute after India rushed its troops to the glacier under Operation Meghdoot in April 1984 to pre-empt a Pakistani move to occupy the icy heights ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet, where temperatures dip to minus 50 degree Celsius in winter.
Talks on the dispute began in 1985 between then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Pakistani president General Zia-ul-Haq.
India and Pakistan have cumulatively deployed nearly 10,000 troops on either side of the 110-km-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the Siachen Glacier.
India wants Pakistan to authenticate the AGPL and the troops positions, both on the maps and on the ground as it occupies most of the dominating posts on the Saltoro Ridge, before any talks on demilitarization can begin.
Pakistan, in turn, has been insisting on maintaining the pre-1972 troop positions as agreed to by the Simla Agreement.
The dispute has reportedly cost both India and Pakistan over $10 billion in cumulative budgetary allocations and close to 2,500 casualties, mostly due to the inhospitable weather.
A ceasefire agreed to by both nations in November 2003 has held good on the glacier.
The Siachen glacier dispute returned to the limelight after a massive avalanche struck a Pakistan Army camp and killed 139 soldiers and civilians in early April.
Soon after, Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who visited the glacier, called for demilitarisation of the area and a comprehensive negotiated settlement to the dispute.
Pakistan, however, promptly did an about turn a day later when Islamabad insisted there was no change in its stance on the disputed glacier.