The defence secretaries of India and Pakistan on Monday began talks on the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier — the world's highest battleground and an old sore in bilateral ties — for the first time since relations broke down after the 26/11.
The two top bureaucrats — India's Pradeep Kumar and Pakistan's Lt Gen Syed Ather Ali (retd) — met one-on-one for 25 minutes at the South Block, talks, which defence ministry officials said, were “warm”. They were soon joined by delegations from the two sides, including bureaucrats and senior military officials.The Pakistani delegation later called on defence minister AK Antony. The talks will end on Tuesday.
Officials described the 12th round of defence secretary-level talks as “constructive”, but experts foresee no big breakthrough. The two sides have had eleven futile rounds of talks since 1985, a year after the Indian Army made a pre-emptive move to secure the glacier under Operation Meghdoot.
A senior army officer said any breakthrough was unlikely until Islamabad agreed to authenticate troop positions on the glacier where soldiers are deployed at heights of more than 21,000 feet.
The Indian Army has opposed scaling down military presence on the 76-km-long glacier as it acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, occupied by Pakistan.
Security experts argue that occupation of the glacier will not allow the Pakistani army to link up with the Chinese and threaten Ladakh.
India also has the advantage of holding high ground —Pakistani posts are located 3,000 feet below. “If we vacate our positions and there's any misadventure by the Pakistanis, recapturing those heights will be very difficult,” said another officer.
The Line of Control ends at a reference point called NJ 9842. The boundary beyond this point was referred to simply as “thence northwards to the glacier,” leading to different interpretations by India and Pakistan.