Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for demilitarising the Siachen glacier when they met here in April, the government told Lok Sabha on Monday.
Defence minister AK Antony said Zardari brought up the matter of withdrawal of troops from the world’s highest and most treacherous battlefield during the April 8 meeting, a day after an avalanche left more than 100 Pakistan army personnel dead.
"The President also pointed out the need to address all bilateral issues, including Sir Creek, Siachen and Kashmir," Antony said in a written reply, adding that both leaders spoke of the need to find "pragmatic and mutually acceptable solutions" to the disputes.
Army sources reiterated India could not risk withdrawing from Siachen until Pakistan authenticated troop positions — which it has routinely refused to do — as it would be a formidable task to reclaim the glacier.
Indian troops have stood sentinel on the 21,000-foot glacier since April 13, 1984. There are now around 3,000 of them. The guns have been silent since a November 2003 ceasefire. But the harsh weather has proved a more lethal killer. India lost 26 soldiers in the last one year.
Soldiers have to trek almost 28 days over 128 km to reach some of the farthest pickets. The daily cost of holding on to the glacier is around Rs. 5 crore.
Yet, strategic affairs experts say, the battlefield is crucial as its occupation stops the Pakistan army from linking up with the Chinese and posing a threat to Ladakh.