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'Authenticate troop status on Siachen'

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 19:09 IST
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Even as Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Islamabad, India on Saturday said the dispute over the Siachen glacier can be resolved in the near future if Pakistan agrees to accept the 'realistic and rational' Indian demand for authentication of ground position of troops on both sides of the icy battleground.

"If Pakistan accepts our proposal for authentication of troops, it should be possible. I don't see why there should be a problem with it," National Security Adviser MK Narayanan told reporters when asked about the possibility of a breakthrough over the Siachen glacier during Mukherjee's visit to Islamabad.

Narayanan is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Cebu in the Philippines to attend the India-ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.

"We have made it clear that the authentication of ground position of troops on the Siachen is the only realistic and rational way for both sides to resolve the issue," Narayanan underlined.

Pakistan has hinted at a possible accommodation of the Indian position on the demiltarisation of the Siachen glacier in the Himalayas, also known as the world's highest battlefield, which has claimed more lives due to frostbite than any military battles.

"Pakistan is not for authentication of any positions, but is ready to address India's concerns. Ways and means can be found to ascertain actual troop positions," Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, who will hold talks with Mukherjee, told NDTV in an interview in Islamabad on Saturday.

Narayanan also struck a realistic note on Mukherjee's visit to Islamabad.

"It's not a substantive visit for talks. He has gone there to invite Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for the 14th SAARC," he added. The 14th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit will be held in New Delhi in early April.

He, however, described the atmospherics surrounding Mukherjee's visit as "positive" and said that the two sides have made progress on resolving the Dispute over the Sir Creek marshland separating Sindh in Pakistan and Gujarat in India.

"Both sides are willing to abide by the results of the survey. There is certainly progress," he said while alluding to the decision of the two sides to complete a joint survey of Sir Creek early this year with a view to demarcating the maritime boundary between them.

"Nobody has spoken in India about joint management. We can have a joint consultative mechanism on tourism and culture (that is applicable to both sides of Kashmir)," he clarified in response to a question about Musharraf's four-point point formula to resolve the Kashmir issue.

In an interview last year, Musharraf had said that Pakistan was ready to give up its demand for independence of Kashmir if India accepted joint management of the state and demilitarization with a view to making the Line of Control irrelevant.

"As far as we are concerned, as the prime minister has said, borders (in Jammu and Kashmir) are irrelevant," Narayanan said.

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