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Key facts about Siachen glacier

india Updated: May 31, 2011 15:44 IST

Reuters
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India and Pakistan on Monday began their first attempt in three years to demilitarise the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield in the Himalayan region, that has claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers.

The rivals' defence secretaries began two days of talks in New Delhi on Monday how to reduce troops situated above the Siachen glacier since 1984.

Here are some main facts about the Siachen glacier region:

* Siachen is in the northern part of Kashmir. Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of hostility between India and Pakistan and was the cause of two of their three wars (the third was over the founding of Bangladesh)

* Indian and Pakistani forces, estimated to number between 10,000 and 20,000 troops combined, have faced off against each other in mountains above the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram range since 1984.

* The no-man's-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level. Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

* The strategic importance of the glacier is debatable, military experts say. Until 1984, neither side had troops there.

* Both countries agree on a need to demilitarise the glacier, but neither side wants to take the first step.

* India controls the heights and is loath to withdraw for fear Pakistan might walk in. India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold.

* Pakistan has said it is willing to do so on the condition that it is not a final endorsement of India's claim over the glacier, a source of melt water for Pakistan's rivers.