Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday sounded an optimistic note on resolving differences with Islamabad ahead of the defence secretary-level talks on Siachen, beginning on Friday.
Singh suggested he was ‘hopeful’ of a positive outcome. On the sidelines of the civil investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister spoke of “immense opportunities” that exist between the two countries. “We are working together to resolve our differences," Singh said. To a question if he expected a positive outcome at the defence secretary-level talks, the Prime Minister said: “I am hopeful”.
Singh’s optimism came hours after he chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security that cleared the brief for defence secretary Shekhar Dutt for the meeting on Siachen.
A PTI report earlier in the day had quoted reports in Pakistani media claiming that Islamabad was ready to authenticate present troop positions in Siachen if Delhi promised not to use this document to make a legal claim over the glacier. The report said Islamabad had conveyed the “package deal” – that reflected a softening in Pakistan’s position from total opposition to authentication -- in November last year.
These developments could open up the doors for defence forces to scale down their presence at the world’s highest battlefield where an inhospitable climate kills more soldiers than enemy gunfire. On a visit to Siachen two years ago, Manmohan Singh had spoken of his wish to see the glacier as a “mountain of peace”.
The two countries had assumed military positions in Siachen – also the world’s longest glacier in the non-polar region – in 1984 and initiated a dialogue within years to move out. Differences over the modalities, however, have come in the way of the army moving down.