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Will Manmohan, Musharraf meet in UK?

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 18:36 IST
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Will Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meet Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in London next week?

Speculation about the meeting arose in the wake of remarks by an Indian minister on Sunday that the two could meet in London as a part of efforts to resolve the impasse over the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest and coldest battlefield at heights of 22,000 feet.

"We think that of all the issues between India and Pakistan, that of Siachen is the more easily resolvable," the minister said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

However, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan denied any knowledge of any such meeting.

Manmohan Singh leaves here Monday for a three-day visit to Britain, following which he will travel to Finland capital Helsinki for the annual India-European Union (EU) summit.

Finland currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

A ceasefire has been in force on the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a low-intensity conflict since the mid-1980s.

The Indian government is known to favour demilitarising the glacier as part of its moves to improve relations with Pakistan.

At one time, it was even being said that a demilitarisation pact would be the icing on the cake during a visit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was expected to make to Pakistan in September but it did not materialise due to the stalled peace process between the countries.

The Indian Army, which has lost 600 soldiers in the conflict, is vehemently opposed to any pullback, saying this would be a military disaster as India currently commands the heights.

Army chief, Gen JJ Singh, has gone to the extent of saying that demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier was not even on the "immediate horizon".

"The first step is disengagement. Then there is demilitarisation. At the moment, none of these is immediately on the horizon.

We have conveyed our views to the government. I am confident the decision of the government will be in consonance with our views," he told reporters here in April after the biennial Army Commanders conference.

A month later, the Indian government stated that no decision had been taken to withdraw troops from Siachen.

"A ceasefire has been in force on the Actual Ground Position Line in the Siachen area since the midnight of 25th November 2003.

There is no decision at present to pull out troops from the Siachen Glacier," Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha May 17.

Defence secretaries of India and Pakistan had discussed the issue here May 23-24 but could not come to an agreement.

At their meeting on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Havana, Manmohan Singh and Musharraf had directed their foreign secretaries to reengage on the Siachen issue, but given the army's strong views on the issue, an immediate resolution seems unlikely.

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