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Pak hints at easing of stand on Siachen

Pak indicates it is willing to verify troop positions on Siachen as a precursor to resolving the standoff.

world Updated: May 08, 2007 15:48 IST

In a possible change in stance, Pakistan has indicated it would be willing to verify troop positions on the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir as a precursor to resolving the over two-decade standoff on the world's highest and coldest battlefield.

"There are a number of proposals for a package which include the possibility of indicating current positions as well as positions where the troops should be relocated," Dawn newspaper on Tuesday quoted foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam as saying at her weekly briefing in Islamabad.

"As part of this package, a zone of peace can be established," she added. "If the two sides succeed in working out an agreement, this will be an important confidence-building measure and an important development in the context of dispute resolution," Aslam maintained.

New Delhi maintains that Islamabad must validate the ground positions of Indian and Pakistani troops on the Siachen glacier before talks on resolving the issue.

Defence Minister AK Antony reiterated this on Saturday.

"From the beginning, our position has been clear - before there is any forward movement, the actual ground position line (AGPL of the two countries' troops) has to be authenticated. After that we can think about other movements," he told reporters on his first visit to the glacier after assuming office seven months ago.

"Both sides must agree to the AGPL on the map and on the ground," Antony asserted.

Siachen is one of the sticking points in the resolution to the vexed Kashmir issue that has dogged the South Asian neighbours for nearly six decades.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been locked in a bitter standoff since 1984 on the Siachen glacier, where the heights rise to 22,000 feet and the temperatures plunge to minus 50 degree Celsius in winter. The guns have been silent since a truce was declared in 2003.

Islamabad has all along maintained that it would authenticate the AGPL as it existed in 1984, when Indian troops moved in to foil Pakistani designs in the area. India is insisting on verifying the AGPL as it presently exists.

Of late, Pakistani officials have been quoted as saying that Islamabad would agree to verify the present troop positions only if India promised not to legally enforce the boundary.

Aslam's statement indicates a step beyond this.