Not averse to demilitarisation of Siachen if Pak meets pre-condition: Army chief

Updated on Jan 13, 2022 04:50 AM IST

Islamabad has so far not agreed to authenticate troop positions on the glacier.

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General MM Naravane addressing Annual Press Conference, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General MM Naravane addressing Annual Press Conference, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Wednesday said that India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier --- the world’s highest battleground and an old sore in India-Pakistan ties ---- provided the neighbour accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions.

Islamabad has so far not agreed to authenticate troop positions on the glacier.

“We are not averse to the demilitarisation of the glacier but the pre-condition for that is to accept AGPL. Pakistan has to accept what are their positions and what are ours, and both of us have to sign on the dotted line before any kind of disengagement takes place. What is happening in eastern Ladakh is quite similar…first disengagement, then de-induction and de-escalation, which is another way of saying demilitarisation,” the army chief said at his customary press briefing ahead of Army Day on January 15.

Acceptance of AGPL is the first step towards demilitarisation but the Pakistan side loathes doing that. He said the Siachen situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change status quo and countermeasures taken by the Indian Army.

The Line of Control that divides India and Pakistan ends at a reference point called NJ 9842. The boundary beyond this point was referred to simply as “thence northwards to the glacier,” leading to different interpretations.

“The LoC was delineated up to NJ 9842 and thereafter there was an understanding it would remain unoccupied. But since they made an effort to occupy it, we were forced to take countermeasures. And now both sides are face to face all along the glacier,” he said.

The 76-km-long glacier acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan. Security experts have argued that occupation of the glacier will not allow the Pakistan army to link up with the Chinese and threaten Ladakh.

The Indian Army launched Operation Meghdoot in April 1984 to secure the glacier after Pakistan army occupied the heights on Siachen. Several rounds of talks between India and Pakistan on demilitarising the Siachen glacier have failed with Islamabad refusing to authenticate troop positions on the ground.

Almost 80% posts on the glacier are located above 16,000 feet, with Bana towering above the rest at 21,753 feet. Experts have cautioned against withdrawing from Siachen until Islamabad authenticates troop positions on the ground as it would be a formidable task to reclaim the glacier.

India currently occupies dominating positions on the Saltoro ridge with Pakistani posts located 3,000 feet below.

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