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Antony rules out Siachen pullout

Till Pakistan authenticates actual ground position line, troops would not be pulled out, the Defence Minister says, Rahul Singh reports.

india Updated: May 06, 2007 02:16 IST

Defence Minister AK Antony has reiterated that India is in no hurry to vacate the unfriendly heights on the Siachen glacier and Saltoro Ridge, saying there’s no question of troop withdrawal until Pakistan agrees to authentication of the 110-km AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line).

After his maiden visit to the world’s highest and coldest battlefield, Antony said, “I can’t say if a solution is in sight... Before any forward movement, we must authenticate relative troop positions on both sides of AGPL”.

Asked if Islamabad could be trusted in the light of its track record of deception, Antony said the country must not forget the past.

Accompanied by the army chief General JJ Singh and defence secretary Shekhar Dutt, Antony visited the ‘Kumar forward landing base’ at a height of over 16,000 feet to get a feel of the living conditions of jawans and familiarise himself with the strategic importance of the glacier, on which Indian troops have been holding positions since 1984. The army occupies advantageous positions along the 76-km-long glacier and troops have to a large extent got conditioned to the inhospitable environment.

General JJ Singh said, “Casualties in Siachen have come down considerably as a result of better training and equipment”. The army holds more than a dozen important peaks on the Saltoro ridge at heights of up to 21,000 feet. In contrast, Pakistani posts are more than 20-km to the west of the glacier. Islamabad is seeking a commitment from India not to claim territory on the basis of the authenticated AGPL. It fears that authentication of the AGPL will turn the AGPL into the Line of Control.

With Siachen serving as a strategic wedge between Pakistan and China, troop withdrawal without authentication would enable their armies to link up and threaten the Ladakh region, an army officer said.

First Published: May 06, 2007 01:48 IST