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Indo-Pak talks on Siachen take off

Both sides fielded large teams of bureaucrats and military officers, headed by their respective defence secretaries.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 21:42 IST

Seeking to implement their understanding on demilitarisation of Siachen Glacier, Defence Secretaries of India and Pakistan on Tuesday began a two-day meeting discussing proposals for authentication of the present troop deployment on the world's highest battlefield.

With India's insistence on authentication, the two sides are to discuss issues like how the re-deployment of troops will be done and what would be the monitoring mechanism after the disengagement on the glacier where more troops die due to hostile weather than combat.

The two countries had reached an understanding in October last year to demilitarise Siachen and have since then been discussing modalities to do that.

Before starting the two-day formal delegation-level talks, Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt and his Pakistani counterpart Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Waseem Ghazi had a one-to-one meeting.

Ghazi had said soon after his arrival in New Delhi on Monday that Pakistan was "open to all proposals" for demilitarisation of Siachen.

"We have come here with an open positive frame of mind", he said.

After the first round of talks, officials said the parleys were held in a cordial atmosphere.

The two sides have so far been unable to resolve their differences on the authentication as Pakistan has not accepted the idea.

India, which is wary of withdrawing its troops from the present dominant positions because of the Kargil experience, is insisting on proper authentication.

Officials said New Delhi wanted firm guarantees from Pakistan which could be in the form of their acknowledgement of ground positions held at present so that India does not have to "reclaim" the positions in case of an eventuality.

The Pakistani delegation called on Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.

The two sides have, in principle, agreed to re-deploy positions on the 72-km long glacier but the talks have bogged down on modalities to carry out demilitrisation.

It has been New Delhi's consistent position that Pakistan should first agree to cartographic delineation of the current positions held by Indian and Pakistani troops on the Saltoro Ridge and other central and lower glacier areas.

India, according to informed sources, has also conveyed these proposals to Pakistan through track II channels and has expressed readiness to discuss even other modes of authentication of groud positions on the glacier.

This is the 10th round of talks between the two countries on the glacier issue and will be followed by two-day talks on the demarcation of the Sir Creek in the Kutch -- a narrow strip of marshy land that separates the two countries along their western border.

Besides Ghazi, the Pakistani delegation comprises Maj Gen (Retd) Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry, Additional Secretary Defence.

Major General Bilal Ahmed Khan, Joint secretary GHQ, Maj Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, DGMO, Brig Nasir Khan Januja, DMO.

The team is backed by Pakistan's High Commissioner here Aziz Ahmed Khan, Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab, Defence attache Brig Javed Sultan Khan, Zaheer A Janjua Director( India) Pakistan foreign office and Major (Retd) Syed Haider Mehdi Deputy Surveyor General.

First Published: May 23, 2006 11:22 IST