PM hints at Indo-Pak deal over Siachen
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday indicated that India and Pakistan may be close to a breakthrough on demilitarisation of Siachen.india Updated: Apr 22, 2006 23:06 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday indicated that India and Pakistan may be close to a breakthrough on the demilitarisation of Siachen, known as the world's highest battlefield, and a deal on the issue could be the highlight of his visit to Pakistan later this year.
"It is much too early for me to announce it," Manmohan Singh said in response to a question on whether the two countries were close to a deal on the Siachen conflict in the high Himalayas where rival troops have been fighting for over two decades over a 76-km long strategic glacier at a height of over 22,000 feet.
Manmohan Singh also said he planned to visit Pakistan, but he had yet to decide the timing of this all-important visit. "I have an invitation (to visit Pakistan). And I have accepted that. That was also in the joint statement. At an appropriate time, I will (go to Pakistan)," he said.
"Our relations with Pakistan are improving," Manmohan Singh said on his way to Hanover, the first leg of his four-day visit to Germany. He will inaugurate the Hanover Fair, the world's largest trade and technology event that has India as its partner country, on Sunday before holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the evening.
India has agreed in principle to a phased withdrawal of the Indian Army from its positions on the Siachen glacier, official sources said. The two countries have to resolve the tricky issue of authentication of ground positions of the troops of the two countries on the glacier, the sources added.
The issue will be taken up for discussion in the next round of the defence secretary-level meeting of the two countries in the first week of May. If both sides show the will to pull off the deal, the agreement could be inked during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan later this year.
Recently, National Security Adviser MK Narayanan had said in an interview that India and Pakistan were "closer" to a "final point" on the Siachen dispute .
Last August defence secretaries of the two countries sat down for the first time in nearly six years to discuss a resolution to Siachen where their troops have been in a state of confrontation since 1984.