India and Pakistan Tuesday reaffirmed their resolve to make “serious, sustained and result-oriented” efforts for seeking an amicable resolution to the dispute over the Siachen glacier, the world’s highest battlefield.
A joint statement issued at the end of the two-day defence secretary-level talks in Rawalpindi said the two sides agreed to continue dialogue on Siachen in keeping with the desire of the leaders of both countries for early resolution of all outstanding issues.
The Indian delegation was headed by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma while Pakistan was represented by its Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi.
“The talks were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere,” an Indian defence ministry statement issued in New Delhi said.
The two nations also agreed that the next round of talks on Siachen will be held in New Delhi on mutually convenient dates, to be fixed through diplomatic channels.
Both sides acknowledged that the ceasefire was holding since 2003.
Sharma also called on Pakistan Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar during his stay in Pakistan.
The Siachen glacier dispute was highlighted after a massive avalanche struck a Pakistan Army camp and killed 139 soldiers and civilians in early April.
There have been calls to find out solution to the long-standing dispute where harsh weather has killed more soldiers than actual fighting.
Both countries have held a series of talks on the issue but have failed to reach any agreement. They last held a meeting on the issue in the Indian capital of New Delhi in mid-2011 without making any progress.
Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who visited Siachen in the wake of the avalanche April 18, called for a negotiated end to the confrontation and said the glacier should be demilitarised.
“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” he said.
“Both countries should sit together to resolve all the issues, including Siachen,” Kayani added.
Pakistan, however, promptly did an about turn a day later when Islamabad insisted there was no change in its stance on the disputed glacier.
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said that New Delhi would insist on proper authentication by Pakistan of the troop positions in Siachen before any disengagement is undertaken.
India and Pakistan are deadlocked over differences on the location of the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which passes through the Saltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier.
India wants Pakistan to authenticate the AGPL, both on the maps and on the ground, as it occupies most of the dominating posts on the Saltoro Ridge.
Pakistan, in turn, has been insisting on maintaining the pre-1972 troop positions as agreed in the Simla Agreement.