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|November 5, 1998||
Vexed Siachen issue to figure tomorrow in talks
Amidst continuing firing and conflict at the world's highest battlefield, defence secretaries from India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi tomorrow and make renewed efforts, after a gap of six years, to find a mechanism to reduce tension on the Siachen glacier.
Pakistan Defence Secretary Lieutenant General (retd) Ifthikar Ali Khan will lead the 12-member delegation from Islamabad at the one-day talks being held as part of the 'composite and integrated' dialogue on the simmering issues between the two countries.
The 12-member Indian side, led by Defence Secretary Ajit Kumar, will also include director general, military operations, Lieutenant General Inder Verma and senior officials of the external affairs and defence ministries.
The other members of the Pakistani delegation include Major General Jamshed Malik, additional secretary, defence, Tariq Altaf, additional secretary, foreign affairs ministry, Major General Tauqir Zia, director general, military operations, Major General Syed Ali Hamid, director general (plans), joint services headquarters and Pakistan's high commissioner to India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.
Between 1986 and 1992, India and Pakistan have held six rounds of talks. Tomorrow's dialogue is not being seen as the seventh round but as a fresh initiative to stop warring on the 75 km long glacier.
The battle at Siachen has been linked very closely to the ongoing Kashmir conflict.
In 1949, after the first war over this territory had ended, the Karachi Agreement had provided for the establishment of a UN supervised ceasefire line drawn between the positions of the two armies.
This line extended from the international border between India and Pakistan near Chhamb in Jammu and Kashmir in a rough arc, running nearly 800 km north and then north-eastwards to NJ 9842, nearly 20 km north of the Saltoro range.
No attempt was made at the time of the agreement to extend the ceasefire line beyond NJ 9842 as far as the Chinese border, which left an undelineated distance of about 65 km.
Controversy later erupted over the wording of the Karachi Agreement. India inferred from this wording -- 'thence north to the glaciers' -- the tacit extension of the ceasefire line northwards through glacial terrain all the way to the Chinese border, which meant that most of Siachen was unambiguously and lawfully in Indian hands.
Pakistan rejected this interpretation, saying that the 1949 delimitation agreement contained no reference to the ceasefire line beyond NJ 9842. The 1965 and 1971 wars did not resolve the issue.
For the first time, in 1984, the Siachen glacier boundary issue was added to the list of major issues of contention between the two countries.
The search for a solution to the Siachen dispute has been linked to the more complicated and politically sensitive issue of Kashmir.
During the talks between 1986 and 1992, Pakistan has been insisting that the Line of Control runs north-eastwards in a straight line from NJ 9842 to the Karkoram pass on the border with China.
This extension of the LoC, they say, along with Pakistan's right to administer all territory lying westwards, was there in the 1963 Sino-Pakistani border agreement. India has been insisting that Pakistan was violating the Simla Agreement which barred not only the threat to use force but any attempt to alter the LoC.
During the last round of negotiations between the defence services of the two countries, the draft agreement on creating a de-militarised zone was largely accepted with defined arrangements for patrolling and monitoring.
The talks, this time, however come at a time when there are reports of Pakistani attacks on Indian posts at Siachen almost every day. Since October 18, Pakistani forces have made seven bids to alter the ground positions in the Siachen glacier area.
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