Jun. 11 – Talks are currently underway in Islamabad between Indian Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma and Pakistan Defense Secretary Nargis Sethi about the demilitarization of the Siachen glacier in Kashmir.
Pakistan is expected to renew a proposal seeking the immediate demilitarization of a standoff that has created the world’s highest battlefield. Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has called for a cessation of hostilities after an avalanche buried 139 people at Pakistan’s high-altitude army camp on the glacier in April.
The Siachen conflict began in 1984 when Indian forces launched a military operation to dislodge Pakistani forces. The conflict stems from the incomplete demarcation of the glacier. The Simla Agreement, which was signed between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of their 13-day war in 1971, did not clearly mention who had full control of the glacier.
According to the proposal, Pakistan wants India to pull back to their 1984 positions, while India wants Pakistan to authenticate the 110-kilometer actual ground position line (AGPL) along the Siachen glacier and the Saltoro ridge in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani officials, however, claim that India fears that the withdrawal of their troops would create a dangerous precedent, putting pressure on New Delhi to resolve the territorial dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
Analysts believe that the two sides are unlikely to make any progress during their negotiations. India is especially worried about China’s close proximity to the Siachen glacier and Pakistan has previously stated that it wants Beijing to play a role in the dispute. India, however, does not want to open a dialogue with China on the matter. Certain Indian analysts have even opined that, without international guarantees, China and Pakistan could join their forces to dislodge India from the region.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony further cautioned against expecting any breakthrough at the meeting, saying that we should not “expect any dramatic announcement or decision on an issue which is very important for us, especially in the context of national security. You cannot expect a dramatic announcement from one discussion.”
It is, however, the 13th round of talks between India and Pakistan about the Siachen glacier, with all previous discussions having ended in a stalemate. So the question remains, how much more discussion is needed to resolve the Siachen conflict?