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India, Pak 'closer to final point' on Siachen: Narayanan

By Ajay Kaul and Sujit Chatterjee in New Delhi
April 20, 2006 13:50 IST
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India and Pakistan are 'closer' to a 'final point' on the Siachen problem and talks are on for finalising modalities for authentication of present troop positions that can pave the way for demilitarisation of the world's highest battlefield.

Just a month ahead of official-level talks on Siachen, New Delhi has also asserted that it was keen on having 'iron-clad guarantees' from Pakistan to avoid a scenario in which India will have to 'reclaim' the positions it now occupies in case a need arises.

"(Agreements on) Siachen and Sir Creek have been on the anvil for a long time. As far as Siachen is concerned, the issue has been authentication of  the line where they (the troops) are," M K Narayanan, National Security Adviser, told PTI in an interview.

Noting that both sides have presented 'various options or recommendations', he said, adding, 'I don't think we have reached the final point but I think we are closer to that'.

The two countries had voiced readiness last year to redeploy the troops positioned at altitudes ranging from 16,000 feet and above in the glacier-clad mountains.

Narayanan, however, said that 'in any case, there are a lot of issues to be discussed. There is the entire matter of whether we start off in a phased manner. I think it will take a little more time."

Asked about the minimum conditions that India would expect Pakistan to meet, he said, "I don't think we are laying any conditions. The only point is that we are occupying positions on the Saltoro Bridge and if we move back and if for
some reason it becomes necessary to go back, it becomes so much more difficult."

He said, "We want to avoid any kind of a contingency, where we have to try to reclaim something which we had. So we want
certain iron-clad guarantees that that would not happen. It is not that we are laying down conditions."

On whether Pakistan has agreed to the authentication of the present ground positions of troops along the 74-km Siachen, Narayanan said, "They have not accepted it the way we want it to be authenticated... some discussions are still going on." He said the two countries were talking about 'specific grid references and on-ground positions'.

Observing that internationally, there are 'certain accepted ways to authenticate", Narayanan said 'we want to be clear that later on somebody will not say this is not what is meant'.

"This is not like floating an idea. This is a military manoeuvre. You are moving back. When forces move back or move forward, there are certain accepted precepts, principles and concepts. So, we have to adhere to them," Narayanan said.

India, which is holding strategically advantageous positions on the glacier, has said it could be done only after proper authentication, endorsed by both countries, of the present positions of the troops of the two countries in view of the Kargil experience. The two sides are deciding how to treat the area after 'disengagement' is undertaken.

The two countries have been holding discussions on the issue of what to do with the line beyond Point Northern Junction 9842 where the LoC ends and Actual Ground Position Line begins. India had placed its troops at Siachen in 1984, then a non-military zone, after Pakistan sent its mountain expeditions there, claiming it to be its territory.

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Ajay Kaul and Sujit Chatterjee in New Delhi
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