ISLAMABAD: Ahead of its key talks with India on the Siachen issue, Pakistan has claimed that the biggest hurdle in resolving the military standoff on the world’s highest battlefield are the armies of the two countries.
Mr Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, who was the Defence Minister till Saturday and has now been given the water and power portfolio in a minor Cabinet reshuffle, said India and Pakistan both stand to benefit from resolving the Siachen issue.
Both countries stood to gain nothing from the standoff on Siachen and the matter only served to satiate egos, he claimed during an interview with BBC Urdu. He said the only way for India and Pakistan to coexist was to sit at the table and discuss the Siachen issue.
The Pakistani minister claimed that the biggest hurdle in resolving the military standoff on the Siachen glacier are the armies of Pakistan and India.
Senior Indian and Pakistani officials are set to hold talks on the Siachen issue in Islamabad on June 11 against the backdrop of renewed calls from the Pakistani civil and military leadership for the demilitarisation of the world’s highest battlefield.
In response to a question, Mr Mukhtar claimed Siachen was Pakistani territory and Pakistan had “responded” when India claimed the glacier.
“We think we can come to an agreement. India wants to talk on the Sir Creek issue first, we want to talk about Siachen first – the same issue of egos,” he claimed.
“I think (Pakistan army chief Gen) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani understands this issue better than all of us and will help reach a decision when the time comes.”
Asked how the Defence Minister, who is placed higher than the army chief, would allow a subordinate to take a decision, Mr Mukhtar said that “Kayani would offer guidance (and) support, just as the government cooperates and supports the army.”
Responding to a question why Pakistan is not making the first move of unilaterally withdrawing its troops to resolve the Siachen issue, Mr Mukhtar contended that India was a big country and Pakistan expects it to demonstrate magnanimity by making the first move.
In response to another question, he said Prime Minister Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh want to resolve the Siachen issue through dialogue.
Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a standoff on Siachen since 1984.
The guns have largely been silent since late 2003, when the two countries put in place a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, and more troops have died on the glacier due to adverse weather than combat.
Since an avalanche killed 139 people at a high-altitude Pakistan Army camp in the Siachen sector in April, security analysts and civil society groups have questioned the deployment of troops in the hazardous terrain. PTI