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Antony on Siachen talks: 'Don't expect the unexpected'

By Lalit K Jha
June 08, 2012 18:29 IST
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Ahead of the talks next week with Pakistan on Siachen, Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday sought to lower the expectations, saying that no "dramatic announcement or decision" should be anticipated.

He said India will stick to its stand on the issue at the defence secretary-level talks in Islamabad on June 11-12.

He did not specify, but was apparently referring to India's stand that there should be proper authentication of current troop positions in Siachen by both the countries.

"Don't expect dramatic announcement or decision there on an issue which is very, very important for us, specially in the context of national security... But (from) one discussion, you can't expect a dramatic announcement," Antony said in Washington, DC.

Interacting with reporters after felicitating athletes from the three Services, Antony said Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma will explain India's stand during the talks with Pakistan.

"Our stand is there and the defence secretary will explain the stand there," he said.

Antony stressed that India has a "clear-cut position" on the Siachen issue.

"They (defence secretaries of both the sides) are going to have the discussion there. But we have already discussed this in detail. We have very clear cut position, since discussions are going to take place, I don't want to reply it here," he said.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had on Thursday discussed the position maintained by India on Siachen issue.

Maintenance of troops in the glaciated mountainous region above 15,000 feet is costing both countries immensely in terms of monetary as also human resources.

India and Pakistan have held several rounds of talks to resolve the Siachen issue.

The two countries were close to an agreement a few years ago on demilitarising the region but it failed to fructify as Pakistan refused to authenticate the current military positions of the two sides as sought by India.

During a visit to Siachen in 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that the two countries should work to convert the highest battlefield into a mountain of peace.

Recently, Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had contended that India had hardened its position on the Siachen issue as compared to the 1989 stance it had adopted.

Reacting to Kayani's suggestion, then Army Chief Gen VK Singh had rejected his Pakistani counterpart's proposal to demilitarise Siachen, dubbing it as a "gimmick".

The armies of the two countries have lost more soldiers to hostile weather than in actual combat since April 1984.

The Siachen troop withdrawal issue gained prominence in Pakistan following a massive avalanche burying a Pakistan army camp there on April 7, resulting in the death of 129 soldiers and 11 civilians.

Just after the incident, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had advocated troop withdrawal from Siachen during his informal meeting with Prime Minister Singh in April.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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