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Nowhere near Siachen breakthrough, says India

Last updated on: October 31, 2006 12:04 IST

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri's remark that his country was 'very' close to a pact with India on the demilitarisation of Siachen has been met with caution by the Ministry of External Affairs. Top sources in the MEA said although talks were on, "There is no clarity on the issue yet."

Kasuri had said that back-channel talks have brought the two sides close to a breakthrough, which may result in Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Pakistan as early as December.

Singh had earlier called for a solution to the face-off and for turning Siachen 'into a mountain of peace'. The Army, however, sought formalisation of positions held by them before the talks went further.

"Track-II diplomacy has been stepped up," admitted a top MEA source. "We cannot, however, claim, as is being done by Pakistan, that there has been any breakthrough, especially before the foreign secretary level talks. Such a statement is speculative at best."

With Pranab Mukherjee taking over MEA after a stint in the defence ministry, any decision on Siachen that does not take into account Army's views is highly unlikely, sources say.

"They (the government) have kept us assured that national security concerns will be safeguarded," Army Chief Gen JJ Singh said.

Talking to media after taking over as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee at a function here, Air Chief Marshall SP Tyagi said, "Our views on the issue have been presented to the government."

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has warned the government against a 'hasty' approach.

"The Siachen issue is related to security and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. No agreement should be reached on it in haste," BJP chief Rajnath Singh said.

Nistula Hebbar in New Delhi