Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” says the Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ahfaq Pervez Kayani. The general said this while at Skardu airport in northern Pakistan after visiting the Gayari army base in Siachin, which was hit by a massive avalanche April 7. He said Pakistan was open to talks with India to demilitarize Siachen. “Both countries should sit together to resolve all the issues including Siachen.” He added that Pakistan’s pursuit for peace should not be mistaken for its weakness. And the reason why Pakistan Army was maintaining its forces in extreme weather condition such as in the Siachen region was no secret to the world.
CALL FOR END TO A ‘SENSELESS’ STANDOFF
WoP Report Desk
Pakistan’s powerful military chief has made a rare call for the demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier, where thousands of Pakistani and Indian troops have been posted for nearly three decades. The call comes after some 140 people were buried by a massive avalanche that flattened a key military base in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Since the avalanche struck a key Pakistani military base at Siachen nearly two weeks ago, army-led rescue teams have been working relentlessly at an altitude of 6,000 meters to retrieve the men, but have not succeeded so far.
A Pakistani soldier wearing sunglasses looks on at the avalanche site during an ongoing operation at Gayari camp near the Siachen glacier on April 18, 2012. Rescuers were still searching for nearly 140 soldiers buried by the mass of snow and rock at Gayari camp near the Siachen glacier, 4,000 metres above sea level. Copyright/Source: AFP/Getty Images, Photographer: Aamir Qureshi
The human tragedy in the glacial region has revived calls for Pakistan and India to end what many critics describe as a “senseless” standoff.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the disaster zone, Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Wednesday his country is seeking resolution of all disputes with India, including the Siachen issue.
“This conflict should be resolved, but how it is to be resolved [is what] the two countries have to talk about, a peaceful co-existence between the two neighbors is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people. We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defense and development,” said Kayani.
The conflict began in 1984 when India occupied the heights of the uninhibited glacier located on the northern tip of the military “Line of Control” dividing Kashmir. The Indian move prompted Pakistan to establish posts on Siachen.
General Kayani has dismissed growing calls for unilateral withdrawal of his forces from Siachen in light of the dispute’s human and financial toll. He defends the deployment of Pakistani troops at positions as high as 6,700 meters.
“There should be no doubt we will do our duty and no cost or no reversal will ever deter us from doing that,” he said. “Troops must withdraw – but then, of course, they are sitting for some reason and that reason was not Pakistan.”
It is estimated that the dispute over Siachen has claimed more than 8,000 lives on both sides of the border since it began in 1984. Of that number, less than 1,000 died in the fighting while the rest were killed by extreme weather conditions in the Siachen region.
India and Pakistan both spend hundreds of millions of dollars on maintaining troops on the glacier – money, critics say, that could be diverted to the public welfare if the dispute is settled.
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