Pakistan’s remark on Siachen bunkum, says former Lt Gen PN Hoon

Jammu: The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson’s remark that India has never responded positively on proposals regarding demilitarisation of Siachen has been rejected as bunkum by former Indian Army Lt Gen PN Hoon

Responding to Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam statement that a proposal to demilitarise Siachen and declare it as a Peace Park had cropped up during bilateral discussions in the past, but Indian policy towards resolution of this issue always remained inflexible, Lt. Gen Hoon (Retired) said, “I think it is all bunkum. I think Pakistan does not know what they are talking. I think they only know how to send infiltrators and try and disrupt. As far as the Siachen Glacier is concerned, it is a part of India. This was agreed to by the prime minister of Pakistan, Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, when she was the prime minister. The agreement is signed in Shimla.”

Siachen is situated in the northern part of the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The no man’s land is 20,000 feet above sea level.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 Indian and Pakistani troops are stationed in the mountains above the glacier.

Former Jammu and Kashmir police chief MM Khajuria, said, since Pakistan lost to India in terms of acquiring hold in Siachen, they have been making such comments often.

“Siachen gives us strategic advantage in dealing both with China and Pakistan and everybody knows, the entire world knows, what price we are paying to stay at Siachen. So before talking about Siachen withdrawal, Pakistan has to change their entire attitude, become a friend of India, stop meddling in Indian affairs and promoting terrorism in different parts of our country,” said Khajuria.

There has been no fighting in Siachen since 2003 when a ceasefire came into effect between Indian and Pakistani troops.

Both sides lay claim to a region, which is so desolate and so remote that it is not even properly demarcated on a map.

Thousands of Indian and Pakistan troops, often deployed at heights above 18,000 feet (5,500 metres), have died mostly because of avalanches, diseases brought by the altitude and by falling into crevasses.

The two sides spend huge sums of money each year to maintain the soldiers on the frozen wastes.

Meanwhile, retired Indian wing commander, Praful Bakshi, said Siachen is located at a crucial place where India dominates and Pakistan cannot accept this fact. In Siachen, patrolling for a vast area of 10,000-20,000 km takes place, he added.

“The problem with Pakistan is that having lost the whole in Siachen and having seen that India dominating that heights at that place, Pakistan now is at a disadvantage and it does not want to have that disadvantage,” said Bakshi.

He added that once the communication, transportation and railways improve in Siachen, India will reap more strategic benefits of the region.

Twice India and Pakistan came close to an agreement on a mutual withdrawal of troops and creation of a zone of disengagement on the glacier. But they failed to sign the deal.

Kashmir is one of the world’s most militarised regions with an estimated 500,000 Indian troops deployed in the area under New Delhi’s control.

Pakistan has long demanded that India reduce troop levels in Kashmir but India has refused, saying it would do so only if Islamabad stopped militant violence in the region.

The India-Pakistan negotiations made slow progress until New Delhi suspended talks this year after blaming a Pakistan-based Islamist militant group for the July 11 Mumbai train bombings in which at least 186 people were killed.

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