India, Pakistan to resume defence talks after four years

Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters here Wednesday that India would hold its defence secretary-level talks with Pakistan May 30-31.

Antony did not specify the agenda of the talks between Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and his Pakistani counterpart Lt. Gen. (retd) Syed Athar Ali.

But sources told IANS that Siachen, Sir Creek and the ceasefire on the Line of Control - the de facto border in Jammu and Kashmir - are likely to figure in the talks.

The dialogue - part of the of bilateral peace process that was revived after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks - on these issues between the two neighbours would be held after four years.

The last time such talks were conducted was in 2007 when the two countries had made significant progress in resolving the Sir Creek dispute over the 96-km estuary in the Rann of Kutch separating India's Gujarat state from Pakistan's Sindh province.

The two sides have also maintained a ceasefire since November 2003 on Siachen and throughout the LoC, though there have been allegation by India that Pakistan has violated the Kashmir truce agreement.

The bone of contention in negotiations between India and Pakistan has been delineation of 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) along the LoC.

Sources said both sides are looking at demilitarising Siachen.

India wants authentication of the AGPL on maps and on the ground before there is demilitarization of the Siachen glacier. The Indian Army is presently occupying most of dominating posts there.

The sources said the Indian Army was opposed to the idea of demilitarisation before the authentication of the AGPL because it suspects that Pakistan may embark on a misadventure and take over the vacated positions.

The Indian Army has maintained and defended its key posts on the glacier in spite of sub-zero temperatures round the year and extremely inhospitable conditions.

The defence secretary-level talks follow meetings between the foreign, home, commerce and water resources secretaries in the past few months.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of Pakistan battling a volatile situation amid increasing terror attacks in key areas following the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by elite US commandos in Pakistan's garrison town of Abbottabad.


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