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Siachen: Antony rules out troop pullout

Siachen: Antony rules out troop pullout

Author: Manu Pubby
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 6, 2007
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/30206.html

On his first visit to Siachen after taking over as Defence Minister, A K Antony has said India and Pakistan are not anywhere close to finding any immediate solution to the conflict that has turned the region into the world's highest battlefield. After a visit to assess the living condition and morale of troops at forward posts on the icy heights, Antony said while "goody-goody talks" are on, the nation cannot forget "bitter memories of the past with some of our neighbours".

Asked whether a solution was imminent on demilitarisation of the glacier, the minister indicated that there was little forward movement with Pakistan on the issue. "I cannot say that (a solution is imminent). Before any forward movement, we must authenticate actual ground positions (of troops). After that we can think of the next step," Antony said.

While India has held its stand of troop authentication on the glacier before even starting talks on demilitarisation, Pakistan recently indicated that it may be willing to accommodate India's demand provided there is no legal validity of the authentication. The last rounds of talks were held in Islamabad on April 6. The Defence Minister's remarks are a sign that little progress has been made on the issue since then. "Our clear policy is not to spoil the (forward) movement but history is also on our minds. Both sides need to authenticate troop positions both in maps and on the ground," Antony said.

He also made it clear that there would be no withdrawal of troops from Jammu and Kashmir or the Siachen glacier without the consent of the armed forces. "As far as we are concerned, we will go for professional advice. Deployment of armed forces depends on the level of militancy," Antony said, building up the Army's case for no withdrawal of troops till cross-border terrorism stops completely.

The minister said while there had been no major border violations in the country in the last three years, eternal vigil was required. "The situation is somewhat peaceful in the North-East and in Jammu and Kashmir. We have to do our best to continue the peace process. But we must not forget the bitter past. Eternal vigilance is necessary," he said.

The minister visited troops at the Siachen base camp as well as the highest training school in the world-the Siachen training camp based at the snout of the glacier-after taking a sortie in an Army helicopter to observe forward Indian positions. The minister interacted with troops at the Kumar Post on the glacier. The visibly happy minister said that he was delighted with the troop's morale.

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