Vol. 5 Num 479 Fri. September 30, 2005  
Front Page

India mulls pullout from Siachen
4 rebels die in Kashmir shootouts

India and Pakistan have agreed on the need to withdraw troops from the Siachen Glacier but are stuck on verifying each other's positions before they pull back, the Defence minister said in an interview on Wednesday.

Several thousand soldiers of the two countries have died on the world's highest battlefield.

The two sides have held several rounds of talks to end the stand-off but have never been able to agree on finalising a deal.

"We have agreed, they have agreed to withdraw troops from the present positions," Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in an interview.

"The disagreement is, where we are demanding that we must identify the places ... where we were before withdrawal so that there is a record that the respective country's troops occupied these places," he said.

"Pakistan's point of view is when we have agreed to withdraw ... what is the relevance (of this) after the withdrawal agreement is signed," Mukherjee said.

India was insisting on marking positions, as it wanted to record evidence in case the glacier was reoccupied, he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf held talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month but failed to announce any breakthrough.

However, Musharraf said the two sides had made considerable progress on Siachen, without elaborating.

The two countries' foreign ministers are due to hold talks next week to review the peace process.

There has been no fighting on Siachen since November 2003, when a ceasefire came into effect. But both sides have lost more troops there in the past two decades to altitude sickness, sub-zero temperatures and avalanches than to enemy action.

Meanwhile, four Islamic militants were killed Thursday in two shootouts in Indian Kashmir including one near the border with Pakistan, the Indian army said.

Two militants were killed in a gunbattle that erupted when police raided a militant hideout in the northern district of Kupwara near the border, army spokesman Vijay Batra said.