‘Pakistan should take the initiative even if India is not flexible'

The former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, urged India and Pakistan on Tuesday to withdraw their troops from the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield where the vagaries of nature claimed more lives than actual fighting.

Mr. Sharif also made out a case for Pakistan taking the initiative after visiting the Gayari sector of the glacier where round-the-clock efforts are on to dig out the bodies of the 124 soldiers of 6 Northern Light Infantry and 11 civilians buried under 80 feet of snow dislodged by an avalanche on April 7. He is the first politician to make it to the site of the natural calamity that has left the nation pondering over the futility of manning the glacier, where not a blade of grass grows but billions have been spent by both countries to secure their northern-most frontiers. President Asif Ali Zardari was to have visited Gayari on Monday, but aborted his plans because of bad weather.

Speaking to journalists at Skardu after returning from Gayari, Mr. Sharif said the two countries should resolve the differences over Siachen and use the money more productively, for the development of the people.

Asked who should take the first step, he said Pakistan should take the initiative even if India was not flexible. Islamabad has long held that the Siachen dispute is a low-hanging fruit on the list of issues that need to be resolved between the two countries. Members of the security establishment argue that it is unfortunate that India is not agreeing to go back to the pre-1984 position first and then discuss the border demarcation further north of NJ 9842.

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