Special Correspondent

"An understanding that neither side would occupy the region again could end the problem"

Direct negotiations at highest political level essential Pullout of troops without prejudice to the position of either country needed

CHENNAI: Only political will at the highest level, and not just military pullback, can ensure a lasting solution to the Siachen dispute between India and Pakistan, said president of the Centre for Security Analysis Lieutenant-General (retd.) V.R. Raghavan.

Addressing a gathering on `Siachen: Myth and Reality' here on Friday, Mr. Raghavan said direct negotiations at the highest political level and a pullout of troops without prejudice to the position of both countries and an understanding that neither side would occupy the region again could end the problem.

The CSA chief said that the issue involved interplay of so many factors, and wondered if a coalition Government could bear the burden or if the public or political parties were ready for a solution. "Huge questions are involved and both sides have hardened their positions," he said, adding, "the question now is how would the Government tell the people that a particular solution was an advantageous one." Pakistan, which was never in Siachen, has been keeping a myth going in that country that the glacier was in their possession, he said.

Both the armies are bearing a colossal burden of holding on to their positions under adverse conditions, Mr. Raghavan noted. Quoting a former Foreign Minister, he said there existed a "huge trust deficit" between India and Pakistan.

Ruling out the possibility of India pulling out from the Siachen region unilaterally and Pakistan occupying the glacier, the retired Lieutenant-General said, "There is no military danger. It is a question of sovereignty. No self-respecting sovereign nation can allow such a thing."

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