After a six-year gap, top Indian and Pakistani defence officials discussed this week in the Indian capital New Delhi a possible compromise on their competing claims to the world’s highest battleground, the Siachen Glacier in the Himalayas.
Another group talked about a boundary dispute in the marshlands of Sir Creek, between Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province and India’s western Gujarat state.
The talks were not conclusive, but analysts said the dialogue process was moving forward.
“Clearly, there is life to this process,” said C Rajamohan, South Asia professor at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “There is enough commitment on both sides to sustain the dialogue.”
A joint statement issued after the talks on Siachen ended on Friday, said “the two sides … met to discuss modalities for disengagement and redeployment of troops and agreed to have further discussions”.
The talks followed a series of meetings on measures to build confidence between the two countries, who have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947.
“There is enough commitment on both sides to sustain the dialogue”
As officials keep talking, both countries are abiding by the ceasefire agreed to in November along the Line of Control, the de-facto boundary separating the two sides in the contentious region of Kashmir.
But the two sides still maintain forces in Siachen – where more soldiers have died battling sub-zero temperatures than fighting each other.
The glacier became a focus of hostilities after India deployed forces on it in 1984. Pakistan then moved its troops up to the 6100m high area, which became known as the world’s highest battleground.
Also this week, officials exchanged proposals to ease visa restrictions, host sporting events and promote tourism ties by opening more religious shrines to pilgrims from both countries.
Meetings are scheduled for next week in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad to discuss trade ties and cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking.
The foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in early September to review the progress and decide on when and how the two sides will move into the next phase of dialouge.