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New Delhi: India and Pakistan failed to arrive at an agreement on demilitarizing the Siachen glacier during their two-day talks but resolved to “make serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts" to reach a settlement, a joint statement released in New Delhi said on Tuesday.

Both countries, which have fought four wars since independence from British rule in 1947, said a ceasefire along their borders, which came into force in November 2003, was holding. The next round of talks would be held in New Delhi, according to the statement.

Both countries have held many rounds of discussions on demilitarizing the glacier— known as the world’s highest battlefield—where Indian and Pakistani troops face each other at elevations between 3,600 metres and 5,700 metres in sub-zero temperatures. The subject has been part of the peace talks between the two countries for years since the 1980s after India captured vantage positions in the area.

India has been insisting that Pakistan mark the current position of its troops at Siachen on a map before it agrees to withdraw from the positions it currently occupies, which will be a record of the positions both sides hold in the event of a dispute.

Hopes for an early resolution of the Siachen dispute were ignited after Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said in a rare statement in April that the conflict should be resolved. He made the statement at Skardu—in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir—after visiting Gyari, the site of an avalanche in Siachen that buried 124 soldiers of Pakistan’s 6 Northern Light Infantry and 11 civilians on 7 April.

“This conflict should be resolved. How it is done is to be decided by the military and civil leaderships of the two countries," Kayani was quoted as saying by media reports. “Sometimes we get close to a resolution but then issues come up."

The fact that it was Kayani—a reported hardliner on India—who was making the comments had raised expectations of a breakthrough during dialogue.

But days before the talks on 11-12 June, defence minister A.K. Antony was quoted as telling reporters in New Delhi that India has “a very clear-cut position" on Siachen. “Don’t expect any dramatic announcement. It is very important to us in terms of national security," Antony had said.

India and Pakistan first decided to fast-track a resolution to the Siachen dispute and demarcation of their maritime boundary in the Rann of Kutch between Gujarat and Pakistan’s Sindh province in 2006 during a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf in the Cuban capital of Havana. And again in April this year, Singh and Zardari decided to push for an early resolution of the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes.

There was speculation in the media that Singh would like to have an early solution to either or both the disputes to enable him to make a visit to Pakistan later this year.

In January last year, Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said in an interview to Mint that both sides were close to agreements on both the issues.

elizabeth.r@livemint.com

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