Pakistan protests India glacier tourism plan

Pakistan protests India glacier tourism plan


Islamabad: Pakistan protested to rival India on 17 September over its plans to open up a disputed and heavily militarised glacier in Kashmir to tourists, saying it could hurt an ongoing peace process.

The Indian army said on 13 September that the first group of trekkers would set off later this month for the 6,300-metre (20,800-feet) high Siachen glacier, a battlefield occupied only by Indian and Pakistani troops since 1984.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan launched a slow-moving peace dialogue in 2004. They have fought three wars since independence 60 years ago, two of them over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which is split between them.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told a weekly briefing that India’s deputy ambassador had been summoned on Monday to receive a “strong protest" over the Siachen plan.

“The area remains a conflict zone and the reported move by India to open this for tourism could aggravate the situation with serious consequences that vitiate the atmosphere for the ongoing peace process," she said.

Although guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent, the lofty zone remains a contentious issue whenever it is raised in talks. The Indian army, which has occupied most of the glacier since 1987, says it wants “iron-clad" evidence of existing troop positions to dissuade Pakistan from moving its soldiers forward in the event of a pull-out.

Pakistan, however, fears that setting out its positions would be tacit acceptance of India’s claims to Siachen and the area as a whole. Experts say India has around 5,000 troops on the glacier, while Pakistan has less than half that number.