ISLAMABAD – “There are greater chances of finding survivors under the avalanche in Gyari than softening of Indian stance over Siachen,” said Foreign Policy Analyst, Ambassador Asif Ezdi here on Thursday.

He was speaking at a roundtable organised by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on “Pak-India Peace Process and Siachen”. He was of the view that the general perception of Siachen conflict in Pakistan was that of madness, but that this perception was not shared across the border in India. He elaborated the military, economic, and environmental costs of the conflict, but showed his concern that India was willing to pay all those costs rather than resolve the conflict.

Former diplomat, Aziz Ahmed Khan, went a step further and said, “We should not waste time of the two Defence Secretaries and do away with the Defence Secretary-level dialogue.” He was of the view that Indian stance has hardened over the years since the two countries had come closest to resolving the conflict in 1989 in the fifth round of Defence Secretary-level talks. In his opinion the Siachen conflict would not be resolved in the near future.

Former Foreign Secretary, Riaz Khokhar shared that he had attended around seven of 12 Defence Secretary-level dialogues and that the minutes of those meetings all read the same. He did not have any hopes of a settlement of the dispute in the upcoming round of negotiations.

Arshad H Abbasi of SDPI shared that India was already sending geologists to the disputed region for the prospects of establishing hot-thermal power plants and exploration of minerals.

Lt Gen (Retd) Saleem Haider expressed his heartfelt grief over the loss of human life in Gyari. He added, however, that the incident should not make Pakistani leadership eager for a settlement on the Indian terms. “We should not appear as quitters,” said Gen. Haider.

Mr Ezdi also expressed his discontent with the politically and emotionally charged discussion on the Siachen conflict after the Gyari disaster. He called for a balanced and objective understanding of the dispute and, thus, suggested solutions. He firmly disapproved of the suggestion of unilateral withdrawal of troops from the area.

Dr. Qamar uz Zaman Chaudhry, highlighted the environmental costs of the conflict, especially the recession of the Siachen glacier because of the presence of the two militaries, and urged the two countries to find a solution for the dispute for the benefit of the people of both the countries.

BA Malik, called for a greater understanding of the local, regional and international context of Pakistan before weighing in Pakistan’s options in the scenario. He called environmental disasters wake-up calls for decision-makers on both the sides. “Zero-sum games hardly result in peace,” he said.

Elaborating on the legal aspect of the conflict Ahmer Bilal Soofi, said that Pakistan’s offer to attach an annexure to the military withdrawal agreement detailing demilitarisation from occupied positions should have held value for the Indian side. He argued that Indian insistence on demarcation of Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) “would have a pre-emptive implication in support of a solution favouring India,” which would not be acceptable to Pakistan.