HYDERABAD - India on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s remarks on resolving the Siachen issue, saying the money spent on deployment of troops can be spent on development of the two countries, reported Indian media.

“I am glad that our neighbouring country is also realising the challenges and the economic problems of maintaining troops on the Siachen Glacier,” Indian Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju told reporters in Indian Hyderabad. Observing that the deployment of troops in glacial heights take an economic toll, he said both the countries have their concerns.  “They have their concerns and we have our concerns but it does take an economic toll. This money can be better spent on development of both countries,” the minister said.

Pallam Raju said that maintaining the high-altitude battlefield was a massive economic strain on both countries, and a mutual decision to demilitarise would ensure that the funds hitherto spent on Siachen would be put to better use.

Official sources in Delhi also termed the remarks as a ‘positive development’ since they are made by none other than Pakistan Army Chief, reflecting the readiness of the military to resolve the issues between the two countries. “One has to see who has made the remark, when it is made and the place. All this is very positive,” they said.

Kayani, while visiting Skardu on Wednesday, after the region was hit by avalanche resulting in deaths of a number of civilians and military personnel, had spoken in favour of resolving issues between India and Pakistan and their peaceful co-existence. “All issues should be resolved and peaceful co-existence is very necessary for both countries. There is no doubt about that,” he had said, hoping that the Siachen issue is “resolved so that both the countries don’t have to pay the cost”. “There will be a resolution and we want that there should be a resolution (of the Siachen issue). There should be a resolution of Siachen and other issues,” Kayani said.

Meanwhile, former Indian army official, Lt-Gen (r) PN Hoon, echoing similar sentiments said that Siachen notched more soldier casualties due to its environment than due to actual combat.

“Our troops that have been there have been through hell, much more than the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army (has suffered) because of the avalanche, so have we. The casualties out of 100, they will be 70 casualties, which are for bad weather, high altitude and avalanches, and only 30, which are for (combat). We are spending also. We are spending 6-7 crore a day. Have we become such rich nations today?” Hoon told the media in Chandigarh.