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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
India defiant over Siachen trek
Indian soldiers on Siachen Glacier
More soldiers die of cold than bullets on the Siachen glacier
The Indian army has said it will go ahead with plans to allow a group of trekkers to visit the disputed Siachen glacier on Wednesday.

An army spokesman rejected arguments from Pakistan that the trek should not go ahead, insisting that it was "a routine adventure" trip.

Siachen is on the border of Pakistani and Indian-administered Kashmir.

It is a mountainous and extremely cold region that the two sides have fought and argued over for decades.

'Diplomatic affair'

"The issue, as we see it, is a routine adventure activity which will begin from Wednesday and conclude on October 11," Indian army spokesman Col SK Sakhuja told the AFP news agency in Delhi.

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Analysts say plans to trek to the 6,300m (20,800ft) Siachen glacier can be seen as an attempt by the Indian army to add weight to its claims that that it occupies more strategic posts on the glacier than Pakistan.

Col Sakhuja told AFP that the expedition would involve 40 trekkers from the army, a youth wing of the Indian military and pre-selected civilian mountaineers.

He said that the trek would include four days of trekking at an altitude of 16,000ft in a zone that India has been holding since the two armies fought a skirmish there 20 years ago.

"We (the Indian military) are not reacting to the Pakistan protest... that is a diplomatic affair," Col Sakhuja said.

Officials say that India has decided to open 200 peaks, including four on Siachen, to climbers as part of a national "adventure park" project to attract more tourists.

Pakistan has expressed its "strongest reservations" over the proposed trek, arguing that tourism should not be allowed in disputed territories.

"Siachen is a disputed area and such initiatives will harm the dialogue process between the two countries," Pakistani spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

Pakistan and India have been locked in a bitter dispute over the Siachen glacier since 1984.

Both countries have deployed thousands of troops - costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year - on what is described as the highest battlefield in the world, at around 5,500m.

There have been various attempts to reach a compromise through talks.

They have led to some improvement in transport and diplomatic links, but as yet there has been no substantial progress on their main disagreement - the divided Kashmir valley.

More soldiers on both sides have died from the -40C temperatures on Siachen than from enemy fire.





SEE ALSO
On the world's highest battlefield
13 Nov 06 |  South Asia
Talks over Siachen end in failure
24 May 06 |  South Asia
Indian PM visits Siachen glacier
12 Jun 05 |  South Asia

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