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Pakistan's powerful Army chief calls for demilitarization of Siachen Glacier

Pakistan's Army chief has called for a demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier, dubbed as the world's highest battleground.

Siachen Glacier rescue photo 2012 4 19Enlarge
A Pakistani soldier wearing sunglasses looks on at the avalanche site during an ongoing operation at Gayari camp near the Siachen glacier on April 18, 2012. Rescuers are still searching for nearly 140 soldiers buried by the mass of snow and rock at Gayari camp near the Siachen glacier, 4,000 metres above sea level. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan's Army chief has called for a demilitarization of the Siachen Glacier, dubbed as the world's highest battleground.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's surprise call for talks with India over the region, part of the disputed Kashmir state, came after he visited the Gayari army base, where rescuers are still searching for nearly 140 people buried in nearly 80 feet of snow and rock by a massive avalanche April 7.

"Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbors is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people," Kayani told reporters, according to IBNLive.com.

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Reuters cited Kayani — considered one of the most powerful men in Pakistan — as saying the standoff had been costly in many ways, from defense spending to the environmental impact of deployments in the area.

"I think this is one good enough reason that this area should not be militarized," he reportedly said.

VOA quoted him as saying that Pakistan was seeking resolution of all disputes with India, including the Siachen issue.

“This conflict should be resolved, but how it is to be resolved [is what] the two countries have to talk about, a peaceful co-existence between the two neighbors is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people," he said.

"We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defense and development."

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President Asif Ali Zardari also visited Gayari and flew over the site, which sits at 13,000 feet above sea level, with Kayani in a helicopter to monitor search and rescue efforts, Pakistan's Onlinenews.com reported.

The conflict in the region began in 1984, when India occupied the heights of the uninhibited Himalayan glacier on the northern tip of the military “Line of Control” dividing Kashmir.

The Indian move prompted Pakistan to establish posts on Siachen, parts of which sit at 20,000 feet above sea level.

Military experts say Siachen's climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120418/pakistan-army-kashmir-siachen-glacier-avalanche-india-himalaya