NEW DELHI (AP) – India and Pakistan finished two days of “frank and candid” talks Friday on their competing claims for the world’s highest battleground – a glacier cutting through the Himalayas – and agreed to meet again in the future.

The talks between top defense officials were the first in six years concerning the Siachen Glacier traversing the Himalayan region dividing the longtime, nuclear-armed South Asian rivals. Troops from both nations have faced each other atop the 20,000-foot-high icy region since 1984.

The Siachen issue is part of a larger dispute concerning Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Indian Defense Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Hamid Nawaz Khan, discussed possible compromises Friday concerning disengagement and the redeployment of troops.

“Frank and candid discussions were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, aimed at taking the process forward,” a joint statement said. The officials “agreed to continue their discussions with a view to resolving the Siachen issue in a peaceful manner.”

The Indian Express and The Tribune newspapers Friday quoted unidentified sources as saying the officials were deadlocked over the authentication of maps marking the positions of military forces from both sides.

The Express said Pakistan refuses to accept a proposal to recognize the locations of Indian troops on the 47-mile-long glacier, fearing that could legitimize the troop positions and form the foundation for defining the frontier between the two nations.

The Line of Control, which divides most of Indian and Pakistani Kashmir, does not extend across Siachen Glacier.

The nations agreed to a cease-fire in November but still maintain forces on Siachen, where troops contend with altitude sickness and freezing temperatures.

Friday’s statement said both sides assessed the cease-fire “positively.”

AP-ES-08-06-04 1017EDT



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