Pakistan army chief urges India on glacier withdrawal

A Pakistan Army helicopter flies over the site of the avalanche (April 18, 2012) The president was flown over the site of the avalanche in a helicopter

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Pakistan's army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, has suggested that India and Pakistan should withdraw troops from the contested Siachen glacier.

Earlier this month 139 people, including 125 Pakistani soldiers, were buried by an avalanche in the region.

It is claimed by both Pakistan and India, and the two countries each have thousands of troops stationed there.

During a visit to the area with President Asif Zardari, Gen Kiyani said the issue "should be resolved".

But he added "how it is resolved the two countries have to talk about" - a recognition that there have been many unsuccessful attempts to tackle the issue in the past.

At the scene

The Pakistan military flew us over jagged forbidding peaks, fringed with snow. This was a rare trip to the world's highest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier. This frozen wasteland is now the graveyard of almost 130 Pakistani soldiers - buried by an avalanche 10 days ago.

As soon as we reached the site we were told which way to run if we heard a long whistle, signalling another avalanche.

It was a scene of breathtaking beauty, and unspoken grief. Troops dressed in white jackets and white woollen caps were driving bulldozers back and forth, churning up the packed snow and ice. They are trying to dig down to the battalion headquarters, now entombed beneath 200ft of snow.

The search for their brothers in arms goes on around the clock, but it would take a miracle to find survivors now. The tragedy has renewed debate in Pakistan about whether the troops should be there at all. Critics say the glacier has already claimed too many lives.

The president and the general were flown to the site of the avalanche which struck a battalion headquarters on 7 April.

Bad weather and difficult terrain have hampered rescue efforts and no survivors or bodies have been recovered so far.

The area around the camp is surrounded by some of the world's highest mountains and is located 15,000ft (4,570m) above sea level in Kashmir's Gayari district, near the border with India.

Kashmir has been partitioned between India and Pakistan since 1947.

Failure to agree on the status of the territory by diplomatic means has twice brought India and Pakistan to war.

The Siachen glacier is known as the world's highest battlefield, and soldiers have been deployed at heights of up to 22,000 ft (6,700m) above sea level.

More soldiers have died from the harsh weather conditions there than in combat.

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