Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju on Thursday welcomed Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's call for both nations to demilitarise the world's highest battlefield at the Siachen glacier on their international border.
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.
"I am glad that our neighbouring country Pakistan is also realising the challenges of, and the economic problems of maintaining troops on the Siachen glacier. They have their concerns, we have our concerns, but it does definitely take an economic toll. This money can be better spent on the development of both countries," he told the media in Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, former Indian army official, Lieutenant-General (retd) 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 crores a day. Have we become such rich nations today?" Lieutenant-General (retd) Hoon told the media in Chandigarh.
Pakistan's army chief had earlier on Wednesday made a call for the demilitarisation of the world's highest battlefield after touring the site of an avalanche that buried 129 Pakistani soldiers near the border with India.
Noting that withdrawal of troops from Siachen is necessary to improve 'atmosphere', he said 'the issue' needs to be resolved by Pakistan and India.
Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in a standoff on Siachen since 1984.