M A I N   N E W S

India, Pak begin talks on Sir Creek with open mind
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 25
Surveyors-General of India and Pakistan today held result-oriented and purposeful talks on Sir Creek, the 96-km-long estuary in the marshes of the Rann of Kutch, separating Gujarat (India) from Sind (Pakistan), which has been the bone of contention between the two countries.

The talks were held in two sessions in the morning and afternoon. Major-Gen M. Gopal Rao, Surveyor General of India, is leading the Indian side, while the Pakistani delegation is led by Admiral Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudhri, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

General Chaudhri, while speaking to a select group of journalists before the talks, said: “We are here with very open mind, looking forward to purposeful and result-oriented talks. We believe that an earlier settlement would help increase economic activity and bring prosperity to the people”.

General Rao said: “We are hopeful that some outcome will come out (off this meeting). The talks are being held in a cordial atmosphere”.

Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Tariq Wasim Ghazi yesterday expressed the hope for forward movement in talks over Sir Creek. “We should be able to have joint survey and updating of the obsolete maps which will give clear picture of the issue”, he said. A joint survey in a part of the area had been carried out, General Ghazi pointed out.

The dispute relates to the demarcation of boundary from (i), the mouth of the Sir Creek, to the top of the Sir Creek and (ii) from the top of the Sir Creek eastwards to a point designated as the Western Terminus. The boundary thereafter has been demarcated.

The Indian position is that pending formalisation of the boundary in the Sir Creek, the two sides could consider the delimitation of the India-Pakistan maritime boundary from seawards, by commencing at Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) limit and proceeding landwards up to a mutually acceptable limit as per provisions under Technical Aspects of Law of Sea (TALOS). The seaward approach is based on internationally accepted principles and will benefit both countries for exploitation of resources in respective EEZs.

The Pakistani position is just the opposite: that they would consider maritime boundary only after the determination of land boundary in the Sir Creek area and that both these issues should not be de-linked and would need to be addressed in one package.

The resolution of the Sir Creek dispute has a major consequence. First of all, this border, once defined, can be the basis of the determination of the maritime boundaries, which are usually drawn as an extension on sea from reference points on land. Maritime boundaries have helped in defining the limits of the EEZs. Pakistan is insisting on defining the proximity of its land frontier in the Sir Creek area in a manner that will give it control over larger EEZs.

Besides, the area also has a bearing on the energy potential of the two countries as there is the possibility of the presence of an enormous quantity and volume of oil and gas along the sea-bed in this zone.

A major fundamental difference between India and Pakistan on the issue relates to its navigability. 



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