Pakistan and India have resolved to find an “amicable settlement” to the Sir Creek issue, as they exchanged “non-papers” during their talks on the maritime boundary dispute that concluded on Saturday.
The non-papers, diplomatic phrasing for negotiating texts informally circulated by countries to facilitate discussions without making any commitment to the contents, were exchanged as the two countries held their first round of talks on the Sir Creek issue after four years.
“Both sides exchanged non-papers in order to take their discussions forward, with a view to find an amicable settlement of the issue. They agreed to meet again at a mutually convenient date,” said a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day talks.
“The talks, held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, focused on the India-Pakistan land boundary in the Sir Creek area and the delimitation of the international maritime boundary between the two countries,” the statement said.
An official requesting anonymity said there was no mention in the statement of a joint survey of the 96-km estuary conducted in early 2007, but the two sides exchanged maps outlining their respective positions.
He said Additional Defence Secretary Rear Admiral Shah Sohail Masood, who led the Pakistani delegation at the talks, told the Indian side that the joint survey should not be considered a basis for an agreement.
“The survey had not resulted in agreement on the boundary in any of the segments,” Masood was quoted as saying.
It was during the last round of talks on Sir Creek issue four years ago that the two countries made significant progress in resolving the dispute over the estuary in the Rann of Kutch separating Indian Gujarat from Sindh.
The official said the dispute over the 96-km estuary had stopped the exploration for oil and gas in the area and also led to the detention of hundreds of fishermen from Pakistan and India when they happened to stray across the poorly demarcated border.
According to the official, the Sir Creek was a “doable” issue that could be resolved easily compared to other conflicting issues between Islamabad and New Delhi and its settlement could lead to the progress on more contentious disputes like Kashmir and Siachen.