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Non-papers exchanged on Sir Creek issue

Anita Joshua

India, Pakistan discuss delimitation of their International Maritime Boundary


In 2007, joint survey was done on the 96-km strip of water to define boundary

Fishermen of both countries often landed prison stints after straying in contested waters


ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Saturday sought to take “discussions forward” on the vexed Sir Creek issue by exchanging ‘non-papers' and agreeing to meet again at a mutually convenient date. Non-papers are negotiating texts informally exchanged by countries to facilitate discussion without making any commitment to the content.

Ahead of wrapping up their two-day meeting in Rawalpindi, the official delegations discussed the India-Pakistan land boundary in the Sir Creek area and delimitation of the International Maritime Boundary between the two countries.

The Indian delegation was led by Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao and the Pakistani delegation by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Shah Sohail Masood. The Indian delegation also met Pakistani Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, according to a joint statement issued simultaneously by the Pakistan Foreign Office and the Indian High Commission here.

Considered among the most “doable” of the contentious issues between the two countries, the last meeting on Sir Creek, in May 2007, had seen the two countries discuss the delimitation of the maritime boundary as well as the delineation of the boundary in Sir Creek in the light of the results of a joint survey conducted earlier that year. Maps and charts, which showed respective positions on the twin issues, had been exchanged.

The joint survey of Sir Creek — a 96-km strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands — was conducted from mid-January, 2007, as per an understanding reached between the two sides in May, 2006, to undertake an exercise that would verify the outermost points of the coastlines of both countries with regard to the equidistance method.

Having triggered the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the disputed marshland, which separates Pakistan's Sindh province from Gujarat on the Indian side, has been the bane of the fishermen of both countries as they are often caught straying into contested waters, ending up in long prison stints that are further stretched if there is a freeze in bilateral relations.

While neither side was willing to elaborate beyond the joint statement, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua maintained the broad understanding that neither side would cross words on ticklish issues in public since the second Thimphu thaw set in this February.

‘It is an Indian list'

Asked to comment on the controversy over the Indian list of ‘50 most wanted terrorists', which New Delhi handed over to Islamabad only to discover later that at least two of them were in India, Ms. Janjua refused to be provoked into a sharp response. “It's an Indian list. The Indians can put any name they want on it. It is for them to decide whom to put on the list. As far as we are concerned, we will consider any such issue raised with us with great seriousness.”

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