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Dialogue on Sir Creek begins

B. Muralidhar Reddy

India, Pakistan seek to resolve dispute over coastal strip off Gujarat coast


  • This is the eighth round of talks on Sir Creek
  • Review of the January 2005 survey of the area done
  • Compromise proposal by India until issue is resolved
  • Talks to end on Sunday

    ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Saturday commenced talks on Sir Creek, the disputed coastal strip off the Gujarat coast, with a review of the joint survey conducted in January this year to identify the boundary pillars installed in 1924 to demarcate the area.

    An Indian defence delegation, headed by Surveyor-General of India Gopal Rao held talks with the Pakistani Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Ahsan-ul-Haq Chaudhry, at the Pakistan Ministry of Defence in Rawalpindi.

    This is the eighth round of talks on the subject so far in a bid to resolve mutual claims on Sir Creek. The talks will end on Sunday.

    In January, both sides had deployed eight teams each for the survey of the horizontal segment of the creek. The decision to carry out the joint survey was made at the last meeting between the two sides in December 2004. Sir Creek is part of the eight-point agenda of the Composite Dialogue process.

    The disputed Sir Creek, which runs along the Rann of Kutch in India and Sindh in Pakistan, is at the centre of a 22-year-old dispute between the two countries.

    Both sides believe the survey results will be very useful in resolving the dispute related to the demarcation of the boundary in Sir Creek, a 96 km-long strip of water between the Rann of Kutch (in India) and Sindh (in Pakistan).

    Bone of contention

    The demarcation of boundary has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan for several decades. In 1914, an agreement was signed between the then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch. According to the agreement, both sides agreed to a boundary line running through the middle of the creek as a border between the two States.

    The final demarcation was completed in 1925 in which the boundary was shown by a "green line", depicted on the eastern side of the creek.

    One side of the creek is under Pakistan's control, whereas there are Indian naval installations on the other side. Pakistan lays claim to all the 17 creeks of the Sindh coast, while India maintains that almost half of the area of Sir Creek, the seventeenth one, belongs to it.

    The Indian contention is that the "green line" was simply an indicative line, and the boundary line should be defined by "mid-channel" of the creek as shown on the map of 1925.

    But Pakistan rejects the Indian view on the grounds that the notion of "mid-channel" is applicable only to navigable channels and says this channel is not a navigable one.

    Mutually acceptable

    India has proposed that pending formalisation of the boundary in Sir Creek, the two sides could consider the delimitation of the India-Pakistan maritime boundary from seawards, by commencing at the 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 the exploitation of resources.

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