Pakistan and India began talks on Friday to resolve a border dispute over a river estuary, as the both make efforts to revive a peace process derailed by the 2008 Mumbai attack.
The two countries conducted a survey of the Sir Creek estuary in 2007 as part of a peace process begun in 2004, before the Mumbai attacks, allegedly carried out by Pakistan-based militants, brought the process to a halt.
The two sides agreed to resume the process in February and held trade talks last month on boosting economic ties. They last held talks on Sir Creek in 2007, officials said.
“The talks were held in a very cordial atmosphere and there has been progress,” said a Pakistani official familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified.
The two sides are expected to meet again today and issue a joint statement, the official said. An eight-member Indian delegation, led by Surveyor General of India Subba Rao, arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for a two-day negotiation on the long-standing dispute over the 96 kilometre estuary in the Rann Kutch area that separates Indian Gujrat from Sindh. The Pakistani side is being led by Additional Defence Secretary Rear Admiral (retd) Shah Sohail Masood.
The dispute over the 100-km estuary has hampered exploration for oil and gas and led to the detention of hundreds of fishermen from the two countries when they stray across the poorly demarcated border.
The Sir Creek issue is one of the more easily resolved issues between India and Pakistan, analysts say, and could lead to progress on more contentious disputes.
One is the Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield in Kashmir, where thousands of troops are holed up in freezing temperatures that have killed more soldiers than fighting.
But the broader dispute over Kashmir in the Himalayan region, divided between the two countries and claimed in full by both, is by far the most complicated issue lying at the heart of decades of hostility.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.