Despite high hopes, the two-day talks between India and Pakistan made little headway as the arch-rivals concluded on Tuesday deliberations on how to resolve their maritime boundary dispute in the Sir Creek region.
The talks – which began on Monday in the Indian capital – were being led by Defence Ministry Additional Secretary Rear Admiral Farrukh Ahmed from Pakistan and Surveyor General of India S Subba Rao to find a durable solution of the disputed 96-kilometre of marshland between Sindh and India’s Gujarat. They even issued a joint statement but the talks were eclipsed by events in Pakistan where the prime minister was rendered disqualified.
Indian sources said the talks made little headway. “If India had yielded some space on Siachen, Pakistan may have offered a breakthrough in Sir Creek. But that didn’t happen and in any case, there were other more urgent matters to address,” said a top Indian official.
“Sir Creek is the easiest of the India-Pakistan problems to resolve. But we must see some movement on terrorism,” said an official.
The talks on Tuesday remained cordial and civilised. The Pakistani delegation also met Shekhar Agarwal, the additional secretary in India’s defence ministry.
“The two sides discussed the land boundary in the Sir Creek area and also delimitation of the International Maritime Boundary between India and Pakistan,” said a joint statement after the talks.
“They reiterated their desire to find an amicable solution through sustained and result-oriented dialogue,” said the statement.
However, India watched with concern, the internal events in Pakistan — assessing how it will affect future cooperation including the visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan.
“There was chemistry with Mr Gilani. Now, we just don’t know,” said the official.
Top officials said it was not a question of whether the PM would visit Pakistan, but when. “But now, this will have to be completed either in September or October, because of the internal dynamics of the Pakistani politics.”
The creek, which opens up to the Arabian Sea, has been one of the several points of contentions between the neighbours.
India has long held that the creek boundary should be in the middle of the estuary, while Pakistan claims that the border should lie on the southeast bank.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.