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 Additional Secretary in the Defence Ministry, Shah Sohail Masood. The Indian delegation also met the Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, according to a joint statement issued simultaneously by the Pakistan Foreign Office and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
Considered among the most "doable" of the contentious issues between the two countries, the last meeting on Sir Creek in May 2007 had seen India and Pakistan discuss the delimitation of the maritime boundary as well as delineation of the boundary in Sir Creek in the light of the results of the joint survey conducted earlier that year. Maps and charts showing 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 of 2007 as per an understanding reached between the two sides in May 2006 to undertake such an exercise that would verify the outermost points of coastlines of both countries with regard to the equidistance method.
A trigger for the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, this disputed marshland separating Pakistan’s Sindh province from Gujarat on the Indian side has been the bane of fishermen of both countries as they are often caught straying into contested waters; ending up in long prison stints that get 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 between the two sides not to cross words on ticklish issues in public since the second Thimphu thaw set in this February.
Asked to comment on the controversy over the Indian list of '50 most wanted terrorists' that New Delhi handed over to Islamabad only to find out later that at least two of them were in India itself, 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 who to put on the list. As far as we are concerned, we will consider any such issue raised with us with great seriousness."