Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan and India nearing border solution

AP , ISLAMABAD

Pakistani porters stand in a queue as they prepare to exchange goods with Indian porters at the Wagah Border check post yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan and India yesterday resumed talks aimed at resolving a lingering territorial dispute that has hindered oil and gas exploration and led to the arrests of fishermen from both sides.

The talks on the Sir Creek -- a strip of marshland that flows into the Arabian Sea between Pakistan's southern Sindh Province and India's western Gujarat state are part of a peace process and warming of relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors that began in 2004.

"The Indian delegation has arrived at the Defense Ministry, and the talks have begun,'' said a senior ministry official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The negotiations began on Friday. The Pakistani side is being led by Major General Jamil-ur-Rahman Afridi, surveyor general of Pakistan, while chief naval officer Rear Admiral B.R. Rao is leading the Indian delegation.

Sir Creek is one of eight contentious and unresolved issues between Pakistan and India -- including the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Islamabad and New Delhi have been discussing border disputes as part of an ongoing peace dialogue.

The oil and gas rich Sir Creek is not considered a high priority in the dialogue.

The lack of a well-demarcated border in the area nevertheless remains a problem.

Both Pakistan and India have accused each other of trespassing and have arrested fishermen when they have inadvertently crossed into the other nation's territorial waters.

Pakistani and Indian officials last discussed the border dispute in New Delhi last December.

According to Pakistani officials, the two sides were now close to reaching an accord.

They were expected to issue a joint communique after the talks ended yesterday.

In another sign of rapprochement on Friday, India freed 57 Pakistani fishermen and other prisoners.

Pakistan also released 50 Indian detainees, including fishermen from the disputed creek.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations and have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Both countries have tested nuclear weapons.

However, the two sides have recently taken steps to ease tensions, and resolve bitter lingering disputes, including the issue of Kashmir.

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