India and Pakistan made significant progress on Friday in resolving the dispute over the 65-mile Sir Creek estuary off the Gujarat coast.
Officials said there was convergence 'up to a great degree' over demarcation of maritime boundary based on the maps finalised in the joint survey.
"There is convergence up to a great degree in finalising the maritime boundary using the seaward approach," said an
Indian official, who attended the two-day talks which concluded at Rawalpindi near here today.
The talks were held between the Indian delegation headed by Surveyor General Maj Gen M Gopal Rao and the Pakistani team led by Additional Defence Secretary Rear Admiral Tanveer Faiz.
'The two sides discussed the delineation of the boundary in the Sir Creek in the light of the results of the joint survey. They exchanged maps/charts showing their respective positions on the delineation of the boundary in the Sir Creek and delimitation of the maritime boundary', a brief joint statement issued at the end of the talks said.
Officials said the two sides moved a step closer to the finalisation of the maritime boundary off Sir Creek coast using the seaward approach, which in practical terms meant that both sides leave the disputed Creek for resolution and determine a median line which is equidistant from the nearest points on their respective landmass.
The officials on both sides would now present the result of the talks to their respective governments with their recommendations.
The talks were held under the auspices of the fourth round of the composite dialogue process. This was the 10th
time the two sides discussed the issue. But the progress was possible due to finalisation of maps through a joint survey
conducted by the Navies of the two countries in January this year.
Sir Creek is perhaps the only issue under the composite dialogue process which both sides consider as 'doable'.
Officials believe progress in Sir Creek could enable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to finalise his visit to Pakistan this year.
The joint survey of the estuary has been conducted on land as well off the coast to verify the outermost points of
coastlines in the disputed area on the principle of equi-distance method. This was the second survey of the strip.
The first one conducted last year covered the horizontal section of the Creek.
India says the boundary should be in the middle of the estuary, while Pakistan wants the border form the south-east
bank. The joint survey verified the outermost points and prepared maps based on which a solution could be hammered out.
The determination of the coastline was essential for both countries to notify the maritime economic zone to the UN
Convention on Law of the Sea of which both Pakistan and India are signatories.
The Convention requires that all maritime boundary disputes be resolved by 2009, failing which the UN may declare
them as international waters.