A BEGINNING needs to be made and resolving the Sir Creek dispute is easily the most negotiable lingering disconnect between Pakistan and India. Territorial waters, and the jurisdiction that goes with them, are always a thorny issue even among countries that have far less baggage to handle than the two neighbours on either side of Wagah. In that context, it is encouraging to note that Pakistani and Indian officials engaged in a two-day discussion, that ended on Saturday, on drawing a boundary in the seas that will save citizens of both countries needless heartache and misery. Sir Creek is located in the Rann of Kutch delta. Pakistan claims rights, in accordance with the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914, to the entire waters surrounding and fed by the creek. India, for its part, insists that it owns half of the area on the basis of the Thalweg Doctrine pertaining to international law. The stalemate continues despite the 2007 joint survey which, it was hoped, would settle this relatively minor issue once and for all.
Sir Creek needs to be resolved at the earliest, and it can be done. Then we can discuss thornier issues such as Siachen and the stand-off on that glacier. Once that has been tackled, the two neighbours can perhaps move towards confronting the biggest elephant in the room: Kashmir. That remains a distant dream and, given our mutual history and national interests, it seems unlikely that a solution to that conflict will emerge out of the blue. Still, the key here is to take it one step at a time. Both sides need to ponder, digest and answer questions that have been left unaddressed for far too long. Pakistan's water woes need to be talked about in all sincerity, to name just one pressing topic. Distrust, though understandable on some levels, has got us nowhere. What is required now is the olive branch from both countries so that we live as neighbours. Let's start with Sir Creek and bring the dispute to an end. Repeat: make a start so that the future is brighter for all concerned.