Pakistan and India on Saturday 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 South Asian 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 talks began on Friday. The Pakistani side is being led by Maj Gen Jamil-ur-Rahman Afridi, surveyor general of Pakistan, while chief naval officer Rear Admiral BR 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 that Islamabad and New Delhi have been discussing as part of a peace dialogue.
Although the oil and gas rich Sir Creek is not considered a priority, the lack of a well-demarcated border remains a problem. Both Pakistan and India have accused each other of trespassing and have arrested fishermen who inadvertently crossed into the other's territorial waters.
Pakistani and Indian officials last discussed the dispute in New Delhi in December 2005, and according to Pakistani officials, the two sides were now close to reaching an accord.
The two sides are expected to issue a joint communique after the talks end on Saturday.
In another sign of rapprochement Friday, India freed 57 Pakistani fishermen and other prisoners, and Pakistan released 50 Indian detainees, also including fishermen.
Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations and have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. However, the two sides have recently taken steps to ease tensions, and resolve lingering disputes, including the issue of Kashmir.