India and Pakistan have made "considerable progress" towards resolving the Sir Creek maritime boundary dispute in the wake of a joint survey of the region by experts from both countries.
Of the eight issues being discussed by the two countries as part of their composite dialogue process since 2004, "tangible progress has been made on the issue of Sir Creek", diplomatic sources said in Islamabad.
The issue will figure during the meeting here between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on May 21 to review the composite dialogue process.
Progress towards determining the final status of the marshland, which separates the Kutch region of India's Gujarat state from Pakistan's Sindh province, was made possible by a 20-day joint survey of Sir Creek by hydrographers from India and Pakistan, the sources told Daily Times.
This survey, which began in January 2007, was conducted on land and off the coast to "verify the outermost points of the coastline based on the principle of equidistance", the sources said.
Hydrographers from India and Pakistan exchanged their maps at the Wagah land border on March 22. Though officials from both sides initially said they had differences on the maps, it was later announced that they had found "points of convergence" on the maps, raising hopes for a solution, the daily reported.
Pakistan claims ownership of the whole of Sir Creek, with its eastern bank defined by a "green line" demarcated on a map drawn up in 1914 by the then government of Sindh and the ruler of Kutch. India maintains that the boundary should be defined by the boundary should be the Creek's mid-channel as shown in a map of 1925.
An agreement on the maps would be the first "concrete step" towards ending the dispute, the sources said. They also pointed out that former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri had once said both the Sir Creek and Siachen disputes could be resolved within days.