Dec 122012

A day before the Gujarat assembly poll, Chief Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday stirred a hornet’s nest by writing to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against handint over Sir Creek to Pakistan . In a strong rebuttal, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the claims are “unsubstantiated” “untrue” and “mischievous”.

In his letter, signed as “a concerned citizen”, the Gujarat chief minister said: “I am writing on a serious issue of talks being held on Sir Creek being handed over to Pakistan . Any attempt to hand over Sir Creek to Pakistan would be a strategic blunder considering the history and sensitivity of the region.”

The two-time Gujarat chief minister, said : “I would earnestly request you to stop this dialogue with Pakistan at once and Sir Creek should not be handed over to Pakistan.”

“I am writing to you at this juncture as I was told that a decision is being taken on Sir Creek issue on December 15,” Modi said in the letter.

He asked the prime minister to “stop taking any decision on this issue”.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik is likely to visit India December 14-16 for talks on the demarcation of the Sir Creek, among other issues.

In a strongly worded rebuttal, the PMO said : “The prime minister has received a letter dated 12th December 2012 from Narendra Modi, making unsubstantiated allegations and statements about discussions with Pakistan on the Sir Creek issue.”

“The contents of the letter and the timing of its release to the public, even before it was formally received in this office, raise questions about the motives behind its issue. The writing and release of this baseless letter by the Chief Minister of Gujarat in his ‘personal’ capacity, a day before elections in the state, is mischievous,” it added.

The first phase of the Gujarat elections are slated for Thursday, while the second phase is on Dec 17. Counting is on Dec 20. Modi, a senior BJP leader, who has been the chief minister of the state for two terms, is tipped to return to power once again.

The PMO also said the discussions with Pakistan had been carried out by successive Indian governments since the dialogue process began in 1998 and continued after former prime minister and Bharatitya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in 1999.

“The allegation in the letter that Sir Creek is about to be given to Pakistan is untrue. Therefore, the other conclusions drawn by Modi from this alleged fact are also not real,” the statement said.

“It also seems that Modi has written his letter without making any efforts to ascertain the facts from the government of India,” it added.

Sir Creek is a 96-km-long disputed area between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands, which opens up into the Arabian Sea. The Sir Creek divides the Kutch region of Gujrat and Pakistan’s Sindh province.

The marshy waterbody has been under dispute with the two countries and India and Pakistan have been discussing the issue for quite a long time.

In his letter, Modi said Sir Creek has been settled 100 years back between rulers of Kutch and Sindh.

“Even the tribunal verdict in 1968 headed by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson shows Pakistan getting only 10 per cent of its claim of 9,000 sq kms of this border area,” he said.

“Handing over Sir Creek to Pakistan will totally open up Gujarat border with Pakistan. I was given to understand that recently Pakistan carried out a joint operation of their army, airforce and navy code named Sea-spark-12, almost one month ago very near to Sir Creek,” the chief minister alleged.

“Handing over Sir Creek to Pakistan will give them more control over the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the sea. This will be a permanent threat to fishermen of Saurashtra and Kutch area and also to the vital installations and major industrial installations like refineries and ports,” he said.

“Handing over Sir Creek to Pakistan will endanger our energy security as Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat has vast potential of oil and gas both off shore and onshore,” he said.

“At no point in the entire process has the Gujarat government been consulted. In a similar case of Teesta agreement with Bangladesh, West Bengal Chief Minister was consulted and the agreement was cancelled,” he added.

“After the elections are over in Gujarat, I shall seek your time to discuss this issue with you,” he added.

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