India, Pak talk towards resolution of Sir Creek Issue

India and Pakistan recently concluded a meeting withimage an aim to resolve Sir Creek dispute. Besides, issues on Siachen and Kashmir are other territorial troubles b/w the two nations were also discussed.

Image Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk

Both countries agreed on certain issues including:

  • De-linking maritime boundaries from land.
  • Marking from seaward to the point where both these sides agree.
  • Declaring non-defined area (Sir Creek and the approaches) as free zone or the maritime sensitive zone, or turn the area into the a jointly administered maritime park.

Sir Creek Issue

Sir Creek: It is 96 km narrow strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. The creek, which opens up into the Arabian Sea, divides the Kutch region of the Indian state of Gujarat with the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is locally called Baan Ganga.

Dispute: it is a bone of contention b/w India and Pak. The major issue over Sir Creek is about understanding of the maritime boundary b/w the Kutch and the Sindh. The region remained part of British India before India’s independence. After partition of 1947, Sindh went to Pakistan and Kutch remained with India.

Why so much fight for this region b/w India and Pakistan?

  • Little military value but immense economic value
  • Region is rich in oil and gas below the sea bed
  • With Creek as reference, maritime boundaries will be which will in turn determine the limits of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and continental shelves. EEZs extend to 200 nautical miles (370 km) and can be subjected to commercial exploitation.
  • The demarcation would also prevent the inadvertent crossing over of fishermen of both nations into each other’s territories.

What Pakistan says:

  • Pakistan lays claim to the entire creek as per paras 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 inked b/w the then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj (the ruler of the princely state of Kutch).
  • Although Pakistan doesn’t challenge the 1925 map, it holds that the Thalweg Doctrine in International Law is not relevant in this case as it only holds for bodies of water that are navigable, which the Sir Creek is not.

What India says:

  • India supports its stance by citing the Thalweg Doctrine in International Law.
  • India rejects the Pakistani stance by maintaining the fact that the creek is navigable in high tide, and that fishing trawlers use it to go out to sea.

How Pakistan looses if the boundary line is demarcated according to the Thalweg principle?

  • The Thalweg principle states that river boundaries between two states may be, if the two states agree, divided by the mid-channel.
  • If the boundary line is demarcated as per the Thalweg principle, Pakistan stands to lose a substantial share of the territory that was historically part of the province of Sindh.
  • Submitting to India’s position would also lead to the shifting of the land/sea terminus point several km to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square km of its EEZ under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea.

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