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Still In A Mire

It's nearly a century old, but the Sir Creek issue festers

Still In A Mire

Sir Creek. This name keeps cropping up as a small blip from time to time on the diplomatic screens of India and Pakistan. Somehow, in the din of the dispute over Kashmir, Sir Creek,a far less complicated issue,hasn't got the attention that it deserved. A little flexibility from both sides would solve this problem. That will have a bearing on the delineation of the maritime frontiers of India and Pakistan and open up these areas for economic exploitation.

Sir Creek is a 65-km stretch of marshy wasteland along the Gujarat-Sindh coast. It's a tidal channel, only navigable by small vessels, and then only during high tide. The dispute over Sir Creek relates to two issues. First, the delimitation of the international border along the creek and second, the demarcation of the maritime boundary in the Arabian Sea. The latter depends on the former. Unless the terminal point of the land boundary is determined, the maritime boundary can't be mapped. And therein lies the whole problem.

Without a maritime boundary demarcation, neither country can exploit the resources in the exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles or its continental shelf of 350 nautical miles.

The differences in demarcating the boundary in Sir Creek are like this: India has argued that the boundary should run through the middle of the navigable channel. Pakistan says no. It argues that the boundary should run along the eastern edge of the creek, thus taking the whole creek into Pakistan.

Both countries depend on a 1914 resolution between the states of Sindh and Kutch. Its text says the boundary should run through the middle, but an accompanying map (B-44) had a Green line running along the eastern edge of the creek, which Pakistan says was the boundary between Sindh and Kutch. Demarcation and administration, that is, regulating the demarcated boundary and exercising administrative control, based on this resolution was completed in 1925.

In '68, the India-Pakistan Western Boundary Case Tribunal was set up to demarcate the border in the Rann of Kutch. However, the Sir Creek dispute was left over from it and continues to dog the two countries till today. So far, several rounds of talks have been held on this issue since the late '80s, but the problems remains unresolved.

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