Sir Creek

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Sir Creek About this sound listen  is a 96 km (60 mi) strip of water that is disputed between India and Pakistan 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 located at approximately 23°58′N 68°48′E / 23.967°N 68.800°E / 23.967; 68.800. Originally and locally it is called 'Baan Ganga'. Sir Creek is named after the British representative.

The long-standing dispute hinges in the actual demarcation "from the mouth of Sir Creek to the top of Sir Creek, and from the top of Sir Creek eastward to a point on the line designated on the Western Terminus".[1][2] From this point onwards, the boundary is unambiguously fixed as defined by the Tribunal Award of 1968.[3]

The creek itself is located in the uninhabited marshlands. During the monsoon season between June and September, the creek floods its banks and envelops the low-lying salty mudflats around it. During the winter season, the area is home to flamingoes and other migratory birds.

Dispute[edit]

The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh. Before India's independence, the provincial region was a part of Bombay Presidency of British India. After India's independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Kutch remained a part of India.

Pakistan lays claim to the entire creek as per paras 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914[4] signed between the then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj, the ruler of the princely state of Kutch.[5]

The Green Line is the boundary as claimed by Pakistan, the red line is the boundary as claimed by India. The black line is the undisputed section.

The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek. The boundary line, known as the "Green Line", is disputed by India which maintains that it is an "indicative line", known as a "ribbon line" in technical jargon.[3] India sticks to its position that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.[6]

India supports its stance by citing the Thalweg Doctrine in International Law. The law states that river boundaries between two states may be, if the two states agree, divided by the mid-channel. Though Pakistan does not dispute the 1925 map, it maintains that the Doctrine is not applicable in this case as it only applies to bodies of water that are navigable, which the Sir Creek is not. 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. Another point of concern for Pakistan is that Sir Creek has changed its course considerably over the years. If the boundary line is demarcated according to the Thalweg principle, Pakistan stands to lose a considerable portion of the territory that was historically part of the province of Sindh. Acceding to India's stance would also result in the shifting of the land/sea terminus point several kilometres to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square kilometres of its Exclusive Economic Zone under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea.

In April 1965, a dispute there contributed to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, when fighting broke out between India and Pakistan. Later the same year, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. A verdict was reached in 1968 which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of 9,000 km² (3,500 sq. miles).

Atlantique incident[edit]

This disputed region is known for the Atlantique Incident, in which a Pakistan Naval Air Arm Breguet Atlantique patrol plane, carrying 16 people on board, was shot down by Indian Air Force MiG-21 fighters for an alleged airspace violation of Indian airspace on August 10, 1999. The episode took place just a month after the Kargil War, creating a tense atmosphere between India and Pakistan.[7]

Economic reasons[edit]

Though the creek has little military value, it holds immense economic gain. Much of the region is rich in oil and gas below the sea bed, and control over the creek would have a huge bearing on the energy potential of each nation. Also once the boundaries are defined, it would help in the determination of the maritime boundaries which are drawn as an extension of onshore reference points. Maritime boundaries also help in determining 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.[3]

The demarcation would also prevent the inadvertent crossing over of fishermen of both nations into each other's territories.

Dispute resolution[edit]

Since 1969, there have been twelve rounds of talks between the two nations, without a breakthrough. The twelfth round was completed in June 2012.[8] Steps to resolve the dispute include:

  1. Allocation
  2. Delimitation
  3. Demarcation
  4. Administration

Since neither side has conceded ground, India has proposed that the maritime boundary could be demarcated first, as per the provisions of Technical Aspects of Law of Sea (TALOS).[5] However, Pakistan has staunchly refused the proposal on the grounds that the dispute should be resolved first. Pakistan has also proposed that the two sides go in for international arbitration, which India has flatly refused. India maintains that all bilateral disputes should be resolved without the intervention of third-parties.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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Coordinates: 23°56′59.50″N 68°18′34.40″E / 23.9498611°N 68.3095556°E / 23.9498611; 68.3095556