Sir Creek listen (help·info) is a 96 km (60 mi) strip of water on the border of India and Pakistan. The creek, which opens up into the Arabian Sea, divides the Gujarat state of India from the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is located at approximately .
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". From this point onwards, the boundary is unambiguously fixed as defined by the Tribunal Award of 1968.
The creek itself is located in uninhabited marshland. 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.
The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Pakistan and India. Before independence, the area was part of Sind Province of British India. After independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Gujarat remained a part of India.
The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the one territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek. 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.
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. sindh 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.
This disputed region is known for the Atlantique Incident which occurred on August 1999. The Indian IAF's MiG-21FL fighters shot down the Pakistan Navy's recconnaisance plane, the Breguet Atlantique which was carrying 16 naval officers on board, 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.
After the incident, the Pakistan Marines units have been deployed in the region, with a sizable SAMs active in the region. In 1999, the Marines reportedly fired an errant missile on Indian IAF's MiG-21FL, which they narrowly missed. Additional marines battalions and sniper reconn units have been deployed in the Sir Creek region.
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.
The demarcation would also prevent the inadvertent crossing over of fishermen of both nations into each other's territories.
Since 1969, there have been twelve rounds of talks between the two nations, without a breakthrough. The twelfth round was completed in June 2012. Steps to resolve the dispute include:
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). 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.
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