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Abhishek Tyagi: What is the dispute over Sir Creek between India and Pakistan? What is the importance of this region for India?

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  • P.K. Upadhyay replies: Sir Creek issue is defying solution because of the deep rooted syndrome of lack of trust in Pakistan. Unless the element of trust is restored through Pakistani actions, attitudes and utterances, any real and meaningful progress on this, as well as other issues like Siachen, looks somewhat remote. Sir Creek is an area that has not been demarcated between India and Pakistan by a clearly delineated maritime border.

    The Indo-Pakistan international border starts from the point where coming from the Arabian Sea Sir Creek joins the land mass. This area had not been demarcated as it had not been properly surveyed due to its being somewhat desolate and inhospitable. Nonetheless, taking advantage of a 1914 Bombay Government Resolution that sought to demarcate Sir Creek between Sindh and Kutch divisions of the Bombay state as an internal administrative measure, Pakistan began to lay claim over the entire Creek. They conveniently ignored the reality of Sindh and Kutch having become parts of two sovereign states, India and Pakistan, and thus their maritime boundary now needed to be settled as per international norms, mainly the Thalweg Doctrine, which follows the meridian principle. In fact, another resolution of the erstwhile Bombay Government adopted in 1925 did install mid-channel pillars in Sir Creek. Pakistan does not agree with India since an acceptance of these provisions would lead to redrawing of the maritime boundary in the area, re-delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and other fishing areas in the Arabian Sea. This could be detrimental to Pakistani hopes as it anticipates the presence of hydro-carbon resources in the area.

    India is not inclined to take any chances simply on the basis of pious hopes and intentions. If India gives up control of the eastern bank of the Creek, there is no guarantee that Pakistan would not claim any new territory in the sector, particularly if any oil or gas discovery is made in the region. Thus, the trust deficit in Pakistan that bedevils the overall Indo-Pak relations also makes any progress in resolving the Sir Creek issue that much more difficult.