According to some experts, among all bilateral disputes between Pakistan and India, Sir Creek has the simplest solution and can be resolved as a confidence building measure (CBM), laying down path for solving more complex issues(like Siachin, Kashmir etc).
Last week India and Pakistan concluded a meeting to resolve this issue, and also agreed to some points. Some of them are De-Linking the maritime boundaries from land, Marking from seaward to that point where both side agrees, declaring the area into free zone or maritime sensitive zone, or also area can be declared as jointly administered maritime park. The experts in the meanwhile also highlighted that in case the shore points are accepted by both the sides mutually, the boundary line marked using angular bisection would only undergo a few changes when final baseline would be established.
Sir Creek Issue:
The crux of the dispute over Sir Creek is about understanding the maritime boundary between the Kutch and the Sindh region of respective countries. Sir Creek is a 96 km marshy strip in the Rann of Kutch area lying between the southern tips of Pakistan’s Sindh province and Indian state of Gujarat, opening in the Arabian Sea. Earlier it was a part of British India, and after partition Sindh entered into Pakistan and kuch remained a part of Indian mainland.
Pakistan derives its claim for this region as per paras 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between the then Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj, the ruler of the princely state of Kutch, according to which Creek was included in sindh region.
The dispute was also referred to the India-Pakistan Western Boundary Case Tribunal, presided by Swedish Judge Gunnar Lagergren, and authorities awarded a solution in February 1968 that was accepted by both contestants. A verdict was reached which saw Pakistan getting 10% of its claim of 9,000 km² (3,500 sq. miles).
But the consequent Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) granted Pakistan and India rights under the convention over the sea resources up to 200 nautical miles in the water column and up to 300 nautical miles in the land beneath the column. Resultantly, the position of both the countries hardened, since the EEZ congruent to Sir Creek is not only rich in marine life, but may also contain sub-surface energy deposits and comprises rich nourishment resources at the sea bottom.
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. But then further complexity arises due to classification of water body into navigable and non-navigable body. In normal condition Sir creek is not navigable but in high tides it is.
Hope such initiatives will work and try to find out some amicable solution to this problem, as it will helpful for the fisherman from both sides which are suffering most.