The India-Pakistan imbroglio(3): Sir Creek Dispute

The third issue of contention between India and Pakistan pertains to the ownership of a creek(a narrow waterway), known as Sir Creek.

Background(About Sir Creek):

  • Sir Creek is a tidal estuary which forms a natural border between India and Pakistan.
  • It lies between the Sindh province of Pakistan and Gujarat of India.
  • It opens up into the Arabian sea.

Image result for sir creek map

Where does the dispute lie?

  • Contention regarding the interpretation of maritime boundary.
  • After partition, Gujarat went to India while Sindh to Pakistan.
  • Demarcation of Sir Creek :
    • from mouth to the top.
    • from the top of creek eastward to the point designated as the Western terminus.
  • Historical dimension:
    • Pakistan: Claims that the whole creek belongs to its Sindh province according to a resolution called the Sind Government Resolution, 1914–> according to this, boundary lies at the eastern flank –> if it is so, the whole creek belongs to Pakistan( refer map–>locate the eastern flank of the Sir Creek–> the so-called international boundary defines Pakistan’s position–> however, it is not formally accepted.
    • India: Boundary lies in the middle of the creek according to a map presented in 1925–>if this is so a part of the creek will belong to both the states.
    • Rule of Thalweg: 
      • India supports its stance with the help of this international doctrine.
      • According to this rule,  river boundaries between the two states may be divided by the mid-channel if the two states agree to do so.
      • Pakistan’s claims:
        • applies to non-tidal rivers(thus, can be used for navigation purpose ) while Sir Creek is a tidal estuary(thus, non-navigable).
        • if demarcated according to the Thalweg, both countries would lose a portion of their respective wetland territories.
        • It may lose a considerable amount of its Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ)* if it accedes to India’s claims.
      • India’s claims:
        • Rejecting Pakistan’s position it upholds that the creek is navigable during a high tide.
        • Thalweg has been used in tidal waters in some cases.
        • Fishing trawlers use the creek to go out to the sea.

Why the dispute need to be resolved soon?:

  • Comprises of huge reserves of oil and gas and so has a considerable bearing on the energy potential of the two countries.
  • It impacts the fisheries sector not only due to disputes regarding fishing waters but also due to hindered navigation of fishing trawlers.
  • The biggest contention pertains to the fishermen who are caught and imprisoned on the either side on the grounds of cross-border fishing.
  • It has become a channel for the flow of terrorists and smugglers into India.

Awards and efforts made till now:

  • 1914: Government of Bombay award–>
    • para 9: eastern plank as the boundary
    • para 10: uphold “Rule of Thalweg”–>navigable channel as the boundary–>internationally accepted.
  • 1925: land boundary demarcated between Sindh and Kutch

Way ahead:

  • Making Sir Creek a common maritime territory between the two under international arbitration.
  • Confidence Building measures like releasing each other’s fishermen.
  • Thalweg doctrine is a doctrine based upon international standards. In case of failure in establishing an agreement between the two sides, India could get the international agreement to support its stand on the platforms like the United Nations.


*Exclusive Economic Zone:  area of coastal waters in which a country can claim rights over fishing , drilling ,and other economic activities. By standards, it covers the area between the continental shelf and the line 200 Nautical miles(1 NM=1.15 Miles) from the shelf.

Following is the mindmap of this topic:



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