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Sir Creek: another Siachen in the making?

January 15, 2013

IS Pakistan going to face a Siachen-like situation in Sir Creek? The Hindustan Times report last month was highly alarming.

According to the newspaper, India is going to erect a floating fence anchored by submerged metallic mashes along the Sir Creek border area with Pakistan.

That too India is not realising that it cannot do any kind of activity on its own because the 96km-long border area is disputed between Pakistan and India. Unless it is resolved amicably or otherwise, both the countries should not, under the 1914 Bombay Resolution, take any kind of unilateral step and resolve the issue within the same parameters.

According to a report published in The Hindustan Times last month, Narindra Modi of India had announced he would initiate two major projects, while erecting a floating ‘gabion box’ fence; the work on which is reportedly going to start with two construction companies given the contract by Indian government, i.e., National Buildings Construction Cooperation (NBCC) and Central Public Works Department (CPWD).

The Pakistan army has recently reprioritised the internal threat as the number one threat to Pakistan’s security. Before that India was the number one threat, thanks to the increasingly normalising relations with the all-time adversary. Under such circumstances no sinister move from the Indian side should have been expected. But such a unilateral decision reminds us that we should ever be cautious.

If one differentiates between a dispute and an issue, I would categorise Kashmir as a dispute and Sir Creek as an issue between Pakistan and India. Of all the issues, Sir Creek has been the simplest one that could have been resolved only as a confidence-building measure. Benazir and Musharraf governments were reportedly close to resolving the Siachen and Sir Creek issues, but probably the Indian intransigence did not give a way.

It is still not late. The Sir Creek issue has to be resolved mutually, as well as amicably, so that the process of bringing two peoples closer is not stopped and the common threat to this region, i.e., terrorism, is countered and defeated with full force.

Both the countries submitted their claims to the UN for increasing the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area through claiming continental shelf in 2009. These claims cannot be approved unless both countries are able to resolve sea boundary issues with each other.

If not resolved, the two will again come to the collision course, with which the populace on both sides would badly suffer.

And if EEZ is not approved, it would affect the economic activity, peace and stability -- a dream that the leadership on both sides wishes to come true. The international community should also facilitate Pakistan-India talks to amicably resolve the maritime boundary issue as early as possible, before it triggers and become counterproductive.

MARYA MUFTY Lahore