Barrister Haaris Ramzan and Enas Liaquat The dispute between Pakistan and India over the Sir Creek is now a long and extended disagreement. It is even a great disappointment to observe that the area has to offer enormous economic gains to both the nations. At the same time, control over the creek would have a huge bearing on the energy potential of each nation. 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. Sir Creek is a 96km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. The creek, which opens up into the Arabian Sea, divides the Rann of Kutch region of India with the province of Sindh in Pakistan. The creek itself is located in the deserted marshlands. Initially, there are two issues involved in the dispute. Firstly, the delimitation of the boundary along the creek, and secondly, the demarcation of the maritime boundary from the mouth of the creek seawards into the Arabian Sea. The rules of international law are of some significance here. The United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 had converted several laws and regulations that had existed over many years, as Customary International Laws (CIL) in the form a binding treaty. This treaty has been ratified by a number of states, including Pakistan and India. In accordance with the principles of CIL, these norms are persuasive in nature, but their consistent use and practice have an obligatory effect. Pakistan claims that the understanding between the Nawab of Kutch and the Government of Sindh forms part of the CIL. It lays claim to the entire creek, in accordance with the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch. The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary to be eastern flank of the creek. The same was endorsed in the map drawn by the Survey General of India, 1930. India takes the position that the boundary lies mid-channel. Technically speaking, this extended period i.e. from 1914 till date is enough to build up an argument that the CIL is enough to bind India so as to extend the Sir Creek boundary straight into the sea. The difference of opinion lies in the interpretation of the boundary line between Rann of Kutch and Sindh. In 1914, the region was a part of Bombay Presidency of undivided India. After the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan, while Kutch remained a part of India. India further supports its stance by citing the Thalweg Doctrine under 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 doctrine, it maintains that the same is not applicable in this case, as it only applies to bodies of water that are navigable, which Sir Creek is not. If we accede to India's point of view, it would also result in the shifting of the land and sea limit point several kilometres to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in the loss of several thousand square kilometres of its EEZ under the UNCLOS 1982. The matter was also referred to arbitration and the Indo-Pakistan Western Boundary Case Tribunals Award on February 19, 1968, that upheld most of Indias claim to the entire Rann of Kutch conceding very small sections to Pakistan.However, the arbitrator never adjudicated on the boundary of the present Sir Creek, as both parties agreed that no dispute existed beyond Border Pillar 1175. Both states are parties to the UNCLOS 1982,India and Pakistan are under an obligation to settle the matter based on principles of international law. The UNCLOS 1982 is a comprehensive agreement pertaining torights of countries over sea resources. The mechanism for resolution of disputes between states with opposite or adjacent coasts is provided in Article 83 of the UNCLOS 1982. The Article 83(1) is of significance over here. It states: The delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis of international law, as referred to in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, in order to achieve an equitable solution. The students of international law would realise at this juncture that Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) forms the primary sources of international law. According to the Article, in the list of sources, the CIL is next to the law of treaty. I believe that in accordance with the above mentioned paragraph, Pakistan has a strong argument under its belt. Pursuant to Article 76(8) of the UNCLOS 1982, Pakistan submitted its claim to Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for the extension of its continental shelf on April 30, 2009, whereas, India submitted a partial claim to the Commission on May 11, 2009. Pakistans claim was accepted by the UN and its continental shelf was extended to 350 nautical miles. This topic is quite immense in nature and would require several such Articles to explain. But what is more important for Pakistan and India at the moment is to realise that with the changing scenarios, it is imperative for them to exploit their natural resources, especially in the continental shelf region. The writers are associated with the Research Society of International Law (RSIL), Pakistan. Email: haarisramzan@rsilpak.org