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Sir Creek row unresolved, India to make claim to continental shelf

National,Business, Sun, 22 Mar 2009 IANS

New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) While the dispute over the Sir Creek maritime boundary with Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch remains to be resolved, India is filing its claim in the United Nations for extending its continental shelf before the May 13 deadline, a senior armed forces official said.


The claim, if approved, will give India exclusive rights over mineral and non-living resources in the nearly 250 square miles of area in the Kutch region. Though Indian authorities are confident of resolving the issues during the next dialogue, the government will be staking a claim before the UN.



'The May 13, 2009, deadline was given 10 years ago... by this time all the nations have been asked to stake their claim to the continental shelf which will then govern the area of exclusive economic zone for the particular nation. If a nation does not meet the deadline, all the countries can come and explore the waters,' the official said, requesting anonymity.



The Cabinet Committee on Security has already cleared the claim, which the Ministry of External Affairs will soon stake before the 21-member UN Committee on Legal Continental Shelf.



A continental shelf is defined as the natural prolongation of the land territory under the sea till the end of the continental margin and the countries have to submit documented scientific evidence along with their claims.



The United Nations' Convention on the Laws of Sea, to which both India and Pakistan are signatories, gives coastal countries an exclusive right over the resources in the continental shelf even if it extends beyond their Exclusive Economic Zone, which is roughly 200 nautical miles from the base coastline.



'The non-resolution of the Sir Creek boundary dispute means that there are no land boundaries for delineating the sea boundaries. But we can always stage the claim, following which no party can exploit the waters unless the issue is resolved after negotiations,' the official added.



The Sir Creek boundary, the 96-km long strip of water that opens into the Arabian Sea and separates Gujarat from Sindh in Pakistan, has been a dispute between the two countries since Independence. The creek is supposed to have rich oil and gas reserves.



The official also added that recently both sides had exchanged the latest hydrographic maps of the area and were close to resolving the issue when the terror attack on Mumbai Nov 26 last year froze the diplomatic dialogue between the two countries.



'The next time we sit, we can resolve our issue of the Sir Creek. Our maps (drawn on the basis of the hydrographic survey) were similar,' the official added.


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