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Volume :2 Issue : 8 1976      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE BOUNDARY DISPUTE BETWEEN EMIRATES OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES AND HER NEIGHBOURS

Auther : By: Dr. Mohammed Rashid Al-Fil

 
The United Arab Emirates, dates back as a political entity only, to December 1971.  It recovers an area of 77700 square kilometer and has a population of about 65000 (1975 census).
It is consisted of seven emirates namely: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Um al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and al-Fujairah.  All the seven emirates are coastal settlements except in so far as some of them have inland enclaves surrounded by the territories of one or more of the Emirates.  Six of the emirates lie on the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf while the seventh is situated entirely on the Batinah Coast – on the Oman sea with no direct access of its own to the Arabian Gulf.
Politically, the Shaikhdoms forming the united Arab Emirates present an extraordinary patchwork quilt of intermingled states with numerous enclaves and dependencies intruding into one another’s’ territory.  For example the boundaries of Sharjah, are intermingled with others belonging to Fujairah.  Sharjah also has several dependencies names: Kalba, Dibba and Khor Fakkan, all of which are situated some distance away on the Batinah coast of the sea of Oman.  While ‘Ajman has two inland dependencies one at Manama and the other at Masfut in the hills near the Muscat boundary, but they are far away and communication with them is not easy.  Um al-Qaiwain possesses an enclave at the Oasis of Falaj al-Mu’alla.
Most of the region is desert, uninhabited except for a few nomadic tribes.  Economic life depended mostly on pearl diving, fishing, cultivation and grazing.  Their way of life is primitive; society is tribal in structure.
In the past, there were no clearly defined boundaries between the Shaikhdoms because the tribal limits for the use of Pastures, grazing or wells, were vaguely recognized.  The desert is like an ocean highway across which the nomadic tribes could move at will.  Nomads with their herds of camels and flocks of sheep or goats roamed the desert.  Their pattern of movement is normally fixed.  It may alter slightly, or even dramatically, with changes in the grazing brought about by drought or other causes.  This might be a reason for quarrels and minor warfare between tribes, but in general the open desert was no-mans’ land.  Sovereignty was based on tribal allegiance and normally the concept of clearly defined boundaries in desert areas was of little consequence.  The loyalty of a tribe man is to his tribe, Shaikh or leader and not to the State.  The Shaikh exercised jurisdiction over a territory by virtue of his Jurisdiction over the tribes inhabiting it.  The tribesmen in turn, owed loyalty to the Shaikh not to the State in which they dwelt.  Thus boundaries are of no meaning to the tribesmen, and that is why Lord Curzon once remarked: “….There has always been a strong instinctive aversion to the acceptance of fixed boundaries, arising partly from the nomadic habits of the people and partly from the dislike of precise arrangements that is typical to the oriental mind”.
The vast stretches of desert that, in many cases separated the rulers from one another, greatly hindered the active prosecution of territorial claims on the far marches of their dominions, and served to limit clashes of authority among them to tribal raiding and counter raiding.  This order of things has been fast changing, chiefly because of the exploitation of oil in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the possibility of oil discovery in the United Arab Emirates states has made boundary demarcation and essential priority to peaceful development.  But it was not an easy task, because the boundaries of the United Arab Emirates, like those of most countries without naturally marked frontiers, witnessed many fluctuations.  Previously, there had been no boundaries between the States of the United Arab Emirates, as boundaries in the European sense, were unknown anywhere in Arabia.
Oil concessions were held, thus made the demarcation of boundaries a matter of urgent necessity, because disputes started between the different states forming the United Arab Emirates and their neighbours on a piece of land or Sabkha that was once neglected, because a square mile of land might mean a fortune.
By 1954, delimitation of frontiers became essential, particularly to settle oil-concession.
Mr. J.F. Walker (Political Agent) began to carry out a delimitation enquiry and survey in 1955, and all the rulers undertook to abide by the political Agents’ decision on frontier declaration.
Mr. Walker reviewed 36 areas and was able to recommend a final decision in 20 areas, with a more limited form of agreement in seven, in nine cases he found it impossible to make any recommendation.  There are still unsettled cases of boundaries between the Shaikdoms who are supposed to form one state (The United Arab Emirates).  These disputes are threatening the future of the United Arab Emirates.
The writer discussed in detail the relation of the United Arab Emirates with her neighbours Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, and the boundary disputes between them.  The occupation of Abu Musa, Tomb and Nabiya islands by Iran was also discussed.
 

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