Cheers, Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:03 AM, July 09, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Cheers, Bangladesh

Cheers, Bangladesh

Int'l tribunal upholds country's economic, territorial rights over 200 nautical miles from coast; good job done by Dhaka; Delhi accepts verdict

In a landmark judgment, the international arbitral tribunal yesterday rejected India's maritime claim and upheld Bangladesh's claim of 200 nautical miles' exclusive economic zone and territorial rights in the Bay of Bengal.
The verdict of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in The Hague, went largely in favour of Bangladesh, as it gave the country a substantial share of the extended continental shelf beyond 200NM.
The tribunal awarded Bangladesh 19,467 sq km area out of the disputed 25,602 sq km.
The judgment is final and binding on both countries, and cannot be appealed against.     
“It is a victory for both states, it is the victory of friendship and it is a win-win situation for the people of Bangladesh and India because it finally resolves [the issue] peacefully and according to international law,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali told a press conference at the foreign ministry.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Indian external affairs ministry, said, "We respect the verdict of the tribunal and are in the process of studying the award and its full implications….

This paves the way for the economic development of this part of the Bay of Bengal, which will be beneficial to both countries."
However, BNP Vice-chairman Hafiz Uddin Ahmed said the verdict established India's dominance over the exclusive economic zone in the Bay and that Bangladesh's rights were not protected. He, however, did not explain how.    
At the press conference, the foreign minister lauded India for its willingness to resolve the matter peacefully and its acceptance of the tribunal's judgment.
Bangladesh will now be able to attract international oil companies to explore the deep sea for oil and gas. Past efforts in this regard did not get much response from oil companies due to the maritime disputes with Myanmar and India.
But Bangladesh will have to redesign six offshore oil and gas exploration blocks bordering Indian waters before going for a fresh bid for oil and gas blocks.
With these undisputed waters in hand, Bangladesh can also tap their deep sea fish resources.
“At present, wooden boats can go up to 20 nautical miles and motorised trawlers up to another 20 nautical miles. The total collection of fish from the Bay is around 6 million tonnes annually. Of this, we share only 0.29 million tonnes,” said Rear Admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam, secretary of the maritime affairs unit of the foreign ministry.
“Now with the 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone, the potentials are enormous,” he added.
The foreign minister said the tribunal sustained Bangladesh's claims of equitable solution to a full 200 nautical miles' exclusive economic zone in the Bay and to a  substantial share of the extended continental shelf beyond                  200NM.
“Bangladesh's full access to high seas out to 200 nautical miles and beyond is now guaranteed as are our undisputed rights to fishing in our waters and the natural resources beneath our seabed,” he said.
The verdict ensured Bangladesh more than 1,18,813 sq km of waters comprising territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and also undeniable sovereign rights in the seabed extending as far as 354NM from the Chittagong coast in the Bay.
The five-member tribunal agreed with Bangladesh that the “equidistance” method proposed for dividing the disputed waters between the two neighboring countries was not equitable to Bangladesh.
Former foreign minister Dipu Moni, the chief agent of the country, and Khurshed Alam, the deputy agent, also spoke at the press conference.
Bangladesh favoured a principle based on "equity" while India favoured "equidistance" system to get larger maritime areas.
Dhaka lodged the case against New Delhi with the PCA on October 8, 2009, after India unfairly cut off a significant portion of Bangladesh's maritime area in the Bay.
Earlier, Bangladesh won a similar judgment in a case against Myanmar on March 14, 2012. The 2012 judgment was issued by the 21-member International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany, rejecting “equidistance” boundaries as proposed by Myanmar. The tribunal awarded Bangladesh a sizable share of the disputed waters in the eastern part of the Bay, including the continental shelf beyond          200NM.
In the case against India, the India appointed judge in the PCA Dr Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao put a "note of dissent" on three minor points, but the full verdict was endorsed by all the five judges of the tribunal.
The verdict brings to an end the arbitral process that was commenced by Bangladesh concerning Myanmar and India under the UNCLOS in 2009.
Replying to a question, Khurshed Alam said the ITLOS awarded Bangladesh 70,000 sq km area out of the total disputed area of 80,000 sq km with Myanmar.
He claimed Bangladesh had won in both the cases and the majority of 28 oil blocks came in the water territory of Bangladesh.
The maritime affairs chief said India claimed 10 and Myanmar claimed 17 out of Bangladesh's claim for 28 blocks. But Bangladesh got 12 of the 17 claimed by Myanmar and all the 10 that India claimed, save some small portions of block 5, 9, 14, 19 and 24.
On the question of South Talpatti, Khurshed said the island did not exist anymore and that it went under water after the cyclone at Urir Char in 1985. And as per the Radcliffe boundary delimitation and all the maps published by Bangladesh till 1980, South Talpatti was never a part of Bangladesh.  
“We have failed to prove that Talpatti was in our territory and thus it automatically went to India," he added.
The foreign minister said the verdict would enable both sides to move forward confidently and build a new era of understanding and cooperation in the maritime sector.
'GREY AREA'
The tribunal noted the delimitation line it adopted gives rise to an area that lies beyond 200 nautical miles from the Bangladesh coast and within 200 nautical miles from the coast of India
Within this “grey area,” Bangladesh has a potential entitlement with respect to the continental shelf, but not an exclusive economic zone, while India is potentially entitled to both zones.
Accordingly, the tribunal decided that India would have sovereign rights in the superjacent waters and Bangladesh would have rights on the seabed resources of the grey area.
THE LEGAL TEAMS
The Bangladesh legal team during the hearing on 9 December 2013 in the Peace Palace in The Hague was headed by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Dipu Moni, (as agent), Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and Khurshed Alam.
Bangladesh's external counsels were Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin of the US, Prof James Crawford, Philippe Sands and Alan Boyle of the UK and Prof Payam Akhavan of Canada.
The tribunal was presided over by Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany. The other members were Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Judge Thomas A Mensah (Ghana), Professor Ivan Shearer (Australia) and Dr Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao (India).

Replying to a question, Khurshed Alam said the ITLOS awarded Bangladesh 70,000 sq km area out of the total disputed area of 80,000 sq km with Myanmar.
He claimed Bangladesh had won in both the cases and the majority of 28 oil blocks came in the water territory of Bangladesh.
The maritime affairs chief said India claimed 10 and Myanmar claimed 17 out of Bangladesh's claim for 28 blocks. But Bangladesh got 12 of the 17 claimed by Myanmar and all the 10 that India claimed, save some small portions of block 5, 9, 14, 19 and 24.
On the question of South Talpatti, Khurshed said the island did not exist anymore and that it went under water after the cyclone at Urir Char in 1985. And as per the Radcliffe boundary delimitation and all the maps published by Bangladesh till 1980, South Talpatti was never a part of Bangladesh.  
“We have failed to prove that Talpatti was in our territory and thus it automatically went to India," he added.
The foreign minister said the verdict would enable both sides to move forward confidently and build a new era of understanding and cooperation in the maritime sector.
GREY AREA
The tribunal noted the delimitation line it adopted gives rise to an area that lies beyond 200 nautical miles from the Bangladesh coast and within 200 nautical miles from the coast of India
Within this “grey area,” Bangladesh has a potential entitlement with respect to the continental shelf, but not an exclusive economic zone, while India is potentially entitled to both zones.
Accordingly, the tribunal decided that India would have sovereign rights in the superjacent waters and Bangladesh would have rights             on the seabed resources of the grey area.
THE LEGAL TEAMS
The Bangladesh legal team during the hearing on 9 December 2013 in the Peace Palace in The Hague was headed by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Dipu Moni, (as agent), Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and Khurshed Alam.
Bangladesh's external counsels were Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin of the US, Prof James Crawford, Philippe Sands and Alan Boyle of the UK and Prof Payam Akhavan of Canada.
The tribunal was presided over by Judge Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany. The other members were Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Judge Thomas A Mensah (Ghana), Professor Ivan Shearer (Australia) and Dr Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao (India).

 

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