BD seeks Indian support to establish its rights on Bay’s grey area waters
Published : Monday, 18 November, 2019 at 12:00 AM Count : 312
Bangladesh has sought Indian support to establish Bangladesh's right on the water of the "grey area," created by the judgments in maritime delimitation cases between Bangladesh and India (2014) in the northern Bay of Bengal involving intersecting and overlapping rights and responsibilities in terms of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf regimes.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (during her last visit to India) to withdraw its claim over the waters of the grey area that is cutting off Bangladesh's access to the deep sea and creating a dispute over 9,000 square kilometers of areas claimed by Bangladesh," a senior official told the Daily Observer mentioning that Bangladesh wants to resolve the maritime boundary issue with India through taking a decision amicably.
"Following the meeting, a technical committee has been formed to look into the issue, it has started its job, however, after getting the committee report we both the parties will sit to discuss the issue," State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam told this correspondent.
He said Bangladesh is now waiting for the Indian decision in this regard.
As per arbitral verdict, "The delimitation line drawn by the arbitral tribunal has created a so-called "grey area" beyond 200 M of Bangladesh's coast but within 200 M of the coast of India. It said Bangladesh has sovereign rights to explore the continental
shelf and to exploit the "mineral and other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil together with living organisms belonging to sedentary species, while India has sovereign rights to the EEZ in the superjacent waters."
Then question arise that how the local and foreign ships enter and exit from the Bangladesh's territory, and how it will start its exploration in its disputed EEZ in these areas? However, the arbitral tribunal left the issue to the parties to determine practical arrangements for the exercise of their respective rights in the "grey area," a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said quoting the verdict of UN.
In 2009, India submitted its claim to UN on the continental shelf of the Bay of the Bengal cutting off Bangladesh's access to the deep sea and creating a dispute over 9,000 square kilometers of areas claimed by Bangladesh. India also created another dispute by setting a coordinate 2.3 miles inside the Bangladesh territory on the official maps.
"Bangladesh has rejected and continues to reject all delimitation claimed by India in the Bay of Bengal, to the extent they infringe on the rights and claims of Bangladesh, as they are inconsistent with UNCLOS and general principle of international laws," the official said.
In the objection Dhaka also pointed out that on October 8 in 2009, Bangladesh initiated an arbitration proceeding against India and therefore the unresolved delimitation in the Bay of Bengal should be considered as a dispute.
After two years, in 2011, Bangladesh submitted its claim of the continental shelf and India also objected to the claim in the same year. Eventually in 2014 the arbitration proceeding against India came to an end and Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) gave its verdict.
Foreign Ministry's official documents said that in 1974 when Bangladesh enacted Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974 and based on the Act, the then government on April 13 in 1974 notified the United Nations about its territorial waters. But in the later years Bangladesh never pursued the claim it had made to the UN in 1974.
A similar grey area was created by ITLOS in Bangladesh and Myanmar, where the seabed of the grey zone is Bangladesh's continental shelf and the superjacent waters constitute Myanmar's EEZ," an official said.
He said the result is an unusual delimitation, where Bangladesh's EEZ is entirely surrounded by the EEZ of India and Myanmar, but Bangladesh is, nevertheless, entitled to a continental shelf beyond 200 M, lying in some places underneath the EEZ of India and Myanmar.
Bangladesh in accordance with the verdict published a gazette in 2015 declaring its baseline, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone. The government declared Haribhanga River as the first baseline point, Putney Island as the second, Dakhin Bhashanchar as third, Cox's Bazar as fourth and St Martin's Island as the fifth baseline point. With the new gazette it repealed the notification it submitted to the UN in 1974.
After two years of publishing the government document, India in 2017 put forward its objection against Bangladesh gazette and made a submission to the United Nations.
In the submission India objected to Bangladesh's base point 2 (Putney Island) and basepoint 5 (St Martin's Island) and claimed that due to these two points Bangladesh's Exclusive Economic Zone encroached into Indian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Grey Area.
Bangladesh submitted its objection in 2009 challenging India's claim on continental shelf while India made two submissions in 2011 and 2017 objecting Bangladesh's claim on continental shelf, baseline points and encroaching in Grey Area.
"Now if Bangladesh agrees to withdraw its 2009 objection in return of India's withdrawal of only 2011 submission, it would be a wrong decision. It should be seen holistically and Bangladesh should and must resolve the maritime dispute at one stroke by telling India to withdraw its entire objection," the official said.
"The diplomatic manoeuvre may sound very simple but it has political ramification as two other problems - India objections to Bangladesh baseline points and Grey Area - are also related to continental shelf claim in the Bay of Bengal. If Bangladesh prefers to resolve only continental shelf claim dispute keeping the other two problems unresolved, in the future it might be extremely difficult for Dhaka to negotiate on the issue," a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said preferring anonymity.