Three arbitrators’ hiring discussed

January 29, 2010

Sea Boundary With India
Three arbitrators’ hiring discussed
India and Bangladesh yesterday discussed the appointment of three arbitrators to a five-member tribunal, which would deal with the issue of maritime boundary dispute between the two countries.
The over-an-hour-long meeting held at the South Block here also discussed the disputes and issues relating to Bangladesh’s approaching the UN Convention of the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).
The meeting was held as a “fulfilment” of the declaration by the two countries in the Joint Communiqué, issued after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Delhi from January 10 to 13, with both sides pledging to sort out the maritime boundary issue amicably.
Both India and Bangladesh have nominated one arbitrator each and the meeting discussed the issue of three other arbitrators, sources here said.
However, the meeting did not discuss the more complex issue of criteria like “equity” or “equal distance” or a combination of both in demarcating the territorial waters in energy-rich Bay of Bengal, which had given rise to the dispute.
Bangladesh’s Additional Foreign Secretary Khurshid Alam led a four-member delegation while S Thirumurthy, joint secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, headed a seven-member team at the talks.
The maritime boundary issue was a key item on their summit agenda when Hasina held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on January 11.
In October last year, Bangladesh had approached the UNCLOS seeking arbitration to delineate the boundary of the continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal.
Dhaka’s decision to move the UNCLOS came after India and Myanmar protested against Bangladesh allotting offshore oil blocks to two multi-national companies, ConocoPhillips and Tullow, last year.
Before yesterday’s meeting, India and Bangladesh had held two rounds of talks on demarcation of maritime boundary in September 2008 and March 2009.
Bangladesh has registered its objection with the UN to India’s claim over certain areas in the Bay of Bengal, three months after a similar missive was filed against Myanmar’s claim.
The three nations have not clearly demarcated their maritime boundaries and are moving the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), a UN body to deal with the law of the seas.
Dhaka had a stand-off with Myanmar in November last year and with India earlier this year when survey ships and naval vessels from the neighbourhood marked their presence in territory that Bangladesh claims as its own.
India submitted its claim on maritime boundary to the CLCS in May 2009, one month ahead of its deadline.
Bangladesh lodged its objection to Myanmar’s claim last July.
Dhaka’s disputes over territorial waters in the bay with both New Delhi and Yangon are in two areas — that of natural prolongation of the continental shelf and the baseline.
India argues that the course of the natural prolongation of continental shelf is from east to west while Bangladesh says it is from north to south.
However, Bangladesh and Myanmar had succeeded in sorting out the issue some days ago as Yangon for the first time accepted the principle of equity and both sides opted for a combination of equity and equal distance in sorting out the boundary issue.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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