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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 882

India and Myanmar encroaching on Bangladesh’s maritime boundary

Dhaka 15 May, (INA + Asiantribune.com): Bangladesh has been preparing its grounds for justifying its claim over the un-delineated maritime boundary, into which neighboring India and Myanmar have reportedly encroached and started initial preparations for hydrocarbon exploration, according to officials at the foreign ministry.

Despite India and Myanmar’s ‘encroachment’ into Bangladesh’s territorial waters, Dhaka has opted for going for the third round bidding for hydrocarbon exploration in deep water in its claimed 200 nautical miles of territorial water in the Bay of Bengal.

‘We will go for making new blocks throughout our 200 nautical miles of sea and float international tenders,’ the energy advisor, Mahmudur Rahman, told INS. He said he had information that India and Myanmar have encroached into 19,000 square kilometers and 18,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh’s maritime territories and floated international tenders for hydrocarbon exploration.

‘We’ll not spare them…We’ll go for international tenders within our waters,’ said Mahmud, adding that tenders would be floated after the relevant ministries finalize the procedure.

Sources in the Energy Division said Mahmud has asked the energy secretary to send, as soon as possible, a letter with relevant documents and maps to the foreign ministry so that it can take steps against the reported encroachment by the two neighbors.

Following press reports on India and Myanmar encroaching on gas blocks in Bangladesh’s maritime territory, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia summoned the advisor of the foreign ministry, Reaz Rahman, and the secretary of the ministry, Hemayetuddin, to ask them about the latest situation, said PMO sources.

Asked to comment on the reported encroachment on our deepwater hydrocarbon exploration blocks by India and Myanmar, a top foreign ministry official said none of the three nations have yet demarcated the maritime boundary, and Bangladesh has been preparing its arguments to substantiate its claim.

Bangladesh claims, according to the Law of the Sea, 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone and 350 nautical miles of the continental shelf under the Bay of Bengal.

The country has been allowed 10 years’ time to justify its claim since it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea in 2001.

The foreign ministry official termed the matter ‘very sensitive’ and said the government was conducting a number of studies and training its officials on many other complex matters related to maritime surveys.

‘Neither India nor Myanmar has yet established legitimate right on areas of deep water as they have not yet resolved the matter with Bangladesh,’ said a high official of the foreign ministry.

He added that the Indian authorities had signed the UN convention on marine law in 1994 and their work on maritime demarcation was supposed to end by 2004.

But, he said, India have sought five more years to complete the works and Myanmar’s deadline for demarcation work is 2009.

Although the government has been trying to make headway in a lot of matters related to maritime boundary demarcation, it has produced hardly any news.

‘Due to lack of capacity to conduct surveys —bathymetric, gravity, magnetic and seismic surveys — in the continental shelf, the country has passed almost half of its stipulated 10 years’ time,’ a source in the foreign ministry told New Age on Sunday.

The delay in establishing Bangladesh’s claim to its maritime territory has prompted the other neighbors to encroach, observed another source.

In this circumstance, he said, the government is thinking of hiring international experts in addition to training up its own people to get the rest of the things in order in the next five years.

The country is now lacking the necessary data even to protest if any of the neighbors make any undue claim, although the government had announced earlier determination of the maritime boundary baseline as per the UN convention, completion of the physical survey, and purchase or charter of necessary equipment for the survey, which is a priority project of the prime minister, with a deadline in June this year.

Asked for an official comment on the progress of the work, the chairman of the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization, Abdul Halim Hawlader, declined to talk to the press.

The director of the Geological Survey of Bangladesh, Sirajur Rahman Khan, however, said that his department has finished part of the work. The GSB was given the responsibility of finding out the pattern of coast-line changes in the Bay of Bengal.

- INS + Asian Tribune -

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