”We’re now waiting to receive the copy of the full verdict of the ITLOS. We’ve to go through the whole text of the verdict and then move to prepare a plan for next activities,” said a senior official at the Energy Ministry wishing anonymity as he is not officially authorised to comment on the matter.
The comments from Prime Minister’s Advisor for power and energy Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury and State Minister for Power and Energy Mohammad Enamul Haque were not available as both are now abroad on official tour.
The ITLOS in its verdict on Wednesday recognised Bangladesh’s claims to a full 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) beyond 200 nautical miles.
The ruling, by a vote of 21 to 1 brings to a conclusion the case initiated by Bangladesh against Myanmar in December 2009 to resolve longstanding dispute regarding the maritime boundary between the two neighbouring states. The judgment is final and without appeal.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni who received the verdict said that all of the country’s strategic objectives have been achieved. Bangladesh’s full access to the high seas, out to 200 nautical miles and beyond, is now recognised and guaranteed. This would enable Bangladesh to have undisputed rights to the fishes in the waters and the natural resources beneath the seabed.
She said Bangladesh wanted 107,000 square kilometres area in the Bay but got 111,000 square kilometres.
Dipu Moni said the energy-starved Bangladesh’s exploration for petroleum and natural gas in the Bay of Bengal, long delayed by conflicting boundary claims, can now proceed. “It’s not only a success, but a tremendous success for us,’’ the Foreign Minister told UNB.
Myanmar had claimed that its maritime boundary with Bangladesh cut directly across the Bangladesh coastline, severely truncating Bangladesh’s maritime jurisdiction to a narrow wedge of sea not extending beyond 130 nautical miles.
Myanmar also claimed that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to award continental shelf rights beyond 200 nautical miles from either State’s coast. The tribunal rejected both of these arguments.
Bangladesh had floated international tender for its 28 shallow and deep sea blocks in the Bay of Bengal in 2008. But Myanmar and India raised objections claiming their rights on some of the blocks, which finally prompted the government to move the ITLOS.
However, though the dispute with Myanmar has now been settled through the ITLOS verdict, the dispute with India remains to be resolved.