We're Live Bangla Saturday, June 03, 2023

Dhaka must stand up to Delhi in Bangladesh’s deep sea claim


Bangladesh’s maritime boundary dispute that has yet to be settled is its claim on ‘grey areas’ in the northern Bay of Bengal, born out of the maritime boundary delimitation with Myanmar in 2012 and India in 2014, which involves intersecting and overlapping rights to exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. The resolution of Bangladesh’s claim on the continental shelf has been pending with the United Nations for about 13 years as Myanmar registered some observations on the claim involving the outer continental shelf. Bangladesh also put an objection on record contesting India’s claim on the continental shelf. The dispute surfaced in 2009 much before the maritime boundary settlement as India submitted its claim on the continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal cutting off Bangladesh’s access to the deep sea. India in 2009 created another dispute by setting a coordinate 2.3 miles inside the Bangladesh territory on the official map that India proposed. The resolution of Bangladesh’s claim now appears to have run into difficulty as India on Friday registered its objection with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf against Bangladesh’s claim on the continental shelf in the Bay.

India put the objection on record, calling into question the coordinates that Bangladesh used as a basis of India’s claim with the UN commission, as Bangladeshi diplomats say, to determine the right to the continental shelf. The diplomats also believe that India registered the objection as a pressure tactic as Bangladesh declined to entertain an Indian request to withdraw the objection that Bangladesh made contesting India’s claim on the continental shelf.  Bangladesh is unwilling to withdraw the objection to that claim that India made with the UN commission as India is unwilling to resolve the dispute that involved Bangladesh’s right to the ‘grey area’ in the deep sea. All these issues together, if unsettled, could cost Bangladesh its right to ‘grey areas’ in the deep sea and its claim to the continental shelf. In what has happened, the Bangladesh prime minister during her visit to India in October 2019 declined to entertain India’s request for the withdrawal of Bangladesh’s objection to the continental shelf claim as India appeared unwilling to resolve the ‘grey area’ dispute. The withdrawal of Bangladesh’s objection to maritime matters with India would harm Bangladesh’s interest as it would also have negative consequence on disputes contained in the objection with Myanmar. Such an attitude of ‘friendly’ India, which is reported to have aided Myanmar by providing it with documents in Bangladesh’s maritime dispute with Myanmar, appears to be quite ‘unfriendly.’

It is, therefore, time that Bangladesh authorities seriously looked into an alliance of India and Myanmar that acts against the interest of Bangladesh. New Delhi should also understand that such pressure tactics on its part could add to an already growing public sentiment in Bangladesh against India. It is also time that Dhaka effectively handled the issue with the United Nations, India and Myanmar.