Saturday, 19 January 2008

Dhaka and Naypyidaw Meeting to Clarify Maritime Boundary for Gas Exploration

Dhaka: High level delegations from Burma and Bangladesh will meet at Burma's new capital of Naypyidaw within a month to discuss a maritime boundary dispute between the two neighboring countries, according to a press report.

Bangladesh will send its delegation, led by Additional Foreign Secretary MAK Mahmood, to Burma in a month in order to clarify the position of the maritime boundary with Burma for gas exploration. The issue of the maritime boundary has not been discussed by the two neighbors in 21 years.

The boundary dispute has intensified over the past five years as both India and Burma rushed into exploration for gas in offshore areas allegedly within Bangladesh territory.

Bangladesh is now preparing its case for gas exploration like Burma and India in the Bay of Bengal, and eagerly wants to clarify the maritime boundary with Burma. Bangladesh has not been able to invite tenders for block bidding as the maritime boundaries have not been properly demarcated, said the report.

Dhaka - Naypyidaw relations have been good over the past year and the two countries have signed a number of agreements in key areas such as road links, border management, and energy cooperation.

Bangladesh is hoping that the problem of maritime boundary demarcation will be easily solved by negotiations between the two neighbors.

"We have, during the past year, developed an excellent bilateral relationship with Burma. It is our view that this would be further strengthened when we resolve the issue of maritime boundaries," Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told reporters yesterday.

The sensitivity of the issue has kept the maritime boundary dispute off the bilateral agenda over the last few years, said one official, adding that warmer relationship have made it possible to start talks to resolve the matter.

India, Burma, and Bangladesh have not demarcated their territorial waters, although India and Burma have agreed on an "equidistant" boundary that allows them to explore gas in the Bay of Bengal.

One foreign ministry official said Bangladesh's delay in claiming its maritime territories has allowed both India and Burma to creep into Bangladesh territory in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh's previous government claimed in 2006 that Burma had encroached 18,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh waters and floated gas exploration tenders.

India was alleged to have encroached 19,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh waters.

The caretaker government is reported to have plans to explore deepwater fossil fuel within Bangladesh's claimed 200 nautical miles of territorial water in the Bay of Bengal.

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

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

No comments: