Arbitral tribunal delimits Bangladesh-India maritime boundary
(9 July 2014)
On 7 July 2014, the United Nations’ (UN) Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of Bangladesh in a maritime border dispute with India that had lasted over three decades. The Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration (Bangladesh v. India) determined the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and India in the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and the continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles. One member of the Arbitration Tribunal, Dr. Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao, released a separate opinion agreeing only partially with the verdict of the majority of the Tribunal.
Bangladesh began the arbitration process in 2009 by bringing cases under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to determine boundaries with both India and Myanmar. The case with Myanmar was resolved by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in Hamburg in 2012.
The Arbitration Tribunal interpreted the award by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Bengal Boundary in 1947 together with the Notification No. 964 Jur by the Governor of Bengal of 1925 to determine the land boundary terminus between Bangladesh and India. The Tribunal upheld Bangladesh’s argument that the concavity of its coastline along the Bay of Bengal necessitated “special circumstances” in the application of UNCLOS to the determination of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf in the bay. Bangladesh received over 80 percent of the disputed area, which represents over 25,000 sq km. A map of the ruling can be found at the Permanent Court of Arbitration Press Release website.
The ruling opens the way for Bangladeshi oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal, as well as expanded opportunities for shipping and fishing. Both Bangladeshi and Indian representatives commended the ruling. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali called it a “victory of friendship and a win-win situation for the peoples of Bangladesh and India.” Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that, “The settlement of the maritime boundary will further enhance mutual understanding and goodwill between India and Bangladesh by bringing to closure a long-pending issue.”
U.N. tribunal rules for Bangladesh in sea border dispute with India, 8 July 2014. Ruma Paul, Reuters, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/07/08/uk-bangladesh-india-seaborder-idUKKBN0FD15N20140708.
Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration between Bangladesh and India (Bangladesh v. India), 8 July 2014. Permanent Court of Arbitration, http://www.pca-cpa.org/shownews.asp?ac=view&nws_id=436&pag_id=1261