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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

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Arbitral tribunal chosen to resolve Bangladesh-India maritime boundary dispute

(9 March 2010)

The president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), Judge Jose Luis Jesus, has appointed three arbitrators for an arbitral tribunal to resolve the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and India. On 13 December 2009, Bangladesh approached the president of ITLOS to appoint an arbitral tribunal under article 3 of Annex VII as part of the dispute resolution clause of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The three members of the tribunal were chosen on 12 February 2010, but a press release was not given by ITLOS until 8 March 2010, possibly to allow both Bangladesh and India to appoint their ad hoc members. The five-member arbitral tirbunal with include Judges Rudinger Wolfrum (Germany) as president, Tullio Treves (Italy) and Ivan Shearer (Australia). Two additional members of the tribunal have been nominated by the two parties with Bangladesh chosing the international jurist Professor Vaughan Lowe and India chosing P. Sreenivasa Rao, a former legal advisor to the ministry of external affairs.

Although ITLOS has clearly played a role in constituting the arbitral tribunal between Bangladesh and India, the arbitral tribunal itself will be an independent judicial body. The timescale for pleadings and hearings has not yet been set but reports suggest that both sides have pressed for a speedy resolution. Bangladesh had also approached ITLOS to resolve its maritime boundary dispute with neighbouring Myanmar and a timetable was set for pleadings in 2010 and 2011. However, Bangladesh and Myanmar have continued bilateral talks alongside the ITLOS initiative and these talks could result in an agreement outside of judicial settlement.

Sources: 'Press Release' ITLOS/Press 143, 8 March 2010; 'Tribunal to sort out Delhi-Dhaka dispute' Asian Monitor, 2 March 2010; 'UN arbitrators for Bay disputes' The New Nation (Bangladesh), 1 March 2010.