The New Horizon

A new world explored with a rational view

The Maritime Boundary

with 8 comments

[Also read my latest blog on this issue. This update is after the verdict.]

Of late, I have come across the Oil and Gas blocks contentions between India and Bangladesh. The blocks which India put for auction in NEPL-VI, are actually overlapping Bangladesh blocks. The region is alleged to be ‘overlapping’ between India and Bangladesh EEZs. So, who’s area is it?

EEZ
Generally a state’s EEZ extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles (370 km) out from its coast. But what happens when one country’s 370kms go inside the other? According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Part V, any such disputes between any two countries should be resolved on the basis of equity and in the light of all the relevant circumstances, taking into account the respective importance of the interests involved to the parties as well as to the international community as a whole.

India & Bangladesh Maritime Boundary
According to the articles(first and second) published in The Daily Star, the Bangladesh govt. claims that anything falls under the 370km zone from their coast line, should be given as EEZ of Bangladesh. The argument considers Bangladesh as a geographically disadvantaged country because its 720-km coastal line is concave in shape. Also, Bangladesh must have an open wide front to the high seas in the Bay of Bengal. The Author quotes the historical judgement given by ICJ (International Court of Justice) in NORTH SEA CONTINENTAL SHELF CASE (1969) and said that Germany got the access to North Sea despite the equidistant line did not allow them to get so. The judges allowed Germany to be considered ‘equitably’, so that they also gets some EEZ across North Sea. Harun ur Rashid also added that equidistant method (suggested in Geneva Convention – article 6) should be considered only between opposite States, like India and Srilanka.

North Sea Continental Shelf Case

Point C marks the land boundary between the Netherlands and Germany. Point A marks the land boundary between Germany and Denmark. The line C-D-E-B-A is the approximate equidistance line.

History
India and Bangladesh started their bilateral talks way back in 1974, which was inconclusive. India was looking for equidistant border where Bangladesh was for equity based boundary. The same difference in arguments rendered Bangladesh-Myanmar talks inconclusive as well. But, India and Myanmar (opposite States) agrred upon equidistant boundary.

Maps : Indian/Myanmar claim

Maps : Bangladesh claim


My Findings
1) Even if a genuine passage is allowed for Bangladesh, the Oil blocks will be inside Indian area. I am assuming, that a passage is a passage – not a continuation of EEZ to bay of Bengal. In North Sea case, Germany was allowed a passage only.
2) There are other adjascent states who’ve done their maritime delimitation amicably in equidistance method. For example – Albania & Italy and US and Mexico. The Geneva Convention in 1958 mentions that as a method to determine the maritime boundary.
3) The ICJ North Sea case judgement sets a lot of factors to be considered as benchmarks. Also, it noted that equidistant method can be bypassed only in case of “special circumstances”. In those cases, if no concesus arises between the parties then

they were to be divided between the Parties in agreed proportions, or, failing agreement, equally, unless they decided on a régime of joint jurisdiction, user, or exploitation.

4) The Maritime Boundary case (ICJ, 2002) judgement dismissed Cameroon’s claim to get more EEZ from Nigeria under ‘equitable’ adjustment.

The Arguments were like these :

The Court notes in this respect that Cameroon contends that the concavity of the Gulf of Guinea in general, and of Cameroon’s coastline in particular, creates a virtual enclavement of Cameroon, which constitutes a special circumstance to be taken into account in the delimitation process. Nigeria, for its part, argues that it is not for the Court to compensate Cameroon for any disadvantages suffered by it as a direct consequence of the geography of the area. It stresses that it is not the purpose of international law to refashion geography.

The judgement notes :

This method (equitable), which is very similar to the equidistance/special circumstances method applicable in delimitation of the territorial sea, involves first drawing an equidistance line, then considering whether there are factors calling for the adjustment or shifting of that line in order to achieve an “equitable result”….The Court’s jurisprudence shows that, in disputes relating to maritime delimitation, equity is not a method of delimitation, but solely an aim that should be borne in mind in effecting the delimitation….The Court finds that although it does not deny that the concavity of the coastline may be a circumstance relevant to delimitation, it nevertheless should stress that this can only be the case when such concavity lies within the area to be delimited. It notes that the sectors of coastline relevant to the present delimitation as determined above exhibit no particular concavity….Having further concluded that there were no other reasons that might have made an adjustment of the equidistance line necessary in order to achieve an equitable result, the Court decides that the equidistance line represents an equitable result for the delimitation of the area in respect of which it has jurisdiction to give a ruling.

Map of Cameroon EEZ by equidistance method

Map of Nigeria EEZ by equidistance method

Clearly, Bangladesh does not have concavity to the extent of Cameroon. Hence, getting favourable judgement from ICJ would be very difficult for them.
5) The outcome of a running case would be very interesting in this perspective. The case between Romania and Ukrine not only resembles India-Bangladesh case, but also has a high stake.

Solution
Basically, India or Bangladesh govt are not willing to claim their stakes before the stake is proved to be high. If at all Oil exists in those blocks, the countries may face each other in ICJ, very soon. The other option, i.e. joint exploration (as between Indonesia and Australia), is possibly not going to take place. Because, Bangladesh might once more come up with all bilateral issues to link with this one. For hostile neighbours, Court is the best place to solve disputes.

Sources : The following site shows a EEZs for various countries based on existing treaties or Equidistance line.

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Written by Diganta

May 22, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Bangladesh, India

8 Responses

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  1. The author tried to claim that bangladesh is not affected by concavity to extent of Cameroon. This is a lie any one can see if the maps are campared.

    Again, UNCLOS has clearly defined equity as abasis for delimitation. It is not only an underlying principle but a method as well.

    The major question to be answered is that can any country have contenetal shelf on the other country’s EEZ?

    The answer must be straight no. A continental shelf Is the natural prolongation of land. And by all standards, the prolongation in the bay of Bengal is North -South oriented. So, upto the last limit of Bangladesh’s claim, the continental shelf will have N-S dirtection from the edge of land territory of Bangladesh.

    This gives the reason for using equity method in all other boundary delimitation.

    It is abhorant to put blaim against a country’s name that the coutry will once again attach all the bilateral issues with amicable settlement of the conflict.

    It Is India that is the big brother. Bangladesh and Nepal asked for land transit as Nepal wanted access to sea. UNCLOS gives right to a land locked country like Nepal to have access to sea by all transportation means. How India denies that being a big Brother.

    With such big brother, u cannot acheive anything, if u are not demanding as a prerequisite.

    It is India whose stated foreign policy is to bock any chance of third party meddling or judgement in its issue be it ICJ or UN.

    We have seen such cowardly act of India in the case of Kashmir, Farakka and also river linking projects. In one debate in BBC, one Indian was finally asked by Sebastin, the host, that does india view everybody else as her enemy. The answer was in a form of affirmative tone.

    So, it is in the best interest of Bangladesh to take the matter to ICJ as they are involved with such an cowardly, irresponsible and lier country of the world.

    Saiful

    May 15, 2007 at 3:49 am

  2. This is a lie any one can see if the maps are campared. – Please see the map once more. Cameroon is an ideal example of concavity, where Bangladesh already have a huge EEZ, compared to Cameroon. And by the way, Cameroon lost the case.

    A continental shelf Is the natural prolongation of land. – In India-Bangladesh case, they both share the same ‘natural prolongation’ – both West Bengal and Bangladesh are geographically inseparable. Also, there were no ICJ cases relating to this ‘prolongation’ issue. Nobody seems to keep it as a parameter of judgement.

    the prolongation in the bay of Bengal is North -South oriented. – This is true for Bay of Bengal near Bangladesh, not near Orissa or Myanmar.

    UNCLOS gives right to a land locked country like Nepal to have access to sea by all transportation means. – Nepal transits the goods through Indian ports. There is no question of thrid country given a transit through India until India is given the same.

    We have seen such cowardly act of India in the case of Kashmir, Farakka and also river linking projects. – I hope you know about others reading my other blogs.

    So, it is in the best interest of Bangladesh to take the matter to ICJ as they are involved with such an cowardly, irresponsible and lier country of the world. – I am looking forward to that. My question would rather be, why is Bangladesh not going to ICJ till date?

    horizonspeaks

    May 15, 2007 at 6:08 am

  3. UNCLOS has clearly defined equity as abasis for delimitation. – And what is equity? I have tried to quote the court juridiction to point to that – “equity is not a method of delimitation, but solely an aim that should be borne in mind in effecting the delimitation”.

    I have updated the ICJ links those were unfortunately changed. You can read the Cameroon case judgement completely and argue with me. I am putting stress on this particular case since that is the latest juridiction on a silimar dispute. I won’t mind changing my view if you are proved to be correct – till then I’ll stick to what I understood.

    horizonspeaks

    May 15, 2007 at 6:48 am

  4. Saiful said:
    The major question to be answered is that can any country have contenetal shelf on the other country’s EEZ? The answer must be straight no.

    I guess your opinion is justified but the fact is that there is a case where a state can possess continental shelf on the other’s EEZ. One of the good example is between Indonesia and Australia. Ok, this might be a very special case as the CS delimitation was done before the EEZ boundary was established but this is the fact.

    In 1970s Australia and Indonesia settled CS boundaries in the Timor Sea and it was close to Indonesia (Timor Island) using the principle of natural prolongation. Later in 1997 the two states agreed EEZ boundaries in the same location and it used the principle of equidistance. It made the position of the two different kinds of lines are different. The CS boundaries are much closer to Indonesia compared to the EEZ one.

    In a certain location, the seabed belongs to Australia while the water column is Indonesia’s.

    Please see an illustration for this in my blog, look at the sidebar labeled animations and click “JPDA”

    Thanks
    Andi

    Andi

    April 6, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  5. [...] gas survey ships crossed the maritime boundary claimed by Bangladesh. I have already noted in my earlier blog that Bangladesh and India has taken two different approaches to demarcate their maritime [...]

  6. [...] in Bay of Bengal October 25, 2009 — Diganta I wrote previous articles (The Maritime Boundary and India-Bangladesh Maritime dispute in Bay of Bengal) on maritime boundary between India, [...]

  7. [...] is in fact written by a professor of Dhaka University. Earlier, I tried to refute claims of another article sometimes [...]

  8. [...] Unfortunately a string of misleading articles has been published in support of this view and I wrote against these claims long back. Bangladesh, understandably, did not argue anything on [...]


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