A United Nations court drew a new maritime border in the Bay of Bengal, awarding more than three-quarters of a disputed sea area to Bangladesh and opening the way for more energy exploration in the region.
The ruling by the U.N.’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, made public on Tuesday, settled a long-running territorial dispute between Bangladesh and neighboring India. Both countries said they would abide by the court’s decision.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, said the ruling was “a victory for both countries” that would improve relations between his country and India and make it easier to develop offshore resources in the waters bordered by India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The triangular Bay of Bengal, which covers over two million square kilometers, is important for shipping and fishing and holds significant oil and mineral reserves. The disputed area measured roughly 25,000 square kilometers, or 9,700 square miles.
India’s foreign ministry said the ruling would “further enhance mutual understanding and goodwill” between the neighbors “by bringing to closure a long pending issue.”
Bangladesh sought U.N. arbitration in 2009 after years of negotiations with New Delhi failed to reach a deal. Lawyers for each side presented the panel with maps and treaties dating back to the colonial era to support their claims, according to court documents.
Bangladesh claimed it was entitled to “special circumstances” due to the concave nature of its coastline—a position that was upheld in the final ruling.
Experts said the ruling by the U.N. tribunal would clear the way for more offshore oil and gas exploration in the region. Bangladesh has only one active gas field in the Bay—the Sangu field operated by the Scottish oil company, Cairn Energy—but Dhaka is eager to open up more offshore areas for exploration.
Courtesy : WSJ