From weekly HOLIDAY:
Though little time is left, the Government is still in slumber and lamentably lagging behind its next-door neighbours in acting on the crucial matter of placing Dhaka's claim to the appropriate authority on her right over the economic zone in the Bay of Bengal. For Dhaka to do this, only about two months are left. Shouldn't the Foreign Office have been up and doing by now regarding this vital matter and held a grand national conference of major political leaders, eminent economists, scholars, geographers and so on?
Although Bangladesh will have to submit its claim on continental shelf by July 27, 2011, but prior to that she will have to dispute the claims of India and Myanmar before the 24th session of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf this year. Already India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have submitted their claim on the Continental Shelf to extend their economic sovereignty on the Bay of Bengal as per Article 76, Part VI of the Law of the Sea Convention. India and Myanmar both have submitted their claim beyond 200 nautical miles (NM) as per provisions.
Myanmar updated the claim on April 30, 2009, while India submitted the claim on May 12, 2009 and Sri Lanka submitted the claim on May 8, 2009. Bangladesh will have to submit its claim or dispute, if any, by August before the beginning of the 24th session of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to be held in New York from August 10 to September 11, 2009.
India, Myanmar against Bangladesh
It is gathered that India and Myanmar have articulated a joint strategy to claim their extended continental shelf over Bay of Bengal so that they can preempt Bangladesh's right over the Bay of Bengal. In fact the Indian institutes helped Myanmar to prepare its claim. Surprisingly, Myanmar did not seek help from any Chinese institute to prepare the claim this time!
Knowledgeable source said Myanmar and India both have got together to establish their extended rights over the Bay of Bengal, while both the countries opposed Bangladesh's move to lease out the blocks in Bay of Bengal for exploration of oil to the foreign companies. No paper yet from Dhaka Bangladesh will have to submit its claim on continental shelf by July 27, 2011. But it will have to dispute the claims of India and Myanmar before the 24th session of the commission this year.
According to the diplomatic circle in New York, Bangladesh is yet to prepare any paper or report disputing the claimed Continental Shelf by India or Myanmar encroaching the vital economic zone of Bangladesh. Myanmar has made its claim ahead of deadline until May 21, 2009 for submission of its claim, but it submitted ahead of the date. Again, India had time up to June 29, but she has already submitted its claim.
Myanmar claimed in 2008
Myanmar had submitted its claim first on December 16, 2008, which was later updated on April 30, 2009 and now waiting for discussioin the claim in the provisional agenda of the 24th session of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In the introduction to its submission Myanmar stated that this claim is made "to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) pursuant to Article 76, paragraph 8 of the Convention in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Myanmar is measured."
200 nautical miles
It clearly said: "Myanmar is making its submission for extension of its continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal, off Rakhine, and referred to as Rakhine Continental Shelf, beyond 200 nautical miles." The country has collected geophysical data from large area for preparation of the submission. Beyond 200 nautical miles, Yangon will claim at least 60 more nautical miles to satisfy its acquired morphological, geological and tectonic aspects of the data collected from the Bay.
The Goa-based National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) of India which led the Indian side for preparation of the claim, was also engaged for quality control purpose of the Myanmar claim, while National Geophysical research Institute (NGRI) of India helped Myanmar for seismic Data processing and interpretation. Dr N.K Thakur, another consultant, who was former member of the Commission, interpreted acquired geophysical data. Besides, many other institutes of Myanmar were involved.
India took nine years to finalize its claim on continental shelf, while the Goa-based national Centre for Antarctica and Ocean Research led eight organizations to collect data and process them to prepare the report. The Indian report has extended its sovereignty beyond 200 nautical miles and within 350 nautical from the baseline. In fact India completed its preparation for this submission at list six months ago and that was passed through different stakeholder ministries to obtain their consent.
According to sources, different studies have so far been collected over seven to eight terabytes of data after surveying the Indian marine area divided into lines totalling 30,000 km. The demarcation of the continental shelf was based on Article 76 of the Part VI of the "Law of the Sea Convention" which also includes determination of water depth, sedimentary rock thickness and precise mapping of the foot of the continental slope. Serious Indo-Bangla dispute India shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Among them Myanmar, Bangladesh and Srilanka have water territory in the Bay of Bengal. India has already negotiated a deal with Myanamar and Sri Lanka, while it has got serious dispute with Bangladesh.
Claiming the continental shelf 'baseline' of the coast is very important. That means from which point the 200 nautical miles will be measured. Bangladesh coastline is very unstable. So Bangladesh demarcated its baseline from a distance of 10 fathom from the shore, which was disputed by both India and Myanmar.
Delhi claims up to 350 NM
Now India is claiming up to 350 nautical miles (NM) from its baseline invoking Article 76 clause V, VI, VII and VIII as continental shelf. This is beyond 200 NM, of the normal territory. If Myanmar extends 60 NM beyond 200 nautical miles and India extends up to 350 nautical miles, the curved coast line may stop Bangladesh to get her outlet. Sri Lanka also has submitted its claim on the southern part of the Bay of Bengal beyond 200 nautical miles, while the Indian line has passed with short distance of less than 24 nautical miles and as such India has already proposed a 'separate agreement' on this issue with Sri Lanka.
In fact in terms of establishing claim on the Bay of Bengal Bangladesh has become isolated. Bangladesh has to resolve the issue on priority basis.