The landmark verdict on the maritime dispute over the Bay of Bengal between Bangladesh and Myanmar came in our favor. This is not merely a judgmental victory rather a victory of the nation.
The victory has many aspects considering its importance and issues related to the whole gamut of the matter.
Through this verdict, Bangladesh achieved the most of the issues of the case. On the other side, the achievement of the country cannot be inked by words as it is marked as the biggest achievement after independence as opined by researchers and critics.
The proceeding was started back in December 2009. The arbitral proceeding was started on October 8, 2009 which was notified to the President of the Tribunal on December 13. Since then Bangladesh has been expecting that positive upshot from the tribunal following the due process of law and procedures.
The representatives, agents and deputy agents appointed in this behalf have performed their duties in due course. After several hearings and in-depth study, the trial came up with the verdict.
Bangladesh raised the issue in the international tribunal after making all-out attempts to solve the issue bilaterally. Rather, Myanmar braced its force within the maritime boundary of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal which intensified tensions in over the sea and in this region as well.
It may be mentioned that there is no ratified bilateral agreement between these two countries delimiting the maritime boundary. The agreement of 1974 over territorial sea was not ratified by the courtiers.
However, the tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg decided the matter in favor of the country. By this verdict, the right of Bangladesh over the Bay of Bengal was established in all the areas of the sea as per international law and recent practice.
Almost all the claims of Bangladesh were sustained by the tribunal. Moreover, about 4000 square kilometers were added with the claims of Bangladesh which was based on the equitable sharing of the maritime boundary.
It proved that the justification of the claim of Bangladesh against Myanmar. In recent practice, principle of equitable distance is more popular than equidistance so far the maritime boundary is concerned. This principle is very much relevant in the case of Bangladesh-Myanmar and Bangladesh-India maritime boundary delimitation.
Almost all the countries of the present world have concentrated on extracting marine resources for their economic development. Economy of many countries is now based on marine resources. After the victory, Bangladesh will turn to a new era of development where the Bay of Bengal will play the pivotal role.
Through this victory, a new regime of economic development has begun in the country if can be exploited properly. Because of its geographical location, we are in an advantageous position. But, we have, simultaneously, future scope and challenges in deed.
We have got hold of all our due rights towards the Bay of Bengal. Our rights in territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf were established as per the international law, norm and latest practice.
In the territorial sea, our claim was established. The rights of territorial sea towards 12nm were upheld by the tribunal against the claim of Myanmar. St. Martin was also established as an integral part of Bangladesh and the claim of 12 nm was calculated also from that island. The tribunal decides that the island is also entitled to 12nm territorial sea as well.
The highly celebrated principle in the international law of the sea was applied to demarcate the territorial sea of Bangladesh. In this regard, the appeal of Myanmar was rejected. The issue had also been settled in 1974 between the two countries through a bilateral meeting though was not ratified later.
For demarking the continental shelf within 200nm or the EEZ, Myanmar intended to apply strict equidistance principle which was rejected by the tribunal. Establishing the rights in this maritime zone as claimed by Bangladesh was a complicated one and challenging as well. Right of Bangladesh to 200nm across the sea was recognized by the tribunal. As a result, right of continental shelf was extended to 200nm for Bangladesh.
The principle of equitable solution was also applied to make out the decision.
Another issue for the tribunal was delimitation of the continental Shelf beyond 200nm. The claim that Myanmar has placed before the tribunal that it does not have that jurisdiction to decide that matter.
Myanmar argued that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to delimit the continental shelf beyond 200nm which was rejected by the tribunal. However the tribunal decided to cut-off the concavity to delimit the outer continental shelf. From the cut-off point/area the outer limit of continental shelf was delimited beyond 200nm.
For this judgment, our sovereignty was extended over the outer continental shelf beyond 200nm. The sovereignty of the country was extended towards extended area of the sea.
Another relevant point is that by this judgment the tribunal has for the first time exercised the right to delimit the continental shelf beyond 200nm. Before that judgment, the tribunal has not decided such issue as a part of their jurisdiction.
But, it may be mentioned, the end point of the outer continental shelf was not limited specifically by the tribunal. Rather it said that the right will extend towards the point until the rights of another country is infringed.
As a matter of fact, that country is India against which another case is pending before the same tribunal. So, the specific area of outer continental shelf will be specified after the decision with India is delivered. Therefore, the case against India may stand as another milestone for us.
Very understandably, India now wants to settle the incumbent maritime dispute bilaterally which Bangladesh should and already has rejected at once. As the issue has been raised once in the international forum, it should be decided by that forum.
It was great victory for us. After the independence, the then AL government has enacted law to realize the importance to demarcate the sea boundary with our neighboring countries. Since then, no government has taken initiative to decide the issue in our favor. After a long since, the present government has rightly placed the issue to the appropriate international forum.
No government but AL has realized the importance of the convention of the Law of the sea for which no government has ratified it. It was one of the most important instruments in international law as it was proved today.
In 1996, Bangladesh has ratified the convention when AL was in power. The convention stood in good stead for us.
The achievement of Bangladesh is grand and great considering the present context and future scopes. Preservation and development of these resources may emerge as great source of development and livelihood of the people at present and future generation as well. Maintaining, securing and preserving this right will give birth to a new developed Bangladesh.
The writer is in-charge of Law and Human Rights, banglanews24.com
Edited by: Asst Output Editor M. Mahbub Alam
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