India willing to resolve issue bilaterallyDiplomatic Correspondent
India on Saturday said the ITLOS judgment on the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar was an ‘important decision’.
‘I conveyed to the [Bangladesh] foreign minister that this was an important decision,’ new Indian high commissioner Pankaj Sharan told reporters in reply to a question after a meeting with foreign minister Dipu Moni at her office on Saturday afternoon.
He said India looked forward to working with Bangladesh on bilateral issues that affected the two countries.
When asked if India would restart discussions on its ‘maritime dispute’ with Bangladesh at bilateral level, the high commissioner said, ‘I am sure we will…’
‘All issues are on the table for discussion,’ he said.
The high commissioner, however, avoided a direct reply to a question on the differences between India’s central government and the state government of West Bengal over the issue of sharing of Teesta water with Bangladesh.
He also skipped an answer when asked if New Delhi would ratify the land boundary agreements with Bangladesh in the current session of Indian parliament.
‘We reviewed the entire relations…I will have the opportunities to address all these issues,’ he said.
The foreign ministry, however, said in a news release that Dipu Moni and Pankaj Sharan ‘noted that the arbitration process for settlement of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and India was also going ahead and the issue would be resolved in due course’.
Dipu Moni hoped that the issues pending between the two countries, including the issue of Teesta water sharing, ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement and its protocol by India, would be resolved at an early date to allow the two countries to move forward to other areas of mutual cooperation.
Dipu Moni also hoped that the high commissioner would convey his government Bangladesh’s concern on construction of the Tipaimukh Dam, inter-linking of common rivers and killing of Bangladesh nationals by the Indian Border Security Force.
In a judgment on February 14, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea awarded Bangladesh resource-rich 111,631 square kilometres of sea area in the Bay of Bengal.
The ITLOS delivered its judgement delimiting the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar moderately based on the share in the coastline of the two countries.
Bangladesh had long-standing disputes with India and Myanmar on the issue of ‘starting point’ and on how to mark the coastline to draw its marine boundary with apparently overlapping claims of the three neighbouring countries because of the funnel-like coastline of the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh and India, which had held prolonged negotiations over the dispute since 1974, so far failed to reach a settlement.
The ITLOS formed an arbitration tribunal to resolve the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and India after the two countries, on a mutual consent, invited it to exercise its jurisdiction to constitute a tribunal.
ITLOS is an inter-governmental judicial body created under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the convention.
The five-member arbitration tribunal includes Judges Rudinger Wolfrum of Germany as president and Tullio Treves of Italy and Ivan Shearer of Australia. Two additional members of the tribunal have been nominated by the two parties with Bangladesh choosing British jurist professor Vaughan Lowe and India picking up its former external affairs ministry adviser P Sreenivasa Rao.
Although ITLOS has clearly played a role in constituting the tribunal between Bangladesh and India, the arbitration tribunal itself would be an independent judicial body.
A country is supposed to enjoy its rights to fishing and exploring and extracting other marine resources in its 12–24 nautical miles of territorial sea from the coastline, 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone and a maximum 350 nautical miles of continental shelf from the baseline.
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