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Bangladesh gained in sea border verdict: expert

Prof Kawser_2

12-1He termed the verdict by Permanent Court of Arbitration in Netherlands ‘just’.

Dr Ahmed said foreign firms will line up once tender was floated for the exploration of Bangladesh’s 10 new sea blocks.

“Bangladesh has gained from this verdict, despite what everyone else is saying,” said the professor. “Bangladesh didn’t mess up here.”

Ahmed, chairman of Oceanography department, spoke to amid a flurry of reactions over the verdict.

An extension of sea border means Bangladesh’s chances of exploring the bay for mineral resource has now widened. It may also enrich the fisheries sector, he said.

Bangladesh was awarded 19,467 sq km km of 25,602 sq km of disputed area in the Bay of Bengal.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said the verdict ‘brought victory to the people of both Bangladesh and India’.

12-2But the BNP claimed the government failed to present evidence to ensure its rights over the territory which allowed India to establish its ‘dominance’ over the Bay of Bengal.

“We were awarded almost 20,000 sq km. This massive area is now open to our fishermen. Even if two fishes are caught in every square kilometre, our fishermen will have 40,000 more fishes to sell.”

“Foreign companies made uncomfortable by the dispute refused to submit tender for those sea blocks. But there won’t be anymore trouble because we got all ten of those blocks.”

Ahmed said these companies will be more than pleased to submit tenders. “Bangladesh will emerge as a country rich with natural resources.”

PCA’s verdict now allows Bangladesh to establish its sovereign rights on more than 118,813 sq kms of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles (NM) of exclusive economic zone and all kinds of living and non-living resources under the continental shelf up to 354 NM from the Chittagong coast.

The key issue of the dispute was over location of the land boundary terminus between the two countries and determination of the course of the maritime boundary in the territorial sea.

India was pressing for determination of the boundary on ‘equidistance’ method while Bangladesh was demanding ‘equitable solution’.

Bangladesh demanded that the delimitation line be fixed at 180 degrees from the sea and land origin while India wanted 162 degrees in consideration of the sea beach.

The verdict says longitude 177° 30´ will meet the Bangladesh-Myanmar maritime boundary as settled by the court.

“Bangladesh has benefited from the verdict,” said Prof Ahmed who believed the international arbitration court ruling finally settled Bangladesh’s long-running sea boundary disputes with neighbouring India and Myanmar.

He dubbed the BNP’s concerns of losing the South Talpatti island area “unnecessary”.

“Talpatti, which came into being at the Hariabhanga River estuary after the 1970 cyclone, no longer exists,” said the maritime science professor.

After the cyclone in 1970, an island had emerged at the estuary of the Haribhanga River. Four years later the US released satellite data saying the island was of about 2,500 square kilometres.

Bangladesh and India both claimed sovereignty over the island. Dhaka named it South Talpatti, while Delhi called it New Moore.

Conflict over the island’s ownership grew intense in the early 1980s. In 1979 Bangladesh proposed a joint survey but in 1981 India sent armed forces and put a flag on the island.

However, the island was found to have gone off the map in 2010.

The sea area where the island once stood in the Bay has fallen under India’s territory in the latest verdict.

12-3Reacting to the verdict, BNP leader M Hafizuddin Ahmed said Bangladesh had first made the island’s ownership claim during party founder Ziaur Rahman’s rule.

“It’s an integral part of Bangladesh. He (Zia) even took the issue to the international stage,” Ahmed said.

“India, too, claimed ownership and both the countries had sent warships there.

“It was not right to leave this island’s ownership,” he further said.

The government, on the other hand, said a large area to the south of the island’s location had fallen within Bangladesh’s territory.

Addressing the issue, Prof Ahmed said, “Talpatti existed until 1985-86 and disappeared after that.

“One or two trees could be seen on what used to be the island four or five years back. But now, there’s nothing.”

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