The Bay of Bengal Maritime Arbitration Case: Part II

Delimitation of EEZ and Continental Shelf

In order to delimit the areas beyond the territorial sea, the Tribunal first determined the relevant coastlines of the Parties and subsequently the relevant area. Its task was “…to identify the coast that generate(s) projections which overlap with the projection from the coast of the other Party.” The Tribunal found that India’s relevant coastline stretched further south west to Sandy Point as opposed to Devi Point as India had claimed. It also found that the projections from the northern tip of the Andaman Islands (India) qualified for the identification of the relevant area. It delimited the relevant area accordingly.

In his dissenting opinion, Dr. P.S. Rao, criticized the identification of the coastline stretching to Sandy Point and the relevant area, by pointing out that the international jurisprudence demands that the construction of the relevant area be “… as strict as possible to denote the disputed area as closely as possible…”. He also disagreed on identification of projections from the Andaman Islands, as its coastal front is neither opposite nor adjacent to the coast of Bangladesh.

Preference was given to the Equidistance/Special Circumstance method for delimitation of delimitation of the EEZ and continental shelf within 200nm, over the angle bisector method proposed by Bangladesh, for the reasons of transparency and the fact that Bangladesh’s arguments for angle bisector line weren’t found to be convincing. The Tribunal reasoned that the instability of Bangladesh’s coast doesn’t render it special circumstance as it was possible to identify the base points, nor can future possibility of climate change be taken to adjust provisional equidistance line.

Delimitation of Continental Shelf Beyond 200NM

The Parties and the Tribunal both agreed on the point that there is a single continental shelf , and that there is no difference between the continental shelf within 200nm and the so called ‘outer continental shelf’. The Tribunal recognizing that both the Parties have entitlements in continental shelf beyond 200 nm, decided to delimit the continental shelf beyond 200nm using the equidistance/relevant circumstances method as it has used for delimiting the shelf within 200nm.

The Tribunal accepted Bangaldesh’s argument that the concavity of Bangladesh’s coast indeed produces cut off effect. It ruled that the provisional equidistant line was not equitable as it prevents Bangladesh from extending its maritime boundary as far as International Law permits, thus defeating the principle of equitable use of the sea area. Thereby rendering it a special circumstance, the Tribunal proposed adjustment of the equidistant line within and beyond 200nm.

The final adjustment of the equidistant line gave out more area to Bangladesh. This adjustment was criticized by Dr. P.S. Rao, as in his opinion the Delimitation Point from which the adjustment was affected was well before the point where a significant cut off occurs. This adjustment is not sufficiently justified. Also, the fact that the adjusted line concurs with the bisector line proposed by Bangladesh is arbitrary and run against the majority’s own rejection of the bisector line. Continue reading

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The Bay of Bengal Maritime Arbitration Case: Part I

Introduction

On 7 July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague, passed the award in the Indo-Bangladesh Maritime Arbitration Case (The Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration). The case was initiated by Bangladesh against India in October 2009, pursuant to Art. 287 of the UNCLOS, after 11 rounds of negotiations between the parties over five decades proved to be indecisive, and often marred by local politics. Following pages give a summary of various issues and facts considered by the tribunal to reach the final award.

The Tribunal was composed of: Judge Rudiger Wolfrum (President), Judge Jean-Pierre Cot, Judge Thomas A. Mensah, Dr. P.S. Rao, and Prof. Ivan Shearer. Dr. P.S. Rao reserved a concurring and dissenting opinion.

Background

The Indian Independence Act, 1947 of the United Kingdom, partitioned from India the state of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan was carved out of the Bengal Province, with West Bengal remaining in India. In order to demarcate the boundary between East Pakistan and West Bengal, the Bengal Boundary Commission was set up in 1947 chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliffe. On 13 August 1947, the report was submitted describing the boundary, and is known as “Radcliffe Award.”

Thereafter, in the light of disputes on the application of Radcliffe Award, an Indo-Pakistan Boundary Disputes Tribunal was set up, known as Bagge Tribunal. The Award of this Tribunal dealt with segments not relevant to this case.

On 26 March 1971, Bangladesh declared Independence from Pakistan and succeeded to the territory of East Pakistan and its boundaries.

The boundary between India and Bangladesh runs across the Sunderban Delta region. The southern section of the land boundary lies in the riverine features, which fall in the Bay of Bengal. This delimitation exercise involves delimiting the boundary river, identifying the terminal point of the land boundary, to delimit the territorial sea, the EEZ, the continental shelf within and beyond 200nm.

Jurisdiction

The Parties were deemed to have accepted arbitration in accordance with Annex VII since there was no declaration made by either party under Art. 287(3) (Choice of Procedure), nor had any party made a declaration under Art. 298, thereby, not excluding the current dispute from compulsory dispute resolution mechanism entailing binding procedure. The Tribunal assumed the jurisdiction to ‘… adjudicate the present case, to identify land boundary terminus and   to delimit the territorial sea, the Exclusive Economic Zone and the continental shelf between the parties within and beyond 200nm in the areas where the claims of the parties overlap. Continue reading