The final legal battle between India and Bangladesh over 4,000 square kilometres of the Bay of Bengal, holding out huge potential for fishing, shipping and underwater resources, will begin from December 9 at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
India’s strategy has been chalked out by the ministry of external affairs in consultation with other ministries and the arguments before the International Arbitral Tribunal will be opened by attorney general GE Vahanvati, who will be assisted by attorneys from abroad as well as a team from home, reports TNN.
Bangladesh has proposed the ‘angle bisector’ method for delimitation of the maritime boundary, but India is pitching for the traditional and internationally recognized ‘equidistance’ principle to resolve the dispute.
India will point out to the tribunal that it had successfully implemented ‘equidistance’ principle to settle maritime boundary disputes with other neighbouring countries. Bangladesh’s argument is that due to coastal instability and concavity of its coastline, the equidistance line would put it at a severe disadvantage.
Bangladesh had challenged the baselines drawn by India using the equidistance principle and claimed before the tribunal that these were not in conformity with Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS).
The tribunal is chaired by Dr Rudiger Wolfrom (Germany) and the other members are Judge Jean-Pierre Cot (France), Prof Ivan Shearer (Australia), Judge Thomas Mensah (Ghana, nominated by Bangladesh) and Dr P Sreenivasa Rao (nominated by India).
India will be represented by the AG, senior advocate R K P Shankardass, advocate Devadatt Kamat, Prof Alain Pellet (University of Paris), Prof W Michael Reisman ( Yale University) and Sir Michael Wood (UK).
The nearly 4,000 sq km of Bay of Bengal, which is at the centre of the longstanding dispute which started at the international forum with Bangladesh submitting its written arguments on May 31, 2011, encompasses all maritime zones — territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and outer continental shelf.
If Bangladesh’s method of determining the maritime boundary is accepted by the international forum, India will lose control over around 2,905 sq km in the EEZ and 1,018 sq km in the outer continental shelf.
It will be a do-or-die legal battle as the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal will be final and binding on the parties.