Bangladesh’s maritime security needs beefing up

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Bangladesh’s maritime security needs beefing up

Nahela Nowshin

An arbitral tribunal established under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) helped end the 40-year-old maritime dispute between Bangladesh and India on July 2014 by delimiting the maritime boundary between the two countries. The award delivered by UNCLOS was hailed as a big win for Bangladesh as, of the disputed 25,602, Bangladesh secured 19,467 (76% of what was claimed). Two years prior to this settlement, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) solved the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar, the verdict of which was considered to be largely in favour of Bangladesh. Now that the nation is safe from being permanently sea-locked and has been granted unimpeded access to its continental shelf, what’s next?

With geo-strategic interests of giants like the US, India and China intersecting at the Bay of Bengal (BoB), there is no denying Bangladesh’s rise as an important maritime centre in the international stage. If the “String of Pearls” theory is to be given any credence, China’s port construction projects in Chittagong reinforce the vitality of this region to the Asian economic powerhouse. Likewise, the “Indian Maritime Doctrine” outlining its ambitions of naval strategies and presence in the region has kept the government of Bangladesh on high alert regarding the urgency of our national security interests in the BoB. Encouraged with a defence cooperation seeking China’s support in protecting our maritime security and acquisition of maritime dispute settlements with India and Myanmar, the logical way forward for us seems to be to explore the abundant natural oil and gas in deep waters. But there’s a bigger problem at hand.

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