Bangladesh to protest India’s oil exploration in Bay of Bengal

December 27th, 2008 - 12:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 27 (IANS) Bangladesh has said that it will lodge a formal complaint with India about three Indian oil and gas survey ships that allegedly crossed into its maritime boundary and continued working despite being told to leave.A press statement issued here Friday by the Bangladesh foreign ministry said an Indian survey vessel and its two support ships had initially moved towards Indian waters but were spotted inside Bangladesh waters Thursday afternoon.

The press release added that the government will lodge a formal complaint with the Indian authorities, asking them not to undertake any exploratory work in the Bay of Bengal until the maritime border issue is solved through mutual agreement.

This is the first time that Indian oil and gas survey ships have entered the maritime economic zones that Bangladesh claims as its own.

The Indian vessels allegedly entered seven nautical miles into the territorial waters of Bangladesh under Deep Sea Block-14 and continued operations by claiming that they were within their maritime boundary, The Daily Star newspaper reported Saturday.

The Indian ships made counter claims Friday that the Bangladesh Navy frigate Khaled Bin Walid was 60 miles inside Indian waters. However, tension between the two countries was minimal as there were no Indian warships visible, the newspaper added.

Bangladesh Navy officials said Khaled Bin Walid had been withdrawn from the Bay and replaced with a smaller naval ship to keep watch until the Indian survey ships leave the disputed waters.

The New Age newspaper said that two Indian Navy ships were backing the survey operation.

Dhaka had a similar standoff with its eastern neighbour Myanmar two months ago when naval ships confronted each other for three days.

Myanmar ended the row after the South Korean survey ship it was using withdrew, not wanting to get involved in a bilateral territorial dispute.

Maritime boundaries of the three littoral neighbours have not been delineated. They acquire importance due to the oil and gas discoveries in the Bay of Bengal’s southern reaches by India. The northern reaches where the disputes occur are known to have significant hydrocarbon reserves.

Dhaka is sandwiched between the two neighbours and resumed talks on maritime boundary after a long time earlier this year. With India, the talks resumed after 28 years.

They remained at a preliminary stage with all sides reiterating their own positions.

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