Are India, Myanmar slowing Bangladesh’s oil exploration bids?

June 18th, 2008 - 2:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 18 (IANS) India and Myanmar are hindering Bangladesh’s exploration bids by raising objections on oil and gas exploration in several blocks bordering their maritime boundaries, say officials here. This may slow down state-owned Petrobangla’s bid to find hydrocarbon resources offshore in the Bay of Bengal, The Daily Star said Wednesday.

Petrobangla and Bangladesh foreign ministry sources said while India categorically objected to exploration in eight offshore blocks close to its maritime border, Myanmar had raised objections in general terms earlier this year.

The oil companies on Tuesday drew Petrobangla’s attention to India’s views. Nevertheless, Petrobangla and the foreign ministry believe these would not totally stagnate the bidding process.

“Fixing maritime borders like these take time to finalise. It cannot be done overnight. Differences of opinion concerning our maritime boundary may exist. There is a certain formula that has to be applied. Then we negotiate with neighbouring countries and strike an agreement,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed foreign ministry high official.

“But we do not think that it would stop the bidding process. There might be disputes and objections about a few blocks but we can go ahead with the rest,” he said.

International laws allow each country to enjoy the rights of 200 nautical miles to the sea from its coast. However, this is a tricky matter as the coasts of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar follow a curve, overlapping maritime territory. As per international practice, in such a case the neighbours should inform each other and reach a mutual understanding.

In the recent past, both India and Myanmar awarded different companies offshore blocks close to the Bangladesh maritime border. During the process, neither India nor Myanmar informed Bangladesh about their initiatives in the Bay.

The officials here maintain that Bangladesh followed the same norm.

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