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A Commentary on Maritime Boundary Arbitration between Bangladesh and India Concerning the Bay of Bengal

  • MARCIN KAŁDUŃSKI

Abstract

This article considers the law of maritime delimitation as applied by the Arbitral Tribunal in the 2014 Bangladesh v. India case. The dispute concerned the delimitation of the maritime boundary between the two states in the north-eastern part of the Bay of Bengal. The Tribunal's Award covers several important issues which require careful examination, such as the land boundary terminus, the delimitation methodology, the role of objectivity, predictability and transparency in maritime delimitation, and the impact of the established case law on the present delimitation procedures. The commentary analyses the Award from the viewpoint of the law of maritime delimitation and traces how the Tribunal applied and developed the methodology used in maritime delimitation. The key points where the Award advances the law of the sea concern the concavity of the coast as a relevant circumstance and the creation of grey area. The Tribunal made significant pronouncements on the continental shelf, especially, beyond 200 nm. It confirmed the concept of a single continental shelf and reasoned that legal regimes of the EEZ and the continental shelf are independent and separable. However, the creation of another grey area met with strong disagreement from Dr Rao. The author considers the Award and the Dissenting Opinion to argue that the adjustment of the equidistance line raises certain concerns and that the creation of grey area is permissible under UNCLOS.

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1 Maritime Boundary Arbitration between Bangladesh and India, Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), Award of 7 July 2014 [hereinafter: ‘Award’].

2 Award, at paras. 1–2; Memorial of Bangladesh, Bangladesh/Myanmar, infra note 5, at para. 1.1; Counter-Memorial of Myanmar, Bangladesh/Myanmar, infra note 3, at paras. 1.3–1.4.

3 Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar), Judgment of 14 March 2012, Case No. 16, (Judgment), [2012] ITLOS Rep.

4 Letter to the Parties, 2 December 2013 (BD-IN 108505).

5 Bengal Boundary Commission, Report to His Excellency the Governor General, 12 August 1947, Memorial of Bangladesh, Annex B12; Counter-Memorial of India, Annex IN-2.

6 Memorial of Bangladesh, at para. 3.18.

7 Award, at paras. 50 and 85; Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 3.3–3.6; Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 3.2–3.5; Hearing Transcript, 9 December 2013, at 54–55, paras. 7–10.

8 Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 3.6–3.8; Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 3.7–3.10.

9 Award, at para. 158.

10 Case Concerning Boundary Disputes Between India and Pakistan Relating to the Interpretation of the Report of the Bengal Boundary Commission, 12 and 13 August 1947, Decision of 26 January 1950, XXI UNRIAA 3; Award, at paras. 160–9.

11 See Indian conclusions: Hearing Transcript, 11 December 2013, at 331, para. 68; Hearing Transcript, 18 December 2013, at 588, para. 30. Moreover, India, inter alia, indicated that: ‘[I]f the Tribunal concludes that the western channel is the main channel and accepts Bangladesh's proposed land boundary terminus, the internal sector of this part of India will be effectively land-locked, inasmuch as the western channel . . . is not navigable south of Bangladesh's proposed land boundary terminus. At the same time, the eastern channel which Bangladesh will perforce use to navigate to and from the Bay from its side of the Hariabhanga will be closed to India, as it will have become Bangladeshi internal waters through which no right of innocent passage avails’.

12 Award, at para. 21.

13 Hearing Transcript, 11 December 2013, at 329–30, para. 63; Hearing Transcript, 18 December 2013, at 585–6, 588, paras. 25, 30. See also Figure 1. On the contrary, see the argument of Bangladesh: Hearing Transcript, 16 December 2013, at 476–7, para. 17.

14 See Figure 3 (including the depicted bathymetric lines of both channels) and the Radcliffe Map (Figure 1).

15 Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali), Judgment of 22 December 1986, [1986] ICJ Rep. 554, at 568, para. 30; Frontier Dispute (Benin/Niger), Judgment of 12 July 2005, [2005] ICJ Rep. 90, at 109, para. 26.

16 Award, at para. 171.

17 See Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, Decision Regarding Delimitation of the Border between the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Decision of 13 April 2002, at paras. 3.12–3.28.

18 Award, at para. 184.

19 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1833 UNTS 397. See Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain), Judgment of 16 March 2001, [2001] ICJ Rep. 40, at 94, at para. 176.

20 See Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), Judgment of 8 October 2007, [2007] ICJ Rep. 659, at 745, at para. 281.

21 Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.48; Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 3.87–3.88, 4.31–4.58. See Section 5.1.

22 Fisheries (United Kingdom v. Norway), Judgment of 18 December 1951, [1951] ICJ Rep. 116, at 132.

23 Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine), Judgment of 3 February 2009, [2009] ICJ Rep. 61, at 101, para. 117; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 264.

24 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 135.

25 Ibid., at para. 117.

26 Ibid., at para. 127.

27 Award, at paras. 222, 261.

28 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 117; Award, at para. 261.

29 Arbitration between Eritrea and Yemen, Award of 17 December 1999, [2006] XXII UNRIAA 335, at 366, para. 135; Award, at para. 223.

30 Award, at para. 248.

31 Bangladesh: Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.25–5.27; Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 3.72–3.79; Hearing Transcript, 9 December 2013, at 95–106, paras. 71–97. India: Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 5.50–5.54; Rejoinder of India, at paras. 4.48–4.65; Hearing Transcript, 13 December 2013, at 379–80, paras. 60–64.

32 Ibid., at paras. 261–2.

33 Award, at para. 263.

34 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 99; Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment of 19 November 2012, [2012] ICJ Rep. 624, at 679, para. 150; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 198.

35 Award, at paras. 280–6; Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 6.17–6.37; Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 3.14–3.16.

36 Award, at paras. 299–300, citing Arbitration Between Barbados and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Award of 11 April 2006, RIAA, Vol. XXVII, p. 147 at p. 235, paragraph 331. [italics added].

37 Award, at para. 300.

38 It should be noted that the size of the relevant area was calculated to be approximately 406,833km2. Had the Tribunal chosen Devi Point over Sandy Point, the relevant area would have measured 172,219.7km2. See Counter Memorial of India, at para. 6.44 and Sketch Map No. 6.7, at 143.

39 Concurring and Dissenting Opinion of Dr. P. S. Rao, at para. 8 [hereinafter ‘Opinion’]. In the Arbitrator's view, the Tribunal's explanation for choosing Sandy Point was ‘obscure’. Moreover, the construction of the relevant area should be ‘as precise as possible to denote the disputed area as closely as possible and not inflate it with figures which in the end would not do proper justice for the conduct of the so-called “disproportionality test”’.

40 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 99.

41 Award, at para. 302.

42 Ibid., at paras. 304–5.

43 Ibid., at paras. 306–11, Map 4, at 89.

44 Memorial of Bangladesh, at para. 6.22; Reply of Bangladesh, at para. 4.3; Counter-Memorial of India, at para. 6.4.

45 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 225; Award, at paras. 338–9.

46 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 226.

47 Award, at para. 339.

48 See Section 4.

49 Nicaragua v. Honduras, supra note 20, at para. 272.

50 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 238.

51 Nicaragua v. Honduras, supra note 20, at para. 281. See also Continental Shelf (Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Judgment, [1982] ICJ Rep. 18, at 94, at para. 133(c)(3); Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area (Canada/United States of America), Judgment of 12 October 1984, [1984] ICJ Rep. 246, at 332, paras. 210–11; Delimitation of Maritime Boundary between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Award of 14 February 1985, [2006] XIX UNRIAA 149, at 189, para. 108 (Figure 9).

52 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 238.

53 Award, at paras. 336–346; Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 6.92–6.96.

54 Ibid., at paras. 341–4.

55 See North Sea Continental Shelf (Federal Republic of Germany/Netherlands) (Federal Republic of Germany/Denmark), Judgment of 20 February 1969, [1969] ICJ Rep. 3, passim, and particularly at paras. 57, 93, 101(c)(1); Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Malta), Judgment of 3 June 1985, [1985] ICJ Rep. 13, at 46, at para. 60; Black Sea, supra note 23, at paras. 115–16, 120–2; Nicaragua v. Colombia, supra note 34, at para. 190–4; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 240.

56 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 116.

57 See Section 3.13.2.

58 Award, at paras. 222–3, 263–4, 353, 363–7.

59 Ibid., at paras. 368–9, Map 5, at 107.

60 See Libya/Malta, supra note 55, at para. 62.

61 See, e.g., Evans, M. D., ‘Maritime Delimitation and Expanding Categories of Relevant Circumstances’, (1991) 40 ICLQ 1, at 1–33; Kaldunski, M. and Wasilewski, T., ‘The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on Maritime Delimitation: The Bangladesh v. Myanmar Case’, (2014) 45 Ocean Development & International Law 123, at 137–40; Tanaka, Y., ‘The Mirage of Predictability in the Law of Maritime Delimitation: A Comparative Analysis of the Bangladesh v. Myanmar and Nicaragua v. Colombia Cases’, (2014) 113 The Journal of International Law and Diplomacy 1, at 18–28.

62 Award, at paras. 399, 422–4, referring to relevant case law. See the Memorial of Bangladesh, at paras. 6.63 and 6.120; and the Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 6.102–6.107.

63 Hearing Transcript, 16 December 2014, at 527, para. 13.

64 Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 4.85 and 4.103, citing North Sea, supra note 55, at paras. 7, 11, and 91.

65 Reply of Bangladesh, at para. 4.60, citing Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at paras. 290–7.

66 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 291–2, 297.

67 Award, at para. 404.

68 Ibid., at para. 404.

69 Ibid., at para. 404.

70 Ibid., at paras. 405–6.

71 Ibid., at para. 407.

72 Ibid., at paras. 407–8.

73 Ibid., at paras. 397–8, 417; Opinion, at paras. 3–4, 7.

74 Opinion, at para. 9.

75 Award, at para. 410.

76 Ibid., at para. 409–16.

77 Ibid., at para. 416; Opinion, at para. 16.

78 Award, at paras. 417, 419.

79 Ibid., at para. 417.

80 Ibid., at paras. 410, 417.

81 Opinion, at para. 15.

82 Award, at para. 409.

83 Ibid., at para. 411 [italics in the original].

84 Barbados v. of Trinidad and Tobago, supra note 36, at 238, para. 346.

85 North Sea, supra note 55, at para. 11.

86 See the observation of the PCA Tribunal: Award, at para. 405.

87 North Sea, supra note 55, at para. 7.

88 See Reply of Bangladesh, at para. 4.86.

89 Award, at para. 339.

90 Ibid., at para. 411 [italics added]. But it also justifies a conclusion that the Tribunal was more attached to the geography of the area and the geographic location of Bangladesh, regarding them as more fundamental than international case law and the reasoning of the ICJ and the ITLOS. See also ibid., at paras. 471–2 and the discussion of the delimitation of the outer continental shelf in Section 6.

91 Award, at paras. 413–16, citing North Sea, supra note 55, at paras. 8, 89; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 293; Guinea v. Guinea-Bissau, supra note 51, at para. 104.

92 Award, at paras. 76, 80, 221–2, 308, 339, 402, 410, 458, and 499–500.

93 North Sea, supra note 55, at paras. 8, 22.

94 Opinion, at paras. 11–12. The Arbitrator referred to Libya/Malta, in which the Court expressed several equitable principles. See Libya/Malta, supra note 55, at para. 46.

95 North Sea, supra note 55, at para. 8.

96 Opinion, at para. 18.

97 See North Sea, supra note 55, at para. 8; Guinea v. Guinea-Bissau, supra note 51, at para. 104.

98 Ibid., at paras. 407, 418–21.

99 Opinion, at paras. 15, 17.

100 Ibid., at para. 17.

101 Ibid., at para. 17.

102 Ibid., at para. 19.

103 Ibid., at para. 19.

104 Ibid., at para. 19.

105 Ibid., at para. 19.

106 Award, at para. 76, referring to Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at paras. 369–94.

107 Ibid., at para. 77.

108 Ibid., at para. 80.

109 Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.13, 5.19, and 5.47; Rejoinder of India, at para. 7.3.

110 Reply of Bangladesh, at para. 5.12, citing Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 461.

111 Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.15–5.16. See North Sea, supra note 55, at para. 89; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 294.

112 Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.41–5.42, Figure R5.7, at 145.

113 Ibid., at para. 5.54, citing Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 462. See also Rejoinder of India, at paras. 7.6 and 7.16; Hearing Transcript, 13 December 2013, at 437, at para. 67.

114 Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 5.40, 5.47–5.48. See Charney, J. I., ‘Progress in International Maritime Boundary Delimitation Law’, (1994) 88 AJIL 227, at 247 et seq.

115 Award, at para. 75. The Tribunal took note of Barbados v. of Trinidad and Tobago, supra note 36, Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, and Nicaragua v. Colombia, supra note 34.

116 Award, at para. 458, referring to Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 360–3.

117 Award, at para. 469.

118 Ibid., at para. 465. See Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 455.

119 Award, at paras. 459–64.

120 Ibid., at paras. 471–2, citing Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at paras. 461–2.

121 Ibid., at para. 477.

122 Ibid., at para. 477.

123 Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 201; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 326.

124 See Nicaragua v. Colombia, supra note 34, at paras. 233–8.

125 Award, at para. 478.

126 Opinion, at para. 21. The difference in azimuth between these two lines was less than 0.5°.

127 Award, at paras. 478–9.

128 Ibid., at para. 480. See also Nicaragua v. Colombia, supra note 34, at para. 235.

129 Opinion, at para. 21.

130 Award, at para. 344.

131 Opinion, at para. 23.

132 Ibid., at para. 22.

133 Separate Opinion of Judge Cot, Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at p. 8.

134 Nicaragua v. Honduras, supra note 20, at para. 287. See Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 234.

135 Nicaragua v. Colombia, supra note 34, at para. 242. See Black Sea, supra note 23, at para. 210; Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 240.

136 Award, at paras. 495–6.

137 Ibid., at para. 497. See also position of the parties: Counter-Memorial of India, at paras. 6.108–6.113; Rejoinder of India, at paras. 7.28–7.37; Reply of Bangladesh, at paras. 4.150–4.159, 5.59–5.74.

138 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 464.

139 Ibid., at paras. 473–4.

140 Award, at para. 498.

141 Ibid., at para. 503.

142 Ibid., at para. 506.

143 Opinion, at para. 24.

144 Ibid., at paras. 24–36.

145 Dissenting Opinion of Judge Evensen, Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, supra note 51, at 286–8, paras. 9–10.

146 Opinion, at paras. 27–31 [italics in the original], referring to the Separate Opinion of Judge Jiménez de Aréchaga, Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, supra note 51, at para. 55.

147 Opinion, at para. 31.

148 Libya/Malta, supra note 55, at para. 34.

149 Opinion, at para. 32.

150 Libya/Malta, supra note 55, at para. 34 [italics added].

151 See: Award, at para. 504.

152 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 473.

153 Award, at para. 504.

154 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 475.

155 This argument was furthered developed by the Arbitral Tribunal, which noted that states are to exercise their rights and perform their duties with due regard to the rights and duties of other states. See: Award, at paras. 504–5, 507. The Tribunal, relying once again on ITLOS, referred to Articles 56, 58, 78 and 79 to prove that coastal states may have shared rights in the same maritime area and that the Convention is replete with provisions which recognize the rights of one state within the maritime zones of another.

156 Bangladesh/Myanmar, supra note 3, at para. 476.

157 Award, at para. 508.

158 Ibid., at para. 507.

159 Opinion, at para. 34.

160 Ibid., at para. 35.

161 Ibid., at para. 36.

162 Such an obligation to negotiate in good faith with a view to reaching a specific or co-operative agreement may be inferred from Arts. 74 and 83 of UNCLOS as was indicated by the ICJ. See the Gulf of Maine, supra note 51, at paras. 87, 112 and Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guinea Intervening), Judgment of 10 October 2002, [2002] ICJ Rep. 303, at 424, para. 244.

163 See Section 9.

164 Magnusson, B. M., ‘Outer Continental Shelf Boundary Agreements’, (2013) 62 ICLQ 345, at 345–72.

165 Question of the Delimitation of the Continental Shelf between Nicaragua and Colombia Beyond 200 Nautical Miles from the Nicaraguan Coast (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Application of 16 September 2013.

166 Libya/Malta, supra note 55, at para. 57.

167 See Section 7.

* Assistant Professor, International Law Department, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland []. The author is very grateful for the thoughtful comments provided by the anonymous reviewers of the Leiden Journal of International Law.

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A Commentary on Maritime Boundary Arbitration between Bangladesh and India Concerning the Bay of Bengal

  • MARCIN KAŁDUŃSKI

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