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Sri Lanka prepares to back seabed claim at UN body

Godman

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Sri Lanka prepares to back seabed claim at UN body
Apr 22, 2016 12:51 PM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is readying a scientific team to substantiate its claim under international law for a larger area of the Bay of Bengal seabed, potentially rich with mineral and hydrocarbon resources, parts of which have overlapping claims.

The claims will be examined by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the United Nations scientific body which evaluates submissions by member states, officials said.

No formal objections have yet been made by other states with overlapping claims under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention although Bangladesh is reportedly preparing to oppose Sri Lanka’s claim.

“In the queue of claims by states in the northern Bay of Bengal area, Myanmar is first followed by Sri Lanka,” said Chris Dharmakirti, outgoing chairman of the National Ocean Affairs Committee (NOAC), which submitted the island’s claim to the UN.

This would be followed by claims by India, Maldives and Bangladesh.

Seabed entitlement

Dharmakirti told EconomyNext.com the UN body would first need to examine Sri Lanka’s claim and those of neighbouring countries and determine the entitlement of the claimed areas.

“Once the entitlement to the claimed area is accepted and recognised by the UN then the countries that would have overlapping areas have a UN-accepted basis to enter into negotiations bilaterally or even multilaterally.”

There are overlapping claims between Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

Under the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) a country can have continental shelf rights up to 350 nautical miles or 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metres depth, whichever is higher.

Sri Lanka’s seabed claim has been made under a special provision known as the Statement of Understanding in the UNCLOS which she lobbied for when the law was being prepared that allows her to make a claim based on the narrowness of the island’s continental shelf.

Although no formal objections against Sri Lanka’s claim have been lodged with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), Bangladesh in 2010 submitted a ‘note verbale’, a diplomatic communication, where they reserved the right to do so.

Overlapping claims

The Dhaka Tribune recently quoted Bangladeshi foreign ministry officials as saying Dhaka objects to Sri Lanka’s claim for an extended continental shelf beyond 350 nautical miles from its coast baseline on the grounds that it overlaps her own claim,

Dharmakirti said there are two ways to resolve overlapping claims to the seabed in what’s known as the ‘Bengal Fan’, whose thick sedimentary deposits are believed to have big hydrocarbon and mineral resources.

“The preferred approach for Sri Lanka, and the logical one, is to have joint ownership of the overlapping area,” said Dharmakirti.

“Doing so means the total resources in that space are exploited fully by both countries in an equitable manner.”

The less preferred option is to bilaterally negotiate and draw boundaries separating the overlapping area into halves.

“However, that approach is not prudent as the economic value of the seabed resources can vary depending on the size of the deposit in each area,” said Dharmakirti, who is also in charge of the oceanic economic resource assessment under the ‘Neela Haritha’ (‘Blue-Green’) economic scoping study.

The ‘Blue-Green’ economic scoping study by the National Secretariat for Ocean Economic Affairs is being conducted jointly by the ministry of environment and the ministry of primary industries to identify opportunities in the offshore sector.

It is part of commitments made to the UN by President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also environment minister, to uphold sustainable development practices.

Riches of the deep

The northern part of the Bay of Bengal, which has deep sediment deposits reaching down to 20km, is one of the largest such resources still untapped in the world and yet out of reach given today’s technology and costs.

Dharmakirti said the resources were deeper than currently economically viable oil or gas exploration depth levels.

Most offshore oil and gas deposits now being mined are at shallower depths, of less than four kilometres.

“But if the price of oil reaches a point higher than 120 US dollars a barrel, these deposits become viable,” said Dharmakirti.

“Although oil prices are currently depressed, in future if prices rise again, these resources in the deep sea become viable in the same way shale oil extraction became viable when oil prices were higher than 100 dollars a barrel.”

New gold rush

The race for minerals in the seafloor, seen as the next frontier of exploration, as difficult as space, has already begun and been likened to a new ‘gold rush’.

The International Seabed Authority, another UN body, in charge of the seabed outside national jurisdictions, is evaluating applications from countries like China, Japan and India to mine for minerals in the southwest Indian Ocean.

They are looking to extract a range of minerals like gold, zinc and copper available on the seabed which are needed for modern hi-tech industries like electronics, automobiles and clean energy.

The world’s first commercial mining project to extract high-grade seafloor copper and gold, known as Solwara 1, by Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals, is set to begin off Papua New Guinea in 2017.

Sri Lanka’s seabed claim was originally to have been taken up only after 2028 as the CLCS, which used to meet only six weeks in a year, had many claims to evaluate.

But after painstaking lobbying by Dharmakirti of all signatories to the convention, the UN allocated more resources to the scientific body enabling it to meet for 26 weeks, and bring forward the date for considering the island’s claim to after 2018.

“Now the submission is close to the point of being called by the UN for examination,” Dharmakirti explained. “It is now between our scientific team that prepared the submission and UN scientific panel to decide the validity of the data.”

Dharmakirti said coastal states with overlapping seabed claims under UNCLOS must realise that it is an economic resource each is after.

“Coming to a common understanding and agreement to operate on a shared output basis is better as concession licenses can stipulate revenue split between countries that own overlapping areas.”
(Colombo/April 22 2016)
 

Godman

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Sri Lanka’s continental shelf: Let’s safeguard our national interests before it is too late
2016-04-22 00:00:09
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In the recent past several articles have been published in the local press with regard to the objections by Bangladesh to Sri Lanka’s claim of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from its coast baseline made to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The Dhaka Tribune dated April 15 quoting a senior official of the Foreign Ministry has pointed out that as Sri Lanka’s claim overlaps the continental shelf of India and Bangladesh, Colombo should complete negotiations with India first.
An essential function of the state is to establish and protect its territorial boundaries. On becoming a Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Sri Lanka, as an island state, was required to establish its maritime boundaries: the limits of its territorial jurisdiction, in accordance with the rules prescribed by that convention.
During the negotiations leading up to adoption of the convention, Sri Lanka had already established the limits of the basic maritime areas over which it would have the right to make laws and regulations and to enforce them: the Territorial Sea (12 miles from the ‘baseline’, (essentially the coast) over which it would have rights similar to those exercised over its land territory; the Contiguous Zone, 12 miles beyond the Territorial Sea in which it would have certain rights to prevent breach of its customs, fiscal, immigration and sanitary laws); the Exclusive Economic Zone, 200 miles from the baseline, in which it would have sovereign rights and jurisdiction for the purpose of exploring and exploiting natural resources both living (fish, seaweeds) and non-living (minerals, energy), while allowing other states to exercise the freedoms given by the convention to use the area; the continental shelf comprising the seabed and sub-soil of the submarine areas that extend beyond the Territorial Sea throughout the natural prolongation of the land territory up to the outer edge of the continental margin, subject to constraints provided for in the convention, up to a maximum distance of 350 miles from the baseline.
A proclamation was issued by Sri Lanka in January 1977 demarcating the extent of Sri Lanka’s Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone, details of which were published and subjected to the laws of Sri Lanka when Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike was in office.
Issues connected with boundaries with close neighbours India and the Maldives, as well as with the politically sensitive matter of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island of Kachchativu, were all settled by agreement under her leadership.




Extent of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf
What remained to be established was the extent of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf under the provisions of the U.N. Convention to which Sri Lanka became a Party in 1995. All states are entitled to declare the limits of their continental shelves, but must now do so by first submitting specified technical data to the CLCS established by the convention. If the commission decides that Sri Lanka’s submission is in accordance with the rules of the convention, that decision will be accepted by all other states and Sri Lanka’s maritime limits will be recognized by all states.
The convention sets limits to the extent of the ‘continental shelf’ that a state may legally claim, together with its natural resources, e.g. an outer limit of 350 miles from the baseline. Because of the peculiar configuration of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf, application of the convention’s ordinary depth and distance limits to the continental shelf would have unjustifiably deprived Sri Lanka of the full extent of its right to adjacent submarine areas and their natural resources in comparison with the extent permitted to other coastal states under the convention.
In 1978/9, during the final stages of the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, when the Sri Lankan delegation was able to obtain the relevant technical information and advice, they were able to convince all the negotiating countries of the inequity that could result to Sri Lanka, the conference decided on a remedy for the ‘Sri Lanka problem’: the conference would prepare a document to be attached to the convention and binding on all countries, allowing Sri Lanka a special regime applicable to its adjacent submarine areas and resources, that would not be governed by the convention’s ordinary limits and conditions, but only by the limits and conditions contained in that document.
That document, negotiated by Sri Lanka with the interested states, was adopted by all the states at the conference and now forms Annex II to the Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and bears the title ‘Statement of Understanding’ (SOU). Conditions in that document were, at India’s request, extended to India as a ‘neighbouring state’, where the configuration of its continental shelf resembled that of Sri Lanka. The conference agreed that the SOU should extend to India as a ‘neighbouring state’ in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal.
In 2012, the Cabinet of Ministers created an inter-departmental committee entitled the National Ocean Affairs Committee (NOAC) consisting of scientific and legal experts. As its first task, the NOAC began preparation of Sri Lanka’s submission to the CLCS on the limits of its continental shelf. Working with world-renowned technical and legal experts (e.g. from the United States, Russia, Norway, New Zealand) as well as Sri Lankan experts, approved and appointed by the Cabinet, the NOAC prepared Sri Lanka’s submission to the CLCS on the extent of its continental shelf.
That submission, consisting of considerable volume of documents and maps, was deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on May 8, 2009 within the prescribed time schedule. Over 40 maritime countries had submitted their claims before us. Consequently, Sri Lanka has been on the list of countries awaiting an invitation to make a presentation of its submission to the commission (CLCS) for the last seven years. Taking into consideration the large number of maritime countries, who are ahead of Sri Lanka, it is estimated that our claim will not be taken up for consideration before 2025.




Overlapping entitlements and delimitation
The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea makes provision for delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts (Article 83), requiring the states concerned to effect delimitation “by agreement on the basis of international law… in order to achieve an equitable solution”.
Pending such agreement, “the states concerned, in a spirit of understanding and co-operation, shall make every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during this transitional period, not to jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final agreement”. Delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts would arise, where their entitlements under the convention appear to overlap. Where, as with some states in the Bay of Bengal, entitlements have not been agreed or declared by the CLCS, any questions of ‘overlap’ and delimitation remain matters for conjecture, while subject to eventual resolution under the provisions of Article 83.




Recommended action
As there are other countries ahead of Sri Lanka in the ‘queue’ awaiting invitations to present their submissions to the CLCS intend to claim that they are entitled to rights under the SOU, it is urgently necessary that Sri Lanka has consultations with India as joint beneficiary under the SOU, that would safeguard our (and India’s) interests. After consultation with India, Sri Lanka should also discuss with Bangladesh and Myanmar their claims, if any, to be entitled to the dispensation provided to Sri Lanka (and India) by the SOU.
It needs to be highlighted that negotiations with the interested countries will have to be carried out by competent technical and legal experts, who had gained a thorough knowledge having participated in the negotiations leading to finalization of the UNCLOS in 1982. Given the fact that those who were involved in such negotiations were senior officials representing Sri Lanka’s interests at that time, and considering the fact that there would be a gap of approximately 10 years before Sri Lanka’s case would be taken up by the CLCS, it is essential for the authorities concerned to take urgent steps to transfer the knowledge and skills of those experts to a new generation of technical and legal experts, who would represent Sri Lanka’s interests before the CLCS in a decade’s time.
It has been reported that Kenya’s submission is soon to come before the CLCS and that the Sub-Commission appointed by the CLCS to deal with the Kenyan submission has been instructed to “consider the submission made by Kenya on a scientific and technical basis under the provisions of Article 76 of the convention and the Statement of Understanding”.
It is considered that, in issuing this instruction to its Sub-Commission, the CLCS may have exceeded its authority by presuming that the SOU is applicable to Kenya, which could not be regarded as a neighbouring state of Sri Lanka, and cannot possibly be considered to be anywhere near the Bay of Bengal.
Considering the foregoing, it is recommended that Sri Lanka take urgent action to discuss the situation first with India and thereafter with other countries aspiring to take advantage of the SOU, as well as take urgent steps to train and equip a new generation of negotiators, who would successfully argue Sri Lanka’s case before the CLCS, when Sri Lanka is invited to present its case.
(This is issued by the Pathfinder Foundation: Centre for Indo – Lanka Initiatives. Comments are welcome at pm@pathfinderfoundation.org)

- See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/108488/Sr...ts-before-it-is-too-late#sthash.AZXIHQEw.dpuf
 
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Would be funny if India decided to squat on all neighbouring seas like the Chinese in SCS. Our neighbours could see some actual Indian hegemony.
 

somebozo

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Pakistan already got a 50.000 KMS extension and became the first national to "conquer the sea" at UN..

http://www.dawn.com/news/1170986

This seems to be a Chinese backed strategy to encourage IOR nationals on expanding their sea limits as a "middle finger up" gesture to India...

And these are the real political implications of such extension..

A UN resolution last March has dashed India’s hope for a natural gas pipeline from the Middle East. Internal assessment is that a proposed deep-sea gas pipeline from Oman and Iran would run into a diplomatic roadblock following the UN approval.

The $4-billion deepwater pipeline was proposed by South Asia Gas Enterprise (SAGE) from the Middle East — bypassing Pakistan — after the onland Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline got stuck on New Delhi’s decision to backpedal on the project because of geopolitical and security reasons.

http://indianexpress.com/article/in...he-pipeline-a-4-billion-deep-sea-gas-project/
 

GR!FF!N

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This seems to be a Chinese backed strategy to encourage IOR nationals on expanding their sea limits as a "middle finger up" gesture to India...
please.....India respects other neighbours unlike China.India settled all such claims in International courts unlike China,which resorted only bullying and conjuring of "9 dashed lines"..we gave away territories to Myanmar and Sri Lanka in the past as a token of goodwill.Maybe China is your only good ally for now,but they never showed any such goodwill to anyone.
 

somebozo

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please.....India respects other neighbours unlike China.India settled all such claims in International courts unlike China,which resorted only bullying and conjuring of "9 dashed lines"..we gave away territories to Myanmar and Sri Lanka in the past as a token of goodwill.Maybe China is your only good ally for now,but they never showed any such goodwill to anyone.
But interfering miles away in Tibet and Xinjiaang..haha!
 

GR!FF!N

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But interfering miles away in Tibet and Xinjiaang..haha!
Tibet was our neighbouring country till 1950.we don't have a Sino-Indian border in the first place.same goes for xinjiang.But I think India never interfered in Xinjiang,rather there are reports that those attackers were trained in Pakistan.
 

somebozo

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Tibet was our neighbouring country till 1950.we don't have a Sino-Indian border in the first place.same goes for xinjiang.But I think India never interfered in Xinjiang,rather there are reports that those attackers were trained in Pakistan.
Well if "was" your neighbouring country and now it isnt...Just like East Pakistan was your neighbouring country and now it isnt..going by your logic...India should start training ex-East Pakistani exiles stuck in Bangladesh too!
 

GR!FF!N

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Well if "was" your neighbouring country and now it isnt...Just like East Pakistan was your neighbouring country and now it isnt..going by your logic...India should start training ex-East Pakistani exiles stuck in Bangladesh too!
unless it already got "Liberated"..
 

Nilgiri

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Sri Lanka’s continental shelf: Let’s safeguard our national interests before it is too late
2016-04-22 00:00:09
0
123









In the recent past several articles have been published in the local press with regard to the objections by Bangladesh to Sri Lanka’s claim of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from its coast baseline made to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The Dhaka Tribune dated April 15 quoting a senior official of the Foreign Ministry has pointed out that as Sri Lanka’s claim overlaps the continental shelf of India and Bangladesh, Colombo should complete negotiations with India first.
An essential function of the state is to establish and protect its territorial boundaries. On becoming a Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Sri Lanka, as an island state, was required to establish its maritime boundaries: the limits of its territorial jurisdiction, in accordance with the rules prescribed by that convention.
During the negotiations leading up to adoption of the convention, Sri Lanka had already established the limits of the basic maritime areas over which it would have the right to make laws and regulations and to enforce them: the Territorial Sea (12 miles from the ‘baseline’, (essentially the coast) over which it would have rights similar to those exercised over its land territory; the Contiguous Zone, 12 miles beyond the Territorial Sea in which it would have certain rights to prevent breach of its customs, fiscal, immigration and sanitary laws); the Exclusive Economic Zone, 200 miles from the baseline, in which it would have sovereign rights and jurisdiction for the purpose of exploring and exploiting natural resources both living (fish, seaweeds) and non-living (minerals, energy), while allowing other states to exercise the freedoms given by the convention to use the area; the continental shelf comprising the seabed and sub-soil of the submarine areas that extend beyond the Territorial Sea throughout the natural prolongation of the land territory up to the outer edge of the continental margin, subject to constraints provided for in the convention, up to a maximum distance of 350 miles from the baseline.
A proclamation was issued by Sri Lanka in January 1977 demarcating the extent of Sri Lanka’s Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone and Exclusive Economic Zone, details of which were published and subjected to the laws of Sri Lanka when Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike was in office.
Issues connected with boundaries with close neighbours India and the Maldives, as well as with the politically sensitive matter of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island of Kachchativu, were all settled by agreement under her leadership.




Extent of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf
What remained to be established was the extent of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf under the provisions of the U.N. Convention to which Sri Lanka became a Party in 1995. All states are entitled to declare the limits of their continental shelves, but must now do so by first submitting specified technical data to the CLCS established by the convention. If the commission decides that Sri Lanka’s submission is in accordance with the rules of the convention, that decision will be accepted by all other states and Sri Lanka’s maritime limits will be recognized by all states.
The convention sets limits to the extent of the ‘continental shelf’ that a state may legally claim, together with its natural resources, e.g. an outer limit of 350 miles from the baseline. Because of the peculiar configuration of Sri Lanka’s continental shelf, application of the convention’s ordinary depth and distance limits to the continental shelf would have unjustifiably deprived Sri Lanka of the full extent of its right to adjacent submarine areas and their natural resources in comparison with the extent permitted to other coastal states under the convention.
In 1978/9, during the final stages of the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, when the Sri Lankan delegation was able to obtain the relevant technical information and advice, they were able to convince all the negotiating countries of the inequity that could result to Sri Lanka, the conference decided on a remedy for the ‘Sri Lanka problem’: the conference would prepare a document to be attached to the convention and binding on all countries, allowing Sri Lanka a special regime applicable to its adjacent submarine areas and resources, that would not be governed by the convention’s ordinary limits and conditions, but only by the limits and conditions contained in that document.
That document, negotiated by Sri Lanka with the interested states, was adopted by all the states at the conference and now forms Annex II to the Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and bears the title ‘Statement of Understanding’ (SOU). Conditions in that document were, at India’s request, extended to India as a ‘neighbouring state’, where the configuration of its continental shelf resembled that of Sri Lanka. The conference agreed that the SOU should extend to India as a ‘neighbouring state’ in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal.
In 2012, the Cabinet of Ministers created an inter-departmental committee entitled the National Ocean Affairs Committee (NOAC) consisting of scientific and legal experts. As its first task, the NOAC began preparation of Sri Lanka’s submission to the CLCS on the limits of its continental shelf. Working with world-renowned technical and legal experts (e.g. from the United States, Russia, Norway, New Zealand) as well as Sri Lankan experts, approved and appointed by the Cabinet, the NOAC prepared Sri Lanka’s submission to the CLCS on the extent of its continental shelf.
That submission, consisting of considerable volume of documents and maps, was deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on May 8, 2009 within the prescribed time schedule. Over 40 maritime countries had submitted their claims before us. Consequently, Sri Lanka has been on the list of countries awaiting an invitation to make a presentation of its submission to the commission (CLCS) for the last seven years. Taking into consideration the large number of maritime countries, who are ahead of Sri Lanka, it is estimated that our claim will not be taken up for consideration before 2025.




Overlapping entitlements and delimitation
The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea makes provision for delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts (Article 83), requiring the states concerned to effect delimitation “by agreement on the basis of international law… in order to achieve an equitable solution”.
Pending such agreement, “the states concerned, in a spirit of understanding and co-operation, shall make every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during this transitional period, not to jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final agreement”. Delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts would arise, where their entitlements under the convention appear to overlap. Where, as with some states in the Bay of Bengal, entitlements have not been agreed or declared by the CLCS, any questions of ‘overlap’ and delimitation remain matters for conjecture, while subject to eventual resolution under the provisions of Article 83.




Recommended action
As there are other countries ahead of Sri Lanka in the ‘queue’ awaiting invitations to present their submissions to the CLCS intend to claim that they are entitled to rights under the SOU, it is urgently necessary that Sri Lanka has consultations with India as joint beneficiary under the SOU, that would safeguard our (and India’s) interests. After consultation with India, Sri Lanka should also discuss with Bangladesh and Myanmar their claims, if any, to be entitled to the dispensation provided to Sri Lanka (and India) by the SOU.
It needs to be highlighted that negotiations with the interested countries will have to be carried out by competent technical and legal experts, who had gained a thorough knowledge having participated in the negotiations leading to finalization of the UNCLOS in 1982. Given the fact that those who were involved in such negotiations were senior officials representing Sri Lanka’s interests at that time, and considering the fact that there would be a gap of approximately 10 years before Sri Lanka’s case would be taken up by the CLCS, it is essential for the authorities concerned to take urgent steps to transfer the knowledge and skills of those experts to a new generation of technical and legal experts, who would represent Sri Lanka’s interests before the CLCS in a decade’s time.
It has been reported that Kenya’s submission is soon to come before the CLCS and that the Sub-Commission appointed by the CLCS to deal with the Kenyan submission has been instructed to “consider the submission made by Kenya on a scientific and technical basis under the provisions of Article 76 of the convention and the Statement of Understanding”.
It is considered that, in issuing this instruction to its Sub-Commission, the CLCS may have exceeded its authority by presuming that the SOU is applicable to Kenya, which could not be regarded as a neighbouring state of Sri Lanka, and cannot possibly be considered to be anywhere near the Bay of Bengal.
Considering the foregoing, it is recommended that Sri Lanka take urgent action to discuss the situation first with India and thereafter with other countries aspiring to take advantage of the SOU, as well as take urgent steps to train and equip a new generation of negotiators, who would successfully argue Sri Lanka’s case before the CLCS, when Sri Lanka is invited to present its case.
(This is issued by the Pathfinder Foundation: Centre for Indo – Lanka Initiatives. Comments are welcome at pm@pathfinderfoundation.org)

- See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/108488/Sr...ts-before-it-is-too-late#sthash.AZXIHQEw.dpuf
Bro, SL is so far away from B'desh, how can there be overlapping claims? Is there a map of SL claimed area?
 

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