Indian ships leave disputed waters in Bay of Bengal

Indian ships leave disputed waters in Bay of Bengal

Dhaka: Three Indian ships conducting an oil exploration survey in the resource-rich Bay of Bengal have left the disputed area after high-level diplomatic talks with Dhaka which had alleged an “intrusion" by the vessels in its “territorial waters", the Bangladesh navy said on Sunday.

“The ships left beyond the Bangladesh-claimed waters last evening," a navy spokesman said.

His remarks came hours after a navy statement said the Bangladeshi naval ship Khalid Bin Walid intensified the patrol at the area as the Indian-engaged Australian survey vessel CGG Symphony and two other Indian ‘support vessels’ continued to carry out the survey, backing off a little beyond Bangladesh’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay.

It said the Indian coast guard ships and maritime patrol aircraft were earlier seen for a brief period in the area as their main survey vessel escorted by two support ships was carrying out the hydrocarbon exploration survey allegedly in the Bangladesh EEZ.

Bangladesh, on Saturday, expressed hope that “peaceful deliberation and diplomatic measures" would lead to an “acceptable" solution to the maritime dispute with New Delhi while it summoned the Indian envoy to Dhaka to lodge protest over the exploration work by Indian ships in disputed waters.

“This year in September we began our talks with India on maritime boundary demarcation after a gap of 22 years. We are confident that peaceful deliberations and diplomatic measures will ultimately lead to a mutually acceptable solution in this regard," Foreign Adviser of the outgoing interim government Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said in a statement.

Chowdhury said Dhaka requested India to postpone the survey in the disputed area till a settlement on the maritime boundary. “Just as Bangladesh respects international norms in such situations, we expect and hope that all our neighbours will do the same."

Chowdhury’s comments came as Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty was summoned at the Foreign Ministry, where Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Touhid Hossain handed him over a written protest, calling for an immediate cessation of survey activities.

Maritime officials had two days ago alleged that Indian hydrocarbon survey vessels “intruded" into the Bangladesh-claimed waters. Two Bangladesh warships were sent to the region to confront the Indian vessels.

“The situation at the scene remained calm and no tension has been escalated," an official familiar with the situation said earlier.

The region is claimed by Bangladesh as its offshore block 14 of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while India claims it as their EEZ block 22.

The incident came a month after Bangladesh and its east Asian neighbour Myanmar were engaged in a military standoff, over a maritime dispute. The two countries ended inconclusive talks on maritime boundary, only agreeing to continue deliberations in future.

Officials and maritime experts earlier said Bangladesh needed to reach an agreement on maritime boundary with its two neighbours before lodging its claims with the UNCLOS on the Limits of the Continental Shelf beyond the exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles by 2011.