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Dhaka reasserts claim over South Talpatty isle

Anisur Rahman in Dhaka | September 17, 2008 15:46 IST

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Bangladesh has reasserted its sovereignty over the disputed isle of South Talpatty or Purbasha, as bilateral talks with India on the maritime boundary resumed for the third day on Wednesday.

"We discussed the issue on Tuesday and will continue our talks on the issue on Wednesday", a foreign ministry official said without elaborating, as the Bangladeshi and Indian delegations are to wind up their three-day talks in Dhaka.

South Talpatty, also called as Purbasha or New Moor Island in India, emerged in the late 1970s on the estuary of the Hariabhanga river that empties into the Bay of Bengal through the western side of the island, while Dhaka first made the claim over it in 1980.

"We have reiterated here the same claim that Bangladesh made in 1980. South Talpatty Island emerged in the Bay of Bengal where we have our legal claim in the light of all international laws," the New Age newspaper quoted an official after the second day talks.

No comment from the Indian side was immediately available, but sources said New Delhi [Images] upheld its earlier position that the delimitation should be based on "equidistant principle".

The principle will determine India's claim both from Chennai in the mainland and Andaman-Nicobor islands reducing Bangladesh's share in the exclusive economic zone.

The Bangladesh side argued that the 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone should be demarcated on the basis of "equity principle", meaning that the countries adjacent to the Bay of Bengal would get proportional areas in the zone.

In the early 1980s, Bangladesh and India had political and diplomatic tensions surrounding the claim over the South Talpatty. However, the issue became dormant during the subsequent regimes.

Bangladesh shares the bay with India and Myanmar, but has not demarcated the sea territory with them and this is creating disputes mainly in offshore oil and gas explorations.

"These technical level talks are taking place after 28 years. We believe both governments are now deeply committed to strengthening their relations trough resolution of all outstanding issues, including this (maritime) one," Foreign Adviser of the interim government Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said in a statement as the expert and official level talks started three days ago.

While Rear Admiral B R Rao is leading the seven-member Indian delegation, Additional Foreign Secretary M A K Mahmood is heading the Bangladesh side.

Officials said India and Myanmar need to solve the maritime boundary issues with Bangladesh as they are set to file their claims to the United Nations next year under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The UN set deadline for lodging maritime claims is to expire in next three years.

An eight-member Bangladesh delegation last month held a three-day meeting with Myanmar in Yangon and the two sides are set to hold the third round of technical level discussions next year.

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