Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- India has responded positively to Dhaka’s call to settle the long-standing row over sea territory through negotiations while Burma has agreed to hold talks on the issue on October 15, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said on Sunday.
“We’ve received a positive response from the Indian external affairs minister to settle the maritime boundary dispute over the Bay of Bengal through discussion,” Moni told a press briefing at the foreign ministry in Dhaka.
The foreign minister also rejected reports that Myanmar has built up heavy security along the Bangladeshi border following Dhaka’s declaration that it’s taking both New Delhi and Yangon to a UN tribunal to resolve the festering row over maritime boundary.
The response from India came just days after Bangladesh took an unprecedented move to seek UN arbitration to demarcate its maritime boundary from the two neighbours.
Both India and Burma, officially known as Myanmar, have claimed that Dhaka’s sea territory overlapped theirs and they have protested Bangladesh’s move to explore gas from the disputed offshore hydrocarbon blocks.
On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Mijarul Kayes handed over copies of Dhaka’s notification to the UN and its claims of sea territory to Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty and Myanmar Ambassador U Phae Thoan Oo.
Moni said she is also meeting with her Myanmar counterpart on the sideline of Asian Cooperation Dialogue in Sri Lankan capital Colombo on October 15.
“We’re hopeful about the meeting with the Myanmar foreign minister. We are going to discuss the maritime boundary issue in detail,” the foreign minister said.
Moni had said Dhaka was still willing to settle the row through bilateral negotiations as both countries are Bangladesh’s “close friends”.
The foreign minister also defused the qualms over Myanmar’s force buildup along Bangladesh’s southeastern border.
“I had talks with the Bangladesh ambassador to Myanmar and our foreign secretary also discussed it with Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka. We came to know that it’s a routine movement of Myanmar forces,” she said.
She said they had “no specific information” about the reported move by the Myanmar border guards to forcefully push some 10,000 Rohingya ethnic Muslim people to Bangladesh.
The minister said Myanmar is erecting barbed-wire fences within its border in line with the international law, and “we’ve nothing to say about it”.
Moni also rejected as “mere speculation” that Bangladesh decided to go to UN sea tribunal under the pressure from the United States since the third largest US energy company, ConocoPhillips, has been granted lease to explore gas in two blocks in the Bay.
“I can’t make any comment on speculation,” she said.
In late September, the government okayed an energy ministry decision to lease out blocks Nos. 5, 10 and 11 to ConocoPhilips and Tullow of Ireland in the Bay of Bengal for oil and gas exploration.
BBN/SS/SI/AD-12October09-1:19 pm (BST)