Naval Arms Race between Bangladesh & Myanmar
Details the rapidly accelerating Naval Arms Race between Burma and Bangladesh the neighboring twos of the poorest nations on earth after their bitter maritime territorial disputes over the off-shore exploration and extraction of natural gas right on their disputed maritime border line.
Population-exploding and slowly-sinking Bangladesh, one of the most poorest nations on this planet and the recipient of US$ 2 billion worth of international aid last year alone to feed its half-starving populace of 160 millions, has recently purchased two brand new Jiangwei II (053 H3) guided-missiles frigates from China at the cost of US$ 200 million each frigate.
The 324 ft (108 M) long frigate displaces 2,400 tons and carries 200 km range C-803 ship-to-ship guided missiles and 8.6 km range surface-to-air missiles. The brand-new missile frigates are newest additions to the two type 53H2 used-frigates already purchased from China. Bangladesh Navy was known to have six missile-capable frigates in 2008.
While Bangladesh has been steadily expanding its fleet of ship-destroying missile frigates the next door neighbor Burma is also quietly enlarging her fleet of Chinese frigates, armed with most powerfull ship-destroying missiles presently available in this world, from three to eight within few years as if it is competing with Bangladesh.
Both Burma and Bangladesh are also building deadly Corvettes and Fast Attack Aircrafts capable of launching anti-ship guided missiles at each other’s ships. In my opinion Burma and Bangladesh the two poorest nations on this planet right now are in a very expensive naval arms race between them.
The extremely-heated issues propelling them into a very-expensive naval arms race is the maritime boundary issues worth tens of billions of dollar every year because of the rich natural gas deposits offshore in the disputed Bay of Bengal.
Off-shore Explorations and Territorial Dispute in 2008
Since late 1990s Burma has been successfully exploring, extracting, and selling natural gas to Thailand and China from the offshore wells in the Gulf of Martaban. And now they are extending their reach into the Bay of Bengal where the neighbor Bangladesh has been doing the same exact thing.
In 2005 Burma awarded exploration rights in the disputed area to South Korea’s Daewoo International Corp which conducted initial feasibility studies in 2007 and began the formal exploration of the concession area in September 2008.
On November 2, 2008 the Bangladeshi government announced that the previous day its naval vessel BNS Nirvoy intercepted the Burmese naval ships escorting four drilling ships and a tug boat pulling the 100 meter long drilling rig Transocean Legend in the waters claimed by Dhaka.
Dhaka then urged Rangoon to immediately withdraw its ships and stop exploration until the sea boundary dispute is resolved as it would also refrain from exploration. It sent naval vessels to the disputed are but still vowed to use diplomatic methods to solve the dispute.
Decision of the International Court in March 2012
Drawing the exact line of maritime boundary between two nations is an extremely complicated affairs and the UN Convention on The Law of The Sea itself has many key articles bordering on grey areas.
So whenever two nations were in dispute of the maritime boundaries both nations tried to refer whatever articles or precedence preferable for their advantage and the end result is never achieving an agreement and finally ending up at the UN’s International Tribunal For The Law Of The Sea (ITLOS).
Burma-Bangladesh maritime boundary dispute also ended that way. The dispute started in 1974 and an amiable agreement wasn’t reached till 2009 and the case ended up at the ITLOS in Germany.
The dispute is basically explained in following two figures where the red line is proposed by Burma and the green line is by Bangladesh. Please notice the fact that both lines are not straight as the Bangladesh’s St. Martin Island (Shin-ma-phyu Kyun) just 8 nautical miles from Burma’s coast line is right at the beginning of the boundary lines proposed by both Burma and Bangladesh.