A United Nations tribunal has awarded Bangladesh nearly four-fifths of an area sprawling over 9,700 sq. miles in the Bay of Bengal, ending a dispute over a sea border with India that has ruffled ties between the neighbors for more than three decades.
The verdict, binding on both countries, opens the way for Bangladesh to explore for oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal, the site of important energy reserves.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali hailed the ruling announced Tuesday by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague as a "victory and a win-win situation for both sides.”
The court drew a new maritime border that awarded Bangladesh 7,516 sq. miles of sea area, the minister told reporters.
"It finally resolves peacefully and in accordance with international law a problem that had hampered the economic development of both states for more than three decades," he said in Dhaka.
"We commend India for its willingness to resolve this matter peacefully by legal means and for its acceptance of the tribunal's judgment," Ali added.
India also hailed the decision, saying it paved the way for further economic development between the two countries.
"We believe that the settlement of the maritime boundary will further enhance mutual understanding and goodwill between India and Bangladesh by bringing to closure a long-pending issue," said Indian External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
The award brings to an end an arbitration process Bangladesh kicked off in 2009 under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea over disputes with India and Myanmar, which had been a frequent flashpoint between the two nations. Bangladesh resolved the sea border dispute with Myanmar in 2012.
Both maritime disputes had almost dashed Bangladesh's plan to invite foreign companies to explore for hydrocarbons in the resource-rich Bay of Bengal after Myanmar and India objected to some of the sea blocks being offered.
Although Bangladesh's energy ministry later redrew some of the blocks, it only attracted limited interest from foreign firms largely due to the disputes.