Maritime Security of Bangladesh


In contemporary world, maritime security remains at the forefront of political concern in many of the littoral countries bordering oceans, bays, gulfs or any other international water body. It is a part of national security and not an isolated strategic entity by itself, thereby requiring integration with the overall national security model of a littoral state.

Traditional concept of Maritime security is furnished mostly by the powerful maritime powers with emphasis on a strategy to fight war and restore peace in the seas. In this sense, the thinking that dominated the experts on maritime security is „the domination of the seas and oceans by the powerful nations somewhat on a conventional wisdom that „one who rules the sea, rules the land‟. This individualistic, acquisitive and aggressive manner of a few powerful maritime nations ultimately paved the way for development of mighty navies for power projection, gunboat diplomacy, unwarranted intervention in weak littoral states‟ affairs, neocolonialism and the like. As a result, the perception of oceanic peace and security had been the monopoly of few powerful nations with formidable military control over a vast span of oceanic space to safeguard their specific security interests on such grounds as historical claims, geo-strategic interests, commercial interests etc. In brief, maritime security was manipulated by few as being strictly military-centric in nature, and many newly independent states in post World War II, either due to colonial legacy or for security reasons subsequently embraced this approach as manifested in their rapid naval build-ups along side their various efforts to reduce threats in the terrestrial domain by conventional means. The paradigmatic shift in the concept of security with its emphasis both on conventional and non-conventional threats in recent times, enhanced the scope and dimension of comprehensive maritime security as broad as that of the land based one in terms of the threats and vulnerabilities, and the means for dealing with them. Maritime security is a multi-faceted concept that not only involves domestic and international laws but also consideration of geopolitics of the area concerned. Maritime security should be viewed from global and regional geo-political perspectives. Maritime security is an indispensible part of comprehensive security of a country. Bangladesh being a small country in South Asia, she faces serious maritime security threat from both traditional and non-traditional sectors as well as changing geopolitical dimensions. This paper explores these dynamics and suggests measures to ensure maritime security for Bangladesh.

and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. not partial like prior works. resource security. including gas and oil. terrorism. M. and the coast of Sri Lanka. Bangladesh has faced a number of difficulties with neighbouring countries over the demarcation of maritime boundaries. However.e. exploration of oil and gas. He critically analyses all the problematic issues between Myanmar-India and Bangladesh that hampers maritime border dispute by UNCLOS. Besides proposing adaptation of developmental measures at national level for maritime security. Bangladesh should make proper preparations to submit and win its claims through international legal regimes. deliberate pollution of marine environment. Taleb suggests that Bangladesh must make preparations for establishing its claims over its maritime boundaries without delay and adds if negotiations to resolve these disputes become fruitless. Bangladesh being a small country should opt for regional cooperation and proposes for setting up a “regional maritime co-operative security mechanism” (RMCSM) within the broader framework of SAARC for ensuring whole regional maritime security. illegal exploitation of resources (illegal fishing. Khurshed Alam (2009) analyses the traditional issues impinging on Maritime Boundary Delimitation for Bangladesh. . piracy. he argues. Abul Kalam Azad (2009) traces the non-Traditional threats to the Maritime Security of Bangladesh i. thus it aims at being a full picture of comprehensive maritime security of Bangladesh. Highlighting all these issues. Dr. ordinary theft. including overlapping claims with India and Myanmar. mercenary activities and maritime insurgency operations. and security of seafarers and fishers. S. drugs and human.e. Maritime security has two aspects: macro and micro issues and the synthesis of the two will guide Bangladesh in combating threats to its maritime security. he suggests that regional cooperation and inception of ocean governance among the littoral states can solve the non-traditional maritime security threat of Bangladesh. armed robbery. This paper comprehensively synthesize the previous ideas and developments. Habibur Rahman (1984) points out the problems related to delimitation of maritime boundaries of Bangladesh. illegal trade in ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) etc. Burma. Barrister Harun ur Rashid (2009) argues that Maritime security cannot be separated from a broader picture of strategic environment. S. He suggests that Bangladesh needs to fix the boundary at a fourpoint junction measured from the Bangladesh coast. Commodore Md. extraction of minerals). Taleb (2010) argues that the most important maritime security issue for Bangladesh is to delimit its maritime boundaries in order to exploit its offshore resources. hijacking and sabotage.Literature Survey: Abu Taher Salahuddin Ahmed (2010) argues that Maritime Security entails security from crimes at sea. These prior works discuss partial dimensions i. the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. the coast of India's mainland. traditional/ non-traditional/demarcation problem/geopolitical dimensions only and separately. illegal trafficking in arms. environmental security. and adds that the boundary of the continental shelf/margin is to be fixed at a tri-junction measured from the coast of Bangladesh. poaching.

India. This has led to an awkward truth is that the world is neither dominated by a unipolar power nor multipolar powers. she has to look at the current geo-political players of the Indian Ocean which is being gradually militarized. Obviously China has been monitoring the US and India‟s increased military role in the Ocean-area from a base in Myanmar (Coco Islands). Myanmar. Global Security Environment: Terrorism is a global problem and it cannot be fought by a single state. the current political and security environment is very fluid. Currently we live in a non-polar world and the balance of power is going through an evolution period. China. Third. Malaysia. Singapore and Australia and their naval ships routinely patrol the Indian Ocean to keep the sea-lanes safe from threats for oil tankers. the maritime component of the country‟s national security continues to remain till to date less debated with very little efforts to .both military and non-military threats. estimated to be in 60 countries. Terrorism is a strategy and a deadly game of ” hide and seek”. Indian Ocean: Bangladesh opens to the Indian Ocean through the Bay of Bengal in the south. The players are US.Why Discuss Maritime Security: Maritime security is described as those measures government and other stake holders employ against maritime threats. Terrorists are non-state actors that are elusive. Thus. India has undertaken a number of important naval and air construction projects at Lakshadweep. China feels that it is being encircled by the US and its allies to contain China‟s influence in the Asia Pacific region. There appears to be a “silent cold war” going on between China and the US and its allies on the Indian Ocean. Pakistan. while the US is clearly too strong to stay on the sidelines of world affairs. not a strategic partner. Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is obvious that power in the world is realigning and that Asia is going to become more important. Second. has a maritime zone that engenders significant security implications for the country. an Indian Ocean littoral state. cargo and passenger ships. Bangladesh Case: Bangladesh. These things are clear and do not need to be debated at length. The principal problem of terrorism is that they have a global reach. without countries or uniforms and may lie low for years before they act. Many security experts believe the world order is in transition because there is no power at the moment including the US that can force an issue to its wishes and satisfaction. The terrorists are groups. a planned military reconnaissance centre in the Maldives and new interest in naval facilities in Sri Lanka. Since the US considers China a strategic competitor. However. it is too weak to implement its own agenda without wide international support.

This brings both advantages and difficulties. Furthermore seawater according to scientists. The difficulty in exploring and exploiting exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal lies in the non-delimitation of maritime boundary with India and Myanmar. Myanmar and Thailand constitute the “Golden Triangle”. Bangladesh could be used as a transit point forn drug trafficking. In recent months. plans and actions with respect to it are inadequate. Although Bangladesh had successfully defused the likely confrontation on the sea through diplomatic efforts and dispatching Bangladesh naval ships in the area. the current perception of comprehensive maritime security in Bangladesh is insouciant. 20 young terrorists of the Mumbai attacks on November 26th came to that city by a boat because of relaxed immigration control. let me begin by posing three questions: The word “security” presupposes something to be secured. Relaxed security on the seafront facilitates easy illegal entry and departure from seas. gas and other minerals. declared by the 1974 Territorial Waters and Maritimes Zones Act. Bangladesh has to secure 12 miles territorial sea. In particular. An important adjunct to martime terrorism is drug trafficking. Bangladesh shipping. Bangladesh has to safeguard these maritime intertests. With regard to Bangladesh‟s maritime security. . Comprehensive maritime security as understood in contemporary ocean governance has two facets – conventional/traditional and nonconventional/ non-traditional. and the strategy. off-shore oil and gas facilities and shipping lanes in Bangladesh waters is required. contains about 300 chemical elements which can be exploited with the assistance and support of the technologically-advanced states. The three questions are: (a) what is being secured. Non-military threats: Bangladesh has to cope with transnational non-military threats emanating from seas.sensitize its constituent issues. Terrorist groups often work hand-in-hand with drug cartles. For instance. While Iran and Pakistan have become “the Golden Crescent” in drug trafficking. potential tension remains until the area is delimited with India and Myanmar. a comprehensive maritime security that includes Bangladesh ports. Given the current global and regional security environment. These include not only fish and other living resources but also petroleum. 200 miles economic zone (12 miles+188 miles=200 miles) and another 150 miles of continental shelf from the limit of 200 miles. (b) what is secured against? And (c) what mechanisms may be undertaken to provide security? Traditional Issues: Bangladesh is a coastal state. Bangladesh has the exclusive right to explore and exploit marine and continental shelf resources. we witnessed both Myanmar and India sent survey ships in Bangladesh‟s area supported by naval ships.

of course. . off the Somali coast. at the jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertiliser on April 2. the protection of sovereign interests against military force remains a fundamental issue for any government. Maritime patrol is one element of the multi-layered approach to maritime security that Bangladesh could employ to protect national interests. He was carrying computers. 2000 grenades and three lakh bullets during unloading from MV Khazar Dan and FB Amanat. Oil. the US navy found that al-Queada terrorists who were hiding inside a well-equipped containers escaped before the search commenced. . Furthermore pirates are quite active on the high seas and they may operate in the contiguous zones. particularly in the waters between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. cameras. and detention. there had been an unending stream of reports in all newspapers of such entry of illegal arms and weapons through sea port. Maritime piracy. This is container security that is often linked to maritime terrorism. In practice elsewhere. Seaborne piracy against transport vessels remains a significant issue with estimated worldwide losses of US $13 to $16 billion per year. maps and seaport security passes for Thailand. which are used by over 50. maritime security has moved well beyond the traditional concepts of naval or military threat although. rocket propelled grenades and their launchers. In 2002. Egypt and Canada. The Home Ministry of Bangladesh has in recent days declared its firm commitment to undertake a thorough investigation to find out who were responsible for the illegal entry of weapons and who were the financiers of such vast quantity of weapons through Chittagong port that has become a strategic point of entry for illegal arms. mobile phones. 2004. The need for maritime security for Bangladesh's sea lines can hardly be over-emphasized. and also in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore. consists of any criminal acts of violence.Gunrunning by sea is the safest means of transferring illegal arms and ammunition around the world.related disasters at sea are not only environmental hazards but also affect maritime security Oil spills can seriously affect the flow of merchant shipping traffic to and from Bangladesh Need for Maritime Security of Bangladesh: Bangladesh is a maritime country with huge Exclusive Economic Zone. It has been reported that cargo ships are often used for unloading supplies for terrorists and one instance was that the suicide cadres who bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 were provided with supplies by cargo ships. Another threat has emerged from unlikely place. committed against a cargo/passenger ship on the sea.000 commercial ships a year. Ever since the seizure of arms and ammunitions including submschine guns and AK rifles. In another case a suspected terrorist smuggled himself halfway the world inside a shipping container that was well equipped with a bed and toilet.

4. Surveillance: the detection of activities. This maritime sector is very important for Bangladesh's overall national economic growth and social life. illegal transportation of goods or people. 1. Military requirement: Bangladesh has maritime border dispute with India and the expansion of Indian navy both in size and capability is a matter of concern for Bangladesh. 2. About 90% of our external trade is done through sea routes Huge deposit of hydrocarbon and investment in dollar value in this sector Marine fisheries--one of the largest export earning sectors Tourism industry The importance of Bangladesh‟s marine resources in the national economy will grow in coming years because of extraction of the large deposits of minerals.The need for maritime security for Bangladesh can be divided into two broad categories: a. Control: the execution and the rendering effective of international and national rules and regulations. 3. forceful occupation of maritime land patches by sea pirates and even by neighbouring countries. creation of environmental hazards. Bangladesh can find its sovereign civilian interests challenged directly or indirectly in many ways such as: 1. or other responses as appropriate. processes and policies namely. Military requirement Civilian requirement: Bangladesh has a huge maritime economy to protect. or conditions. 3. illegal resource exploitation. Illegal drugs and weapons transportation 5. Bangladesh‟s maritime sector is important to the nation‟s economy and quality of life in a number of ways: 1. 4. Maritime espionage by inimical forces 2. and gas extraction facilities 4. Monitoring: the systematic observation of specific activities. naval blockade 3. Civilian requirement and b. 2. The type of maritime security issues that can emerge are as follows: 1. Terrorism against maritime interests such as blowing up trade vessels. 3. . disregard of national or international law. Sea is the only outlet for Bangladesh to exercise her sovereign rights as she is land locked from three sides by India and Myanmar. 2. events. Addressing these varied challenges today requires a wider range of capabilities. events or changes in condition within an area of ocean jurisdiction.

because it affects a state's sovereign rights concerning the fisheries. states in the region sometimes encroach upon each others‟ EEZs. including overlapping claims with India and Myanmar. mean that there is no stable low water line. Bangladesh has faced a number of difficulties with neighbouring countries over the demarcation of maritime boundaries. S.Maritime Border Demarcation Issue: Maritime boundary. However. including gas and oil. Figure 1: Territorial Sea Baselines Discoveries of gas by India and Myanmar in 2005-6 make delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and continental shelf (CS) boundaries particularly important. However. is a politically sensitive subject. Bangladesh‟s dynamic estuary and the continual process of alluvion and sedimentation. like territorial or land boundary. . due to the characteristics of its coastline. S. The unique characteristics of Bangladesh‟s coast create difficulties for demarcation. hydrocarbons and other resources as well as uses of the sea. Taleb (2009) argues that the most important maritime security issue for Bangladesh is to delimit its maritime boundaries in order to exploit its offshore resources. Bangladesh faces a number of difficulties in demarcating its maritime borders:    Bangladesh‟s claims are founded upon depth-based baselines. Due to the geographical and geomorphic nature of the coasts in the Bay of Bengal. for example. It has declared straight baselines. Bangladesh should make proper preparations to submit and win its claims through international legal regimes. This sensitivity is manifest in the issue of delimitation of maritime boundaries between Bangladesh-India-Myanmar. selecting eight imaginary base points following the 10-fathom line. Taleb suggests that Bangladesh must make preparations for establishing its claims over its maritime boundaries without delay and adds if negotiations to resolve these disputes become fruitless.

It can be broken down into three broad categories: . argues that in disputes between adjacent states. (Extra capacity comes at a high price. Figure 2: Zone-locked Bangladesh How to Ensure Maritime Security of Bangladesh: The following three steps action might be inaugurated for Bangladesh maritime security At national level enhancing capability and regional level promoting regional mechanism as well as solving maritime demarcation bilaterally if possible. platforms need to be matched closely with the tasks to be undertaken. the costs of aircraft and ships can be high and seem to rise exponentially for assets that have high endurance or operate at long distances b. Bangladesh.) Now. let us take a look at the type of range that is needed in the rotary and fixed wing aircraft to perform maritime security tasks. the equity principle should apply instead. India and Myanmar argue that disputes with Bangladesh should be resolved according to the equidistant principle. however. if not possible by the UNCLOS provisions may be adopted for lasting and enduring maritime security for Bangladesh. Aircraft options: The choice of aircraft platform is the most important decision for two reasons: a.

India and Myanmar. To Solve Maritime Border Dispute: The government of Bangladesh should consider the maritime issue as an important aspect of national security and economic prosperity. Anti-surface warfare. and Counterdrug missions. both renewable and non-renewable. which could benefit Bangladesh. 3. the EEZ and the CS. d. Enact domestic laws incorporating the UNCLOS in order to establish a stronger claim in international legal regimes. c. Intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance. an area accessible to medium-range commercial aircraft. It should consider the alliance relationship and prepare properly to establish strong claims at the negotiations. Bangladesh must demarcate its maritime boundary. e. Consider joint management of resources. where usually there is a requirement for sustained operations. This is vital since neither country favours third party intervention on this issue. Antisubmarine warfare (ASW). To enjoy the economic opportunities provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).along the coastline and Territorial Sea where the need is usually for short duration coverage. coastal . To this end the government of Bangladesh should:       Acquire marine patrol aircraft to guard its territorial sea. It may have to redraw its 1974 baselines to ensure they are consistent with the UNCLOS. Negotiate with Myanmar and India.throughout much of the EEZ. Internationalise the issue in order to strengthen its claims and gain international support. mid-range . It should provide the navy with sufficient sophisticated equipment to monitor and protect coastline islands. It should conduct joint naval exercises with major powers. However.1. Standoff land attack. . Coordination among the multiple organisations working on maritime issues is also vital. this will require friendly relations and many rounds of negotiations. 2. especially over the outer fringes of the EEZ and beyond. 1982. It should promote technical developments for the maximum utilisation of marine resources. Coordinate experts working on UNCLOS and maritime issues in order to maintain continuity in the negotiating process. These rotary and fixed wing aircrafts should also have the following combat capabilities: a. long distance – further out. b.

introducing of the SAARC Maritime Security Chair (e. These in turn will take SAARC toward greater connectivity in ocean management. 7. and Track-III processes. under the SAARC umbrella. SAARC leaders‟ consensus to promote regional co-operation through a “regional maritime co-operative security mechanism” (RMCSM) and its implementation through operationalization. rule of law must prevail. which will go beyond the capability and efficiency of a nation‟s Coast Guards. Undertaking SAARC action plans and strategies to address problems of maritime security by interfacing [as and when situation calls for] Track-I. contributing to address the maritime security and ocean management issue effectively. hence. Track-II. 4. Within their ambit. in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal in which India has supremacy vis-avis other SAARC states. It will act as a watch-dog in strengthening SAARCs‟ institutional pillars necessary for enhancing good governance in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Begal. Operationalizing an integrated regional maritime resource management system (IRMRMS). And such practice has been introduced in the world‟s other region from which the region has positively been profited in terms of regional co-operation. including Bangladesh. and Kolkata) will be helpful to introduce undergraduate and graduate courses on marine resources and technology and maritime security. Establishing and implementing of a SAARC Maritime Security Centre/Institution in India. to vigil at transboundary crimes. 5. an ocean-based traffic system. JNU. It can and will act as a detection and notification system for the states‟ agents.Regional Cooperation Measures: 1. Strong advocacy of this should be a continuous task of the smaller Indian Ocean littoral states. Bombay. This may help to evolve an effective regional joint management of maritime resources and governance. Having vision-based action plan: SAARC leaders‟ vision should be to establish an overarching ocean management regime indispensable for preserving peace and security in the ocean. having its sister-branches in Chittagong and Mongla Ports of Bangladesh. Formation. These will give rise to increasing awareness about maritime security and ocean management. manned by SAARC Ocean Force (SAARCOF). . at Universities of Madras. After all. Both want to see a balance of power is maintained in the Indian Ocean. India is destined to be a great power for which its needs its blue water navy too as China has built up its own blue water navy. India rather should ensure. through its blue water navy mechanism.g. Andhra. enhancing maritime security of regional powers. 8. Establishing and operationalizing a SAARC network of surveillance. 2. A rapid formulation and implementation of a SAARC Parliamentary Maritime Group. thereby promoting regional maritime co-operation through RMCSM. India‟s goal of building up a blue water navy should be designed as such so that smaller littoral states of Indian Ocean do not view it targeted against their interest. 6. 3. In managing an IRMRMS. Delhi. the protection of smaller Indian Ocean littoral states‟ interest in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal as well.

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