Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dying insurgency slowly resurrecting in Kashmir

A visit today by Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to Indian-administered Kashmir comes a day after militants killed eight troops in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar, the main city in the region. Singh, who was there along with Congress party Chief Sonia Gandhi to open a power project in Kishtwar, did not comment on the attack, however, security has been stepped up in Srinagar following the incident.
The attack marks a recent spike in military activity in the disputed territory between India and Pakistan, which has born witness to an insurgency since 1989. Over the weekend, two policemen were shot and killed by militants after India launched sustained mortar shelling of targets in Rawalakot, Pakistani-administered Kashmir, last week, killing a nine-year-old girl and injuring several others. Considering that similar skirmishes in this district back in January almost derailed the two neighbours' fragile peace negotiations, this increase in violence is extremely worrying and could be indicative of a slowly resurrecting insurgency that was at its peak in the 1990s.
Pakistan is blamed for fuelling the Islamist insurgency that erupted in 1989 and has claimed nearly 70,000 lives. Islamabad has denied directly sponsoring the insurgency but has admitted that its territory was used by militant groups who are battling India's control of Kashmir. Border skirmishes also broke out in 1998, lasting 11 weeks and claiming the lives of 1,200 soldiers.
Since the creation of separate India and Pakistan states in 1947 after independence from Britain, the issue of the Muslim-majority Kashmir has remained unsolved. The two countries have fought three wars, of which two have been over Kashmir. The tensions have remained ever since and have been especially fuelled since 1998 when both countries became nuclear states. Both India and Pakistan control part of Kashmir, but claim it in full.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Cambodia agrees to uphold peace on disputed border

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Monday that Cambodia has agreed to maintain peace along its disputed border with Thailand, irrespective of the ICJ's upcoming decision concerning the territory surrounding Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple. Since it was approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July 2008, the Temple has been the scene of intermittent conflict between Cambodia and Thailand, the latter claiming ownership of the 4.6 km² of territory adjacent to the site.
"Whatever decision the ICJ makes, the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will abide by the court's decision, and we will maintain friendship, cooperation and serenity along the border," said Namhong to the Director General of UNESCO,Irina Bokova, who welcomed the announcement, agreeing that a peaceful solution was in tune with UNESCO's vision of protecting heritage sites all over the world. The Court is expected to rule on the disputed land, which has tested relations between the two south-east Asian nations for decades, by the end of this year.
Cambodia filed an application to the ICJ on 28 April 2011 requesting an interpretation of the Court's judgement on 15 June 1962 (which ruled in favour of Cambodia) concerning the century-long border dispute in and around the area of the Preah Vihear Temple in the Dangrek Mountains. In the 2011 application, Cambodia stressed the need for Thailand to withdraw its troops from the area, cease all military activity in the vicinity and refrain from any act that could aggravate the dispute, lest irreparable damage be done to relations between the two parties. Thailand refuted the claims that there was still a dispute and that these special provisions regarding its military be implemented. The Court ruled against Bangkok and has since heard opening statements from both parties.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Attention turns to offshore Malta

As IOCs have ramped up their activities in the Mediterranean Sea this year, amid the announcement of a licensing round scheduled for November in Lebanon, discoveries offshore Israel and significant exploration activities offshore Cyprus, several independents, including Genel Energy and Cairn Energy, have been awarded permits to explore for oil offshore Malta.
Heritage Oil, which shares licences for Areas 2 and 7 with the Maltese government, amounting to an area over 18,000 km² some 80 km off Malta's southeast coast, has announced that these Areas are “underexplored” and hinted at the existence of deepwater prospects after analysing newly acquired 2D seismic data. Despite the Jersey-based company's intention to drill a high-impact well in this area, it is awaiting the resolution of a border dispute between Malta and Libya before it can commence drilling.
Dating back to 1974, the border dispute between Malta and Libya started when Valetta awarded Texaco four blocks that lay north of the median line between Malta and Libya. After Texaco spudded their first well in 1980, exploration activities were forced to a halt following the despatch of a gunboat by Tripoli.
The dispute was taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1982. After considering the case for three years, it was decided that the border would lie 18' north of the median line, to account for the disparity in the length of Libya and Malta's respective coastlines. Although both sides accepted the agreement, it only applied to a narrow strip of water and so border disputes continue to this day. Area 7, in which Heritage wants to drill, lies to the east and south of the designated border, and as such, Libya considers it to be in its territory. This was reaffirmed to Heritage by the Libya National Oil Company (LNOC) in 2008, shortly after the company received the block.
While the revolution in Libya may have removed from power those who were initially involved in the border dispute in the early 1980s, as well as the head of the LNOC who communicated with Heritage in 2008, and presented new security challenges to the current administration, there is no doubt that the oil-rich North African state will respond robustly if it feels Malta is drilling within the Libyan continental shelf. The imperative to resolve this long-standing border dispute will become more acute as the new finds lure larger oil and gas players into the increasingly competitive Mediterranean operating environment.