Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Panel to review India-Myanmar border dispute

India has sent a committee to its eastern province of Manipur, on the border with Myanmar, to review work on its 10km border fence with its neighbour, following reports that Myanmarese troops made an incursion onto Indian land on 22 August. The soldiers are said to have entered Indian territory through the border town of Moreh and begun felling trees to set up a temporary camp at Holenphai village in Manipur's Chandel district, claiming that the land was rightly theirs and fell within Myanmar's jurisdiction. 
The decision to send the committee, headed by Chairman Suresh Babu, was taken during an emergency cabinet meeting convened on Saturday night by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. The meeting was called after a discussion the same day between the group charged with protecting the border area, the Assam Rifles, and their Myanmar counterpart, achieved little progress. Moreh Governor Ashwini Kumar will also be visiting the area tomorrow to assess the claims of the Myanmar troops, who are currently situated 3km south of Moreh police station and 10m inside the Indian side of the newly erected border demarcation.
Concerns over the border fence fomented into unrest shortly after construction began by the Indian Home Ministry in March 2003, following a joint survey that lasted six months. Protests by the people of Moreh, Chorokhunou and Molchan, which stalled building for a short period, sought to bring to the attention of the authorities the fact that the newly-built fence would bifurcate the indigenous Naga, Chin and Kuki ethnic communities in the area, whose lands straddle the border zone. In light of recent events and comments by Babu, who told journalists that what was being erected was a 'security' fence not a border fence, local groups have threatened once again to demonstrate against construction.
The Indian province of Manipur shares a 398km border with Myanmar. Prior to 2003, the porous border between the two South Asian neighbours was seen as a transit point for drug-trafficking and blamed for the deaths of hundreds of security personnel killed in militancy-related violence.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tensions heighten between Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Costa Rica's Foreign Minister, Enrique Castillo, announced that his country was forced to shut its consulate in Managua over the weekend following a series of demonstrations against the embassy and its staff. Castillo, who labelled the protestors as “xenophobic”, said that they came up against demonstrators even after relocating to another site outside the capital. Costa Rican residents of Nicoya have a planned a counter-demonstration for tomorrow.
The marches follow news last week that Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega threatened to make a claim, through the ICJ, on the Costa Rican domain of Guanacaste at celebrations marking the 33rd anniversary of Nicaragua's navy. Costa Rica's Ambassador to the UN, Eduardo Ulibarri, responded to the statement some days later on CNN, saying that over a dozen letters had been sent to the UN Security Council in protest at what he deemed to be “constant provocations” by Ortega, saying that the latest was “ disrespectful…from the point of view of Costa Rica's territorial integrity.”
On 14 August, the day after Ortega's naval celebration statement, Nicaragua publicly announced that the Ocean Saratoga, an offshore drilling platform owned by Noble Energy, had initiated drilling the country's first exploratory oil well 168km offshore Bluefields on the Caribbean coast. The exploration, set to finish in mid-November, will drill to a depth of nearly 3.5km. The Latin American neighbours are in a singular position in that they lack any treaty delimiting their maritime borders, despite sharing two coastal areas. Bilateral negotiations began in 2002, but came to an abrupt halt in 2005 after Costa Rica presented a formal request against Nicaragua to the ICJ regarding rights of navigation in the San Juan River, what many have called the “ sanjuanización” of the bilateral agenda.
Proceedings were then instituted by Costa Rica against Nicaragua in 2010, over the alleged occupation of Costa Rican territory in relation to dredging of the San Juan River. They argue that this activity violated their territorial rights, as spelled out in the 1858 Cañas-Jerez Treaty and the 1888 Cleveland Award, which awarded ownership of the River to Nicaragua, although commercial navigation rights were afforded to Costa Rica.
The second proceedings were instituted by Nicaragua against Costa Rica in December of the following year, citing “major environmental damages” in its territory resulting from major works, namely the construction of a road on the Costa Rican side of the border. Then, on 6 August 2012, Nicaragua filed four counter-claims in the first case, which were raised objectionably by Costa Rica to the ICJ, as well as Managua's request that the two cases be joined.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

UK company interested in exploration of disputed West Philippines Sea

Forum Energy Company (FEC) has made an expression of interest to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) earlier this month to begin exploration for gas and oil in the disputed West Philippines Sea. The company, which boasts a number of projects in the Philippines, can already navigate 18 miles off the coast of Palawan, under the conditions set out in its Service Contracts 40 and 72. FEC presented its case to the directors of the PCSD at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall on 2 August.

Governor of Palawan Jose Alvarez, who attended the presentation, reassured FEC that it would not restrict the company's efforts to explore further afield offshore Palawan, instead urging caution and care, particularly in relation to the natural environment, insisting that the PCSD would fully support pro-development projects on the condition that they were non-intrusive and benefitted the local community. Regarding the safety of the UK oil firm's employees in the waters of the highly disputed West Philippine Sea, Chief of Staff of the Western Command, Colonel Emmanuel Salamat, claimed that the strong Philippine military presence in the area would ensure the security of FEC's offshore operations.
China lays claim to, and has de facto control of, virtually the entire South China Sea, despite the claims of a total of six countries to maritime territory in the South China Sea. This horseshoe-shaped area, delineated by China's so-called “nine-dash line”, stretches over a vast area that Beijing claims historical rights to. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert Del Rosario, argues that this territory encompasses not only the entire South China Sea but also violates Philippine rights to a Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, an EEZ and a continental shelf, as stipulated by UNCLOS.
Last year saw a standoff involving Chinese military ships and Philippine vessels after the former took control of the Scarborough Shoal, referred to by China as Nansha, over 500km due West of Manila. The Philippines also lay claim to the Spratly Islands, which lie in the vicinity of Palawan, under the legal justification of Res Nullius. Beijing insists on its “indisputable sovereignty over the islands in [the] South China Sea and its adjacent waters” and has refused calls by its maritime neighbour to settle the dispute through arbitration.

Cameroon extends full sovereignty over Bakassi peninsula

Cameroon took full control over the disputed Bakassi peninsula today, marking the end of the five-year transitional period given to both Cameroon and Nigeria to implement the ICJ verdict in 2002. The ruling, which found that sovereignty rested with Cameroon, gave the Nigerian government a ten-year window to appeal against the decision. President Goodluck Jonathan declined to do so, a move praised by the UN but condemned by many Nigerian politicians, who called it a political blunder.
The 40,000-strong population of the peninsula is over 90% Nigerian. They have had more than a decade to decide whether to keep their identity as it is, migrate to Nigeria or accept Cameroonian nationality. Cameroon has had troops stationed in the area since August 14 2008 and established several military bases, under the pretext of combating Nigerian piracy in the supposedly oil-rich waters off the coast of the peninsula.
The government in Cameroon has remained largely silent in the lead-up to this significant day. As small pockets of resistance from armed militia groups across the Bakassi territory have opposed Cameroon's full takeover of peninsula, it is likely this tactic by the authorities in Yaoundé has sought to prevent any further outbreaks of nationalist sentiment or inflame locals who might have chosen this day to make their voices heard in the streets.
The dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria rumbled on for decades, and the two sides almost went to war over the peninsula in 1981. The case was taken to the ICJ in 1994 by Cameroon following further armed clashes in the early 1990s. What followed was a complex case based on colonial-era correspondence and diplomatic agreements drawn up by the imperial powers Britain and Germany. Nigeria finally handed over control in 2008.