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Ajeen Kumar asked: Is the sea between Andaman group of Islands and Nicobar group of Islands part of India’s territorial water in view of baselines promulgated and notified in 2009?

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  • Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies:As per Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) every state can claim a territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles. India has submitted its baseline coordinates except for the eastern coastline of the Andaman and Nicobar Group of Islands. The baseline claimed consists of normal and straight baselines as per UNCLOS Articles 5 and 7, and for the eastern coast of the islands the default position of normal baselines as per Article 5 can be assumed, till such time India submits coordinates. Therefore, all waters up to 12 nautical miles from the baseline is India’s territorial seas. All waters beyond the limit of India’s territorial seas would in sequence be the contiguous zone (up to 24 nautical miles), Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ (up to 200 nautical miles), subject to the limits established as per agreements with India’s neighbours on the eastern coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and high seas beyond the EEZ. Articles 3,5, and 7 are reproduced below for easy reference.

    Article 3: Breadth of the Territorial Sea

    Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention.

    Article 5: Normal Baseline
    Except where otherwise provided in this Convention, the normal baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line along the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognised by the coastal State.

    Article 7: Straight Baselines

    1. In localities where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, the method of straight baselines joining appropriate points may be employed in drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
    2. Where because of the presence of a delta and other natural conditions the coastline is highly unstable, the appropriate points may be selected along the furthest seaward extent of the low-water line and, notwithstanding subsequent regression of the low-water line, the straight baselines shall remain effective until changed by the coastal State in accordance with this Convention.
    3. The drawing of straight baselines must not depart to any appreciable extent from the general direction of the coast, and the sea areas lying within the lines must be sufficiently closely linked to the land domain to be subject to the regime of internal waters.
    4. Straight baselines shall not be drawn to and from low-tide elevations, unless lighthouses or similar installations which are permanently above sea level have been built on them or except in instances where the drawing of baselines to and from such elevations has received general international recognition.
    5. Where the method of straight baselines is applicable under paragraph 1, account may be taken, in determining particular baselines, of economic interests peculiar to the region concerned, the reality and the importance of which are clearly evidenced by long usage.
    6. The system of straight baselines may not be applied by a State in such a manner as to cut off the territorial sea of another State from the high seas or an exclusive economic zone.

    Posted on June 15, 2018