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Bangladesh, Burma Dispute Oil Exploration in Bay of Bengal

Naval ships from Bangladesh and Burma are facing off in the Bay of Bengal, after a row erupted between the neighbors about oil and gas exploration in the area. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, Bangladesh is sending a senior diplomat to Burma to resolve the dispute.

The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry says Dhaka will do everything necessary to protect its sovereignty, but wants to resolve the dispute with Burma about oil exploration in the Bay of Bengal peacefully.

Bangladesh officials say the dispute erupted after Burmese exploration, ships escorted by naval craft, began exploring for oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal. Military-ruled Burma has made no official comment.

Dhaka dispatched a naval patrol to the area, in recent days, after lodging a diplomatic protest.

Bangladesh says it has refrained from energy exploration in the Bay of Bengal because both countries have yet to agree to a maritime boundary in the area. It wants Burma to do the same.

Bangladesh's Additional Foreign Secretary, M.A.K. Mehmood says Burma - also known as Myanmar - should halt all activity in the Bay of Bengal.

"As far as we are concerned, Myanmar has intruded into our maritime zones," Mehmood said. "What we understand they have brought in an offshore drilling platform in that area. Any unilateral action is seen to be unfriendly."

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Toheid Hossain will hold talks with Burmese officials, Wednesday, in a bid to defuse the row over the oil exploration.

The two countries are also scheduled to hold talks in Dhaka in mid November on demarcating a maritime boundary. Both countries have been holding talks on the issue in recent years.

Observers say it may not be easy to conclude those talks. The Bay of Bengal is considered to rich in hydrocarbon reserves, and both nations will want to stake a claim in those resources.