India and Commission on Legal Continental Shelf

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India will soon not have a representative in U.N. scientific body, Commission on Legal Continental Shelf (CLCS) that decides what portions of the seabed can be exclusively mined for natural resources such as oil, precious metals and minerals.

Rasik Ravindra is India’s current member of the CLCS. Its term is expiring soon and no candidate was fielded for elections by India to the Commission on Legal Continental Shelf.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which formally nominates Indian candidates, chose to nominate a person to another U.N. body, called the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

The MoES is the nodal Ministry for the Law of the Sea-related issues. However, the MEA went on to nominate a retired Joint Secretary-level officer for ITLOS membership, whereas the MoES candidate for CLCS was not agreed to by the MEA.

The CLCS has a five-year tenure and elections are due in June for the 2017-2022 term.

Not having an Indian in this 21-member group would mean that China and Pakistan would likely “grab” two of the five seats allotted to the so-called Asia-Pacific group.

The Convention on the Continental Shelf is an international treaty created to codify the rules of international law relating to continental shelves. The treaty, after entering into force 10 June 1964, established the rights of a sovereign state over the continental shelf surrounding it. The treaty was one of three agreed upon at the first United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I). It has since been superseded by a new agreement reached in 1982 at UNCLOS III.

The treaty dealt with seven topics: the regime governing the superjacent waters and airspace; laying or maintenance of submarine cables or pipelines; the regime governing navigation, fishing, scientific research and the coastal state’s competence in these areas; delimitation; tunneling.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is an international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), between 1973 and 1982.

The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to ratify the treaty.

167 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention. India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982 and has had continuous representation in CLCS, ITLOS and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) since their inception in 1997, 1996 and 1994 respectively.

UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention. There is, however, a role played by organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority (ISA). (The ISA was established by the UN Convention.)

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is an intergovernmental organization created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. It was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on December 10, 1982.

The Convention established an international framework over “all ocean space, its uses and resources”. The tribunal is based in Hamburg, Germany. The Convention also established the International Seabed Authority, with responsibility for the regulation of seabed mining beyond the limits of national jurisdiction that is beyond the limits of the territorial sea, the contiguous zone and the continental shelf. There are currently 167 signatories, 166 states plus the European Union.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, that was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans. It is an organization established by the Law of the Sea Convention.

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