The question of why the Caspian Sea agreement is an essential UPSC topic can be well understood with the significance of the Caspian Sea. It is a water body strategically placed amongst Eastern Europe and Central Asia, known to have rich energy deposits. The Caspian Sea connects these countries and contains rich deposits of oil and gas in portable reserves. Apart from the vast deposits of energy resources, the Caspian Sea is also home to sturgeon fish renowned for a delicacy called caviar.

Caspian Sea Agreement

Several bilateral agreements were earlier signed between the Soviet Union and Iran to regulate the use of the water body over the years. However, with Union Soviet disintegrating in 1991, it added three more countries to the Caspian sea agreement list. It gave rise to the re-negotiation of the Caspian Sea agreement. The significance of the Caspian Sea is vital for the Caspian sea agreement and hence, it is an essential UPSC topic to discuss while preparing for the Caspian sea.

Present Members of Caspian Sea Agreement – Caspian Sea Countries

Caspian Sea agreement involves Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan as its members. These countries are Caspian Sea border countries and have reached a negotiation to divide resources and eliminate military setting from any other power country.

Breakthrough Caspian Sea Treaty

On 12 August 2018, a breakthrough Caspian Sea treaty was signed by the head of all the bordering countries in Kazakhstan. The convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will help resolve major issues related to the use of the water body. The Caspian Sea breakthrough treaty is a highly discussed topic in the UPSC mock test series.

Core Issues Resolved Related to Caspian Sea Agreement

1.  Lake or Sea Dilemma

What is the geopolitical issue with the Caspian Sea? The main issue related to the Caspian Sea agreement was whether the Caspian Sea is a sea or lake. Resolution of the question of lake or sea dilemma was vital as it would determine the use of water bodies by the bordering countries. Since the Caspian Sea is an inland water body, “the law of Sea” cannot be directly applicable. Classifying the Caspian Sea as a lake would mean that all the five members would equally divide the resource extending from their country shore to midway. However, Iran would arguably lose out on the treaty agreement as it gets access and ownership of only 13% of the Caspian Sea, which is the saltiest and deepest. The convention has divided the Caspian Sea border into three categories, common maritime zone, territorial waters and fishery zone.

2. Right to Exploitation and Exploration of Seabed

Another chief matter resolved in the convention was the right to exploitation & exploration of the seabed by the five-member countries. Each coastal state can explore and exploit the seabed and subsoil within its respective sector of the seabed. However, countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan have agreed upon the treaty, but Iran and Turkmenistan have continuously opposed the agreement. Although, the convention grants permission to coastal countries to install artificial islands and authorise their construction on the seabed. The convention smoothened pipeline projects that were abandoned due to confusion around the Caspian Sea’s status. It will also encourage for development of such projects in the future. The topic “the right to exploration and exploitation” is very relevant in the Caspian Sea deal for the UPSC exam.

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3. Fisheries

The Caspian Sea is known for its rich hydrocarbon resources and valuable fish resources. Fishing is known to be a vital activity in the sea. The convention specifies the exclusive rights to the countries to harvest fishery in their zone. If the member country cannot use its quotas for such maritime space, it may grant such harvesting rights to the member states.

4. Navigation

The convention assures freedom of navigation for ships beyond the territorial waters of other coastal countries. This convention reserves the right for such navigation between the member countries’ coastal regions. However, access to internal waters is subject to conditions and limitations. For access to ports in the Caspian Sea and the use of port facilities, the member countries enjoy such privileges, and non-member countries are not able to do so. The convention also regulates the transport of warships, submarines and other underwater vessels. The convention can prohibit coastal countries from serious pollution. It can also restrict the presence of armed forces not belonging to five coastal countries.

5. Transportation through High Seas

The convention also controls transportation through the Caspian Sea. This transportation of ships through the Caspian Sea is only possible if it is a member country. This exclusive right can be exercised through the freedom of transit countries. Therefore, Russia and Iran are such transit countries, but neighbouring seas can also be member countries. However, for free transit, a bilateral agreement between the countries should be formed. Transport must be free-flow, and member countries’ rights will not be violated.

6. Protection of Ecosystem and Biodiversity

The member countries to such convention must follow and protect the ecological system and biodiversity of the Caspian Sea. The convention requires the member countries to ensure protection and prohibit damage to the Caspian Sea’s biodiversity. Environmental protection has been the vital agenda of such a convention. All the member countries need to agree upon the exploration and exploitation in such an agreement for the future development of the Caspian Sea. However, implementation of obligations will result in submarine cables and pipelines projects, hydrocarbons extraction and fishing activities.

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However, all disputes arising between the member countries are to be resolved through consultations and negotiations. The convention makes it easier for member countries to agree upon the dispute resolution mechanism and not bind them. This convention does not provide any solution for countries not agreeing upon the dispute resolution procedure.

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Current Caspian Sea Agreement: An Overview of the Agreement for UPSC Aspirants
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Current Caspian Sea Agreement: An Overview of the Agreement for UPSC Aspirants
As an aspiring UPSC IAS candidate, do you know the geopolitical issue associated with the Caspian sea?. Click here to get an overview of the Caspian Sea agreement & get prepared for the upcoming UPSC.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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