Bangladesh-Burma strengthening connectivity is strategic imperative

By Tin Soe

Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized an international seminar on Enhancing Bangladesh-Myanmar Relations at BIISS auditorium on 21 May 2014 to discuss “the problems in the bordering area” under the Dhaka’s proposal of “security dialogue” and Naypyidaw agreed it, said Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque.

The Secretary said under the security dialogue “we will focus discussion on security issues which is hurting the relationship including irregular movement of people in that area”.

“Once we have security dialogue, we would have close, intense discussion between two bordering forces,” Haque speaking at seminar that he said Bangladesh and Myanmar are set to break the ice in their relations by narrowing the decades-old “trust deficit” between the two neighbors.

Dhaka had allowed Burmese frigate for the first time last year to use Naaf River to go into their part of the lake, which showed “Bangladesh is making all kinds of gesture that are positive,” said the Haque, the secretary. “The frigate stayed in Myanmar water bordering Cox’s Bazar district – Teknaf town – for a month and went back.

“We would like to see next time when we make an offer we get similar reciprocity that will show strength between the two countries,” the secretary said.

“Let’s have a security dialogue, let’s call security as security, not cover it under trade and diplomatic relations.”

The relationship between Bangladesh and Myanmar did not develop commensurate with the advantages of geographical proximity and complementary economic interests. Since 2011 prime ministerial visit in Myanmar, acceleration has been obtained in bilateral exchanges. Last year, Bangladesh and Myanmar completed Seventh Foreign Secretary Level Consultation where both parties showed greater flexibility and accommodation. There were increased and regular consultations at both national and local levels including officials involved in border security and border management. Both countries are engaged bilaterally and multilaterally in expanding connectivity, and in regional arrangements like BCIM and BIMSTEC, Haque mentioned at the seminar.

In the course of discussion on papers detailing some current concerns and complexities in Bangladesh-Myanmar relations, the Director General of the UN desk of Bangladesh Foreign Office, Ms. Saida Tasnim explained how through days of isolation of Myanmar under Western admonition, Bangladesh always stood by Myanmar at the UN, and how Myanmar reciprocated by necessary cooperation in repatriation of Rohingya Refugees under UNHCR monitoring back to Rakhaine state from Bangladesh. She expressed hope that existing problem of ethnic conflicts in Myanmar would also be resolved by mutual accommodation, pragmatism and spirit of humanism between the two neighbors.

The head of delegation of MISIS, Ambassador U Wynn Lwin mentioned at the seminar, Myanmar and Bangladesh are very good friends and Myanmar is one of the first ten countries to recognize Bangladesh. He noted that in previous years Bangladesh and Myanmar were able to settle many disputed bilateral issues including the demarcation of land boundary between the two countries.  In previous years the two countries worked jointly on many regional and international forums including ASEAN. He added that Myanmar accepted the Maritime demarcation verdict in an amicable way, which indicates that the two neighbors are united. There was consensus in the express opinion from the audience and the treatises presented in the seminar that close relations and “united” position of Bangladesh and Myanmar is indeed a strategic imperative in the fast growing economic activity and fast-changing geopolitical order and power equations around the Bay of Bengal.

A delegation from Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies (MISIS) also participated in the seminar which was chaired by its director general Major General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, according to BIISS statement.

The Director General of the BIISS in his opening address mentioned that although Bangladesh-Myanmar official relations started following Myanmar’s recognition to Bangladesh on 13 January 1972, both the countries have a long history of sharing political, cultural and economic destiny prior to their emergence as modern nation states. Of late after five decades of relative isolation, Myanmar has opened its door to outsiders, neighbors and development partners from 2011. As a result, huge potentials in trade and traffic through Myanmar between South Asia and Southeast Asia have developed along with the possibilities of multimodal communications by rail, road and sea between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The main problem for Bangladesh is to repatriate the Rohingya refugee who fled from their home land since 1991 and Dhaka want Burma to cooperate for it to take the refugee, but Burma didn’t accept the Rohingya refugee as their citizen. So, the Bangladesh tried to repatriate the Rohingya refugee to Burma with security dialogue. Burma join the seminar for border security process as Burma alleged Bangladesh for giving space to arms group which attacked Burma border guard police camps and exposing that the unknown troops killed four police personnel, said Hasson, a Burma- Bangladesh border watchdog from Teknaf.

“It may be, the plan of Burmese authority to show international community that the areas is not safe to process census which Rohingya community refused to join with authority for self-identification – Rohingya,” the watchdog said.

A group of Mogh party, may be ALP, in number 7, in disguise of RSO, attacked the police camp from pillar No.37 on May 13, at night. But, one died and four were arrested by Burmese border guard police with wounded. They have been taking medical treatment at Maungdaw general Hospital. But Government did not expose it and saying that RSO attacked their camps and alleging Bangladesh for giving them shelter to move, according to border people and Maungdaw local.

“The Mogh party men intention is to implicate the issue with RSO and they want to strength Arakan security forces such as— to deploy heavy guns and to bring Mogh group to Arakan to help the present security group from Kachin State.”

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