Dhaka, Bangladesh: A meeting –foreign secretary level- will be held on August 31st, to get momentum and enthusiasm into relations between the two neighbors – Burma / Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva, Barrister Harun ur Rashid’s opinion “Bangladesh-Myanmar FS level meeting” in the Daily Star newspaper.
The main purpose of the meeting is to remove whatever misgivings Myanmar has about Bangladesh and adopt confidence building measures with Myanmar to put bilateral relations on a positive track. Cooperation on other issues should then move forward quickly, the author pointed out in his opinion.
“Since 1972, there have been many initiatives and about ten agreements between the two countries to improve relations, but nothing moved. There seem to be deep-seated misunderstandings between the two countries.”
Burma opened the doors for foreigners and introduced democratic and economic reforms inside the country since 2011.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh visited the Burma in 2012 and took many initiatives to improve relations but did not get enthusiastic response from Burma. To this day, for example, Burma remains calm regarding road connectivity between the two countries, even though Bangladesh wanted to provide funds for the project.
There are certain issues which generate tensions between the two countries are:- The Rohingya issue and although Bangladesh refers the refugees from Myanmar as Rohingyas who live along the border of the two nations, Myanmar does not recognize any person as Rohingya.
The Rohingya issue should not be seen only as a refugee problem with humanitarian dimension partly because many Rohingya organizations have been reportedly fighting for decades for a separate land in Rakhine (Arakan) state. Bangladesh is totally against this movement as it firmly believes in the territorial integrity of Myanmar. Given this, both countries need to identify the root causes of the issue and jointly develop an effective border management to prevent the flow of Rohingyas into Bangladesh.
An idea is floated whether Rohingyas could be moved from the border region and distributed over other areas in Bangladesh. So long they live near the Myanmar border, tension will occur because there are many undesirables among them who are reported to be involved in trans-border anti-social conduct.
But, Abul Faiz, a Rohingya politician and writer said Bangladeshi national never controlled the economy of Burma. There is no Islamic extremism in Burma. Myanmar/Burma recognized Rohingya since the democratic government of U Nu, U Ba Swe and Presidents Sao Shwe Thaike and Dr. Ba U. Popularized Rohingya by the then army (TATMADAW). No Rohingya Organization is fighting for a separate land but they fought for their birth rights. U Nu created Mayu Frontier Administration for Rohingyas in 1961, which was/is the only solution to solve the Rohingya problem as well as the problem between Rakhine and Rohingya in Arakan State.
Myanmar is also witnessing increased cases of religious intolerance. In spite of its rich cultural heritage and legacy of socio-religious harmony, present-day Myanmar is surely not the best place for its religious minorities. The worst part is that some discriminatory laws against minorities are reportedly being backed by radical Buddhist monks (collectively known as the Mabatha), and there have been petitions signed by as many as 1.3 million people calling for elimination of Muslims from the country.
There appears to be no government level structured security cooperation between the two countries and on many occasions, border tension has risen including the kidnapping and killing of a security force (Border guard force) from Bangladesh.
It is reported that Bangladesh will make a formal proposal for security dialogue and discuss a coordinated border management plan. If this is agreed, many of the prickly issues relating to the border would be resolved.
Burma wants to set up a wholesale market with Bangladesh and hold trade fairs near the border to increase bilateral trade. This will stop the illegal smuggling of goods between the two countries, according to Hamidul Haque , a trader from Teknaf.
Both nations are interested in establishing the economic corridor known as BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar) and both are members of BIMSTEC which is currently considering free trade area among the members in other development sectors.