Bangladesh foreign relation is overly denounced for one-eyed confiscated approach albeit isolation, or one-sighted approach or hostile relation none is conducive to a country’s economic advancement. Elsewhere looking east to enhance trading with South East Asian countries can be potential windows of hope for multipurpose development of Bangladesh. Yes, it is Myanmar, Member of ASEAN, bordered with economic giant China, Thailand and Cambodia, the next door of Bangladesh after India. Geographically Myanmar exists at a potential point that can be a new skyline of Bangladesh to extend connectivity with ASEAN countries, a fast growing economic zone after European Union.
Very Unfortunately, Bangladesh-Myanmar bilateral relation was never bloomed not only for indolence of Bangladesh But also absence of Democratic government in Myanmar. It was under Military rule for approximately 49 years out of 68 since 1948. Currently Myanmar’s return to democracy with the country’s first free presidential election and winning of Aung san Suu ki’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015 open the windows of hope for Bangladesh to reinstall multipurpose relation. Nobel laureate Suu kye, has chosen for Foreign Minister, certainly would play key politico role besides President Mr Htin Kyaw.
Nevertheless China has developed a cohesive economic relation even with previously Military Government exceedingly and makes it china’s largest trading space. Albeit Bangladesh-Myanmar mutually shared apparently 271 km long boarder and prolonged historical, social and cultural coexistence. It is the 7th country who recognized independence of Bangladesh in 13 January 1972. People from the Chittagong area and adjacent districts in eastern Bangladesh routinely travelled to Myanmar, intermarried, conducted business and travelled to other parts of the world together.
Bangladesh-Myanmar has many things ahead to improve and several complex issues to resolve like emerging global terrorism, sovereign security, migration problems, bilateral trade and investment, education and regional connectivity. It is getting tremendous urgency to Enhancing Bangladesh Myanmar relation for following six key sediments.
Enduring Sovereign Security
Bangladesh and Myanmar boarder are now under sever threats by insurgency, transnational terrorism by several separatist and militant groups like Arakan liberation Army (ALA), India’s ULFA, Maoist and UPDS, actively operating militancy, intended, using both land, that exceeding vulnerability of sovereign security. On October 4, 2015, ALA abducted two Bangladeshi tourists along with their local guides from Bandarban area and again on September 5, 2015 and engaging in Gun-conflict with Bangladesh Army. Elsewhere frequent lunacy escalation and gunfights Between Boarder Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Boarder Guard Police (BGP) of Myanmar), and recent abduction of BGB troop gratuitously often happening due to previously absence of a legitimate democratic government in Myanmar and poor relation between two countries.
Settlement of Refugee Issue
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), More than 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees, Myanmar nationals, living in two camps of Cox’s Bazar district, and around 200,000-500,000 undocumented refugees living in the adjoining areas including the CHT due to routine harassment at the hands of the Myanmar government, killing attack by Buddhist extremists. Despite International assurance, a dense bilateral relation between Bangladesh-Myanmar can bring a sustainable solution of the crisis. Encouraging Rohinga to migrate and seek asylum cannot be sound solution. Migration is ultimately making Myanmar Muslim-free and accelerating oppressors’ victory. Elsewhere Small Bangladesh, within 142.3 million people with poor economy, cannot afford such large refugees. It is Myanmar’s legal rational obligation to take Rohinga back to their home and ensure their safety and security irrespective of any race, color, cast and creed.
Extending Regional Connectivity
Bangladesh has no direct Bus, train, air or coastal shipping communication with Myanmar that is indeed unprecedented in the era of globalization. To activate Bangladesh’s look-east policy Myanmar is an ultimate window to entry into ASEAN market. However recent Restoration of democratic Government in Myanmar is escalating such opportunity to stretch the connectivity. Not only one road, but several roads at Cox’s Bazaar (Teknaf point), Thanchi-Modok-Likree, Alikadam-Poamuhuri-Likree Points can be developed. Unfortunetly after 2007 the 25-kilometre (km) Bangladesh Myanmar friendship road at Balukhali-Gundum points in Cox’s Bazar is yet to ready. Recently India, Myanmar and Thailand (IMT) are now negotiating signing of a motor vehicle agreement; Bangladesh’s scope will also be created to be integrated into the agreement.
Eradicating Narcotics Trafficking
The 54 kilometer long turbulent Naf River bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar, which is one of the world’s busiest drug-trafficking routes? YABA is a name of drug, a damaging threat to youths, which basically comes from Myanmar with the help of both countries’ VIPs and local people under the shade of political leader. Mr Mohammad Bodi, a Teknaf (Cox’s-Bazar-4) MP from ruling Awami-league, is known as YABA raj, widely convicted for the drug smuggling. Daily Prothom-alo reported (21 January 2014) Bodi is considered the main YABA-agent in Bangladesh who made billions of taka through drug trafficking. Drug trafficking and drug abuse have emerged as one of the most serious organized crimes in Cox’s Bazaar, causing incalculable costs on individuals, families, communities, and governments.
Trade, Tourism and Agricultural Investment
Bangladesh is suffering from growing food scarcity and shortage of cultivable land. Elsewhere Myanmar is primarily agricultural country where a large portion of cultivable land remains unused due to lack of investor, shortage of finance and government restriction. Bangladesh government or business magnate can buy or take lease from Myanmar government to grow agricultural product. Interestingly BRAC, the country’s leading and world’s largest NGO has already started its operation in Myanmar. Nota Bene Bangladesh suffers from imbalanced trade relation with Burma. According to National economic review in last fiscal year 2014-15 Bangladesh exported goods worth $25.08 million to Myanmar and imported $31million from there. Bangladesh’s major export to Myanmar include frozen food, agro-products, chemical products, leather, jute goods, knitwear, woven garments, rice, lentils, fish and timber. Elsewhere Myanmar imports live animal, vegetable products, prepared foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco, plastics, leather, wood and articles of woods, footwear, textiles etc.
Different Patronage social policy likes opening scholarship and joint programs at Universities should be taken to condense friendship. Alongside trade fair, Jointly security Patrolling at boarder, Free or easy visa opportunity, establishing school, Hospital and RMG factories in Rakhine (Arakan) state with Myanmar’s workforce is essential. Both governments need an Inclusive mind, intellectual stimulation, frequent officials tour, professional engagement with academicians, finding out the potential available scopes for investment, mutual trust and respect, not to be misguided by another neighboring country. Investment in intellectual property, sufficient budget for regional connectivity, mutual sharing of ideas and thought can be complementary to bilateral relation. Finally To thick friendship with Myanmar, Bangladesh needs a trustable relation with China. Because Myanmar is highly dependent and influenced by China, who had conducted several development program like new Capital Nypidwo also has been constructed under finance and management of China.
The Writer is a Master’s Student of Public Administration at University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.