Friday, October 7, 2022

Myanmar-Bangladesh Military Diplomacy can help solve Rohingya refugee crisis

Although Bangladesh and Myanmar are two neighboring countries having 271 kilometers of the international boundary, the Rohingya refugee crisis is a long-pending bilateral problem between Myanmar-Bangladesh. But a fruitful political engagement of both concerned parties is very necessary to help solve this regional humanitarian crisis. Military diplomacy between Myanmar and Bangladesh can be an effective tool to find a sustainable political solution.

The world knows that more than 1 million Rohingya refugees have taken refugees in Bangladesh in 2017.  Bangladesh has sheltered these refugees for humanitarian ground. The Rohingya refugee’s crisis needs to be resolved for ensuring regional stability.

However, military diplomacy has long been one of the essential constituents of international diplomacy and an effective methodology, to foster bilateral and regional relationships. Military diplomacy is a unique technique used by numerous countries to protect their national interests and boost their diplomatic standing in the international arena, and its influence and application are growing in today’s globe. Bangladesh must use military-diplomatic diplomacy and activism to settle the Rohingya situation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have several advantages and possibilities in this regard.

There is a vast scope for the bilateral relationship between the Myanmar military and the Bangladesh military. There are a number of areas where the two countries may cooperate and work together; the key area being the improvement of relations. Rohingya refugee crisis solution can be an important sector of cooperation that can be resolved through military diplomacy.

Myanmar, a country that was ruled by the military for several decades, the military-to-military interactions with other countries are important for Myanmar. Bangladesh’s military should also strengthen its ties with Tatmadaw. Tatmadaw) should also foster their ties with the Bangladesh military for ensuring common bilateral interest.

Myanmar’s military can work together with Bangladesh’s military to broaden the scope of its relations and can explore deeper cooperation in areas such as counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, Bangla-language skills, Burmese-language skills, joint naval and air exercises, and intelligence sharing in combating the traditional and non-traditional threats in the Bay of Bengal region. The two military forces can strengthen mutual cooperation such as training exchanges, intelligence sharing, joint patrolling along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in countering trans-border crimes such as illegal arms trade, drug trafficking, human trafficking, etc.

Exchanging military delegation between Bangladesh and Myanmar can pave the path in resolving bilateral disputes with each other. Both parties can exchange and share their experience, expertise to deal with some common bilateral problems. Exchanging military training between the two-armed forces can help enhance the operational capabilities of both parties. Combined military exercise, UN peacekeeping operation (UNPKO) training, disaster management cooperation, exchanging programs, senior-level visits and medical cooperation, sports event, adventure activities, military tourism, joint cycling expedition, and adventure training are some kinds of sectors of cooperation.

Military officers can be trained bilaterally to boost diplomatic relations. Bangladesh has military training institutes that meet international standards. Army officers from all around the world come to train here. Most senior officers of the country’s armed services, for example, are trained in our country.

Myanmar is Bangladesh’s sole adjacent country after India; hence its strategic significance is apparent for Bangladesh. Myanmar and Bangladesh have to make every effort, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to address the ongoing Rohingya problem. The military wields enormous power in Myanmar’s government. As a result, any attempt to resolve the problem without the participation of the country’s military would be futile. If the military of Bangladesh and Myanmar had already established a close professional connection, that relationship could have been put to good use in resolving the current issue.

For example, Bangladesh’s then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Aziz Ahmed, began his four-day visit to Myanmar in 2019. The purpose of the visit was to improve the existing military ties of both countries and find out the scopes of cooperation with each other. General Aziz’s visit to Myanmar was a high-profile military visit from Bangladesh after more than five years. Former Chief of Bangladesh Army Gen. Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan visited Myanmar in 2014 to discuss issues including trans-border crimes and human trafficking between the two countries. On the other hand, U Ne Win, President of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (Myanmar), arrived in Dhaka on 26 April 1974 for a four-day official visit. The then Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Air Force, Lt. General Myat Hein, arrived in Dhaka on a six-day visit to Bangladesh in 2011. However, these types of visits of high officials are essential for both Myanmar and Bangladesh to foster the ties for better bilateral understanding.

Myanmar defense officers participated in different training institutions in Bangladesh such as the National Defense College and Defense Service Command and Staff College (DSCSC) in the Past. But these training exchanges must be resumed for ensuring better interest. Thus, Bangladesh and Myanmar should proactively offer more training facilities to each other.

Joint initiatives taken by the two militaries can pave the way to bolster the ties between the two neighbors. Improved ties between the Bangladesh military and Myanmar military can smoothen the ties resolving the long pending issues such as the Rohingya refugee crisis, maritime dispute, border-related trans-border crimes.

Basically, the members of the armed forces of both Myanmar and Bangladesh should have a frequent exchange of visits, training, and joint exercise. These will reduce mistrust and enhance confidence and understanding. This can also help solve the long-pending Rohingya refugee crisis in the region.

On the environmental front, Basically, Tatmadaw and Bangladesh military can work together to mitigate the risk of regional environmental degradation through joint disaster management systems, operations, initiatives. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was the best example to understand it.

For Bangladesh, the only relevant thing that is to be taken into account is that there are immense economic opportunities for Bangladesh within Myanmar. Bangladesh must push for closer ties with Myanmar irrespective of who holds Myanmar’s power. Military setup in Myanmar’s Constituent Assembly remains very strong. Therefore, being one of the five neighbors of Myanmar, Bangladesh should try to grab such opportunities, should bolster its relations with Myanmar, and take the benefit of Myanmar’s economic potential through military diplomacy. The relations between the two countries through cross-border communication of general people from the two sides of Bangladesh and Myanmar must be ensured through military diplomacy.

Bangladesh armed forces must take effective steps to improve the relations with Myanmar armed forces assuring the zero-tolerance policy of the Bangladesh government against terrorists, human traffickers, illegal drug traders criminals.  

In order to resolve the Rohingya repatriation process sustainably, Bangladesh and Myanmar need to establish military-diplomatic relations with each other. Military diplomacy and clout could play a positive role in resolving the Rohingya crisis. Furthermore, because Myanmar is administered by a military government, the military function will be able to encourage bilateral relations.

Myanmar’s military should take effective steps to foster the ties. It must understand that Bangladesh is a peace-loving country and friendly neighbour. Bangladesh believes in peaceful coexistence. Thus, engagement with Bangladesh would be beneficial for Myanmar also. Military ties between the two neighbouring countries can assure peace, harmony, regional stability, regional greater interest, etc. in the whole regions (South Asia and Southeast Asia)