Along with the much-needed support from the international organization, the Bangladesh government has been managing the large Rohingya influx but has yet to repatriate them to Myanmar, due to the reluctance and non-cooperation of Myanmar counterpart. In this matter, the role of the allies of Bangladesh has been quite unfavorable and deficient. Bangladesh has strong ties with China, Japan, and India, and the countries have good and strategic relations with Myanmar, which is crucially important for them. Having a large investment in Myanmar, all the big powers are playing their own strategic game and keeping silent while the Myanmar state brutally persecutes Rohingyas.
The crisis can be seen from two different perspectives- one is to allow Rohingyas to stay in Bangladesh and provide them all support on the humanitarian ground with the help of international agencies but not entitle them as refugees rather forcible displaced Rohingyas, and another perspective is the repatriation of Rohingyas which is the critical part of the problem. In light of the facts, the dynamism of Rohingya diplomacy lies in the constant effort to keep the region stable, uphold regional peace, and stop the emergence of insurgency by hosting forcibly displaced Rohingyas. A multilateral holistic approach with a special focus on “creative diplomacy” is crucial to ensure sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar. Moreover, Bangladesh does not pay heed to any sort of provocation and has made its position clear several times that it will not allow any sort of armed conflict, rather looks for dialogue as the mode of resolving the problem. Now, it is time to see how the big powers are paying off.
Bangladesh always wants friendly relations with Myanmar with neighbourly spirit. Because Myanmar is Bangladesh’s immediate neighbours Thus, it should strengthen the bilateral ties with Bangladesh by resolving bilateral problems such as Rohingya crisis. Myanmar and Bangladesh should bolster their ties with neighbourly spirit for various reasons. Currently the strained Myanmar-Bangladesh relations need to be smoothened. Myanmar-Bangladesh needs to strengthen ties for ensuring the greater interest of the two regions such as South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The strained tie must be smoothed for ensuring greater regional interest.
However, the relationship between Myanmar-Bangladesh has never been smooth and has gone through frequent ups and downs over the last 50 years on a number of issues. Despite having many possibilities, the two countries have not been able to build a real relationship with each other. The people from both sides are deprived of enjoying neighborly advantages for these stained relations.
But current 2017 Rohingya crisis needs a fruitful sustainable solution between Myanmar and Bangladesh to bolster the ties. Definitely, Bangladesh and Myanmar should find a durable Closer Bangladesh-Myanmar ties have great economic potential – but the Rohingya issue must be resolved. Enhanced bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries.
Basically, the Rakhine region of Myanmar can be used as a trade hub between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The agro-products in Rakhine need a viable market. Bangladesh can be a big market for the goods that are produced in Rakhine. On the other hand, Bangladesh has vast and tremendous experience in garments and production of agricultural sectors. Myanmar can exchange Bangladeshi expertise to benefit. Myanmar’s products (Known as Burmese products are very popular in Bangladesh), Myanmar and Bangladesh can set up some border hats (border market) between Bangladesh and Myanmar to boost up the trade. India and Bangladesh are benefitting from Such kinds of border hats at the border. Thus, strengthening people-to-people contact, bolstering public diplomacy between the two sides can mend the strained ties between two neighbors. Thus, we urge the policy makers of Myanmar-Bangladesh to bolster the ties.
The improved ties between the two neighbors can ensure some common regional advantages. Geographically, Myanmar is located in the eastern part of Bangladesh with a 271 km border. To its southeast, it is at least 150 km wide, due to its hilly terrain and dense forest cover. Strategically, Myanmar enjoys a distinct position between the two Asian giants, China and India. The same position applies to Bangladesh. Naturally, both Bangladesh and Myanmar enjoy important strategic positions in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Basically, Myanmar and Bangladesh both can be used as a gateway between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Myanmar can use Bangladesh as a transportation route to reach the markets of Bhutan, Nepal, North East India easily. Bangladesh and Myanmar share some regional common platforms such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation (BIMSTEC), an organization made up of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand which seeks strategic and economic development. If Bangladesh and Myanmar improve their relations with each other, their dependence on China and India could be reduced and could increase trade with other countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Bangladesh can be used as an important hub to connect ASEAN and SAARC. Myanmar too, as an ASEAN member, can access the SAARC free-trade bloc through Bangladesh if the Myanmar-Bangladesh ties can be improved.
In the case of bilateral relations, there were two issues that caused some annoyance between them. The first was the demarcation of the sea-boundary between them. It is a matter of satisfaction that the matter was settled peacefully by the 1982 International Tribunal of the Sea Convention in March 2012. As Myanmar and Bangladesh, both share the Bay of Bengal area and 271km long border, Myanmar and Bangladesh both can take part in tackling nontraditional security threats in the Bay of Bengal such as tackling piracy, illegal drug dealing, human trafficking, environmental degradation, countering terrorists in the region.
The second is on the Rohingya refugee issue. Between August and November 2017, it was reported that a military operation in Myanmar had forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to cross the border into neighboring Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government has faced the Rohingya crisis many times. In 1978, an anti-insurgency operation by the then military government of Myanmar in Rakhine State resulted in a massive brutal crackdown, with some 300,000 Rohingya crossing the border into Bangladesh. This is again in 1991-92, the second wave of more than 250,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape the ongoing military repression. The two countries have resolved the issue peacefully through bilateral talks. But current 2017 Rohingya crisis needs a fruitful sustainable solution between Myanmar and Bangladesh to bolster the ties. Definitely, Bangladesh and Myanmar should find a durable Closer Bangladesh-Myanmar ties have great economic potential – but the Rohingya issue must be resolved. Enhanced bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries.
However, the two countries can also increase agricultural production through joint ventures. Apart from adopting joint investment projects, Bangladesh can increase imports of various agricultural products including pulses, spices, fish, and rice. Enhanced bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries. This will create an opening to solve the Rohingya problem and stop militant activities.
Bangladesh should pursue a multi-pronged diplomatic approach, including a tripartite mechanism with China and Myanmar as well as advocacy through the UN and OIC. The broader strategy of the government has to step up its game. The lexicon of repatriation has to be more expansive and substantive. In addition to referring to the Kofi Annan Commission, Dhaka must call for the repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law in Myanmar. Finally, legal pressure can go hand in hand with deterrence and diplomacy. Bangladesh is perhaps best placed to articulate on behalf of our Rohingya brethren. A combination of military deterrence, skillful diplomacy, and legal pressure is much needed.