Dhaka: Bangladesh needs to take the issue of Myanmar’s reinforced military presence along the border more seriously, in order to safeguard its national security, The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) was reported as saying in a 12 September article in the Independent.
The BIPSS is a think-tank that deals with security issues in South and Southeast Asia. It recently issued a publication suggesting that there are many contentious issues with neighboring Myanmar that need to be resolved to protect the national interest.
Such issues as the Rohingya refugees and the dispute over the maritime boundary have daunted relations between the two neighbors recently, said an article published in the periodical BIPSS Focus.
The article said that Myanmar’s recent strengthening of its military presence in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, is a big concern.
“Bangladesh needs to take Myanmar’s recent military ambition seriously,” the article, titled “Bangladesh-Myanmar Relations: The Security Dimension” stated. The article points out that Myanmar has increased movement of troops while construction of concrete pillars and barbed-wire fences along the border has been sped up.
The military junta in Myanmar has also extended the runway of the Sittwe airport, enabling operation of MiG-29 multi-role combat aircraft and all 12 MiG-29 aircraft of the Myanmar Air Force currently deployed in Sittwe, the article stated. Land has also been acquired for the construction of another airport in Buthidaung, it adds.
The BIPSS says that massive repair and reconstruction of road, bridges, and culverts is being carried out in the Western Command area while tanks, artillery guns, Recoilless Rifles, and mortars are being unloaded regularly at the Buthidaung river jetty.
Saying that such developments are “alarming” for Bangladesh, the BIPSS article adds that Myanmar has been constructing barbed-wire fencing along the border with Bangladesh since March 2009, and approximately 38 kilometers of fencing was completed by July of this year.
Considering all these issues, the article states, “It is observed that Bangladesh – Myanmar relations have developed through phases of cooperation and conflict.”
“Conflict in this case is not meant in the sense of confrontation, but only in the sense of conflict of interests and resultant diplomatic face-off,” it says.
The article further warns that “unfriendly relations with Myanmar can benefit small insurgent groups living in the hilly jungle areas of the southern portion of the Chittagong Hill Tract, which can cause some degree of instability in the area and become a serious concern for national security.”
The article also suggests that Bangladesh can benefit in ways by maintaining a good relationship with Myanmar, which in turn has a good friendship with China.
“[Myanmar] is the potential gateway for an alternative land route opening towards China and Southeast Asia other than the sea,” it says. “Such a road link has the potentiality for a greater communication network between Bangladesh and Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.”
Moreover, with a rich natural resource base, Myanmar is a country with considerable potential, the article continued. “Myanmar’s forests and other natural resources like gas, oil, and stones are enormous, from which Bangladesh can be benefited enormously,” it says.
The article suggests that policymakers review the existing defense priorities to suit the magnitude of the threat currently facing Bangladesh.
“The policy regarding Myanmar needs to be a careful combination of effective diplomacy while safeguarding our security interests,” it said.