Kamal Uddin Mazumder

Kamal Uddin Mazumder, Security and strategic affairs analyst, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Bangladesh-Myanmar: Military Diplomacy

/
612 views
4 mins read

Myanmar is one of Bangladesh’s closest neighbors, and the two countries have had a long-standing relationship dating back generations. The 271-kilometer Bangladesh-Myanmar border is strategically significant for Bangladesh, despite the fact that it is militarized due to Myanmar’s continuous internal strife. Relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar were formalized on January 13, 1972, when Myanmar, as the sixth state, recognized Bangladesh as an independent entity. However, due to the presence of several unresolved issues such as Rohingya refugees and maritime border demarcation, the scene has changed in an unfavorable way, and ties between these two neighbors have not always been as friendly as envisioned.

Defense diplomacy

Military diplomacy in the twenty-first century goes beyond traditional notions of war and peace.Myanmar’s military-to-military ties with other countries are critical for the country’s long-term survival. To protect mutual bilateral interests, Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) should develop ties with Bangladesh’s military.

The military cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh has a lot of promise. There are several areas where the two countries may engage and work together, with the most essential being the improvement of relations.In a fresh turn of events, a three-person delegation from the Myanmar army met with the Bangladesh army in Dhaka. The two sides talked about promoting regional security and stability as well as the prompt repatriation of the Rohingyas.The Myanmar Army was reminded by the Bangladesh Army to exercise caution when undertaking any operations in the border regions.

The Rakhine region of Myanmar, which borders Bangladesh, has seen a number of airspace violations over the past few months as border guards there have fought domestic militants. Bangladesh strongly protested the violation of airspace and the landing of shells inside Bangladeshi territory. However, Myanmar border guards have apologized to their counterparts in Bangladesh for these events. Border soldiers from Bangladesh and Myanmar’s junta promised to mend bilateral ties.

The Myanmar delegation led by Lt Gen Phone Myat, Command Bureau of Special Operations, paid Bangladesh Army Chief Gen SM Shafiuddin, Ahmed, a courtesy call on October 26 at the Army Headquarters. The conference happens a few weeks after border tension erupted as a result of border violations committed by Myanmar during hostilities with the Arakan Army, an armed rebel organization in Rakhine State.

The commander of the Bangladesh Army, SM Shafiuddin, urged the Myanmar delegation to cooperate for regional security and discussed ways to strengthen ties between the two militaries, as well as collaborative discussions, training exchanges, coordinated disaster management, and information sharing.The Myanmar delegation provided information about the situation in Myanmar and stated that they are working to keep order and peace in their nation at the meeting between the two forces.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have exchanged military delegations, which could pave the path for the two nations to address their bilateral issues. To address certain common bilateral concerns, both sides might collaborate and share their knowledge and expertise. Military training exchanges between the two-armed forces can benefit both sides in terms of improving operational capabilities. Combined military exercises, UN peacekeeping operation (UNPKO) training, and disaster management cooperation, as well as exchange programs, senior-level visits, and medical cooperation, sports events, adventure activities, military tourism, joint cycling expeditions, and adventure training, are some examples of sectors of cooperation.

The united efforts of the two states may pave the way for closer connections between the two neighbors. Improved military ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar can aid in the smoothing of ties and the resolution of long-standing issues such as the Rohingya crisis, maritime disputes, and border-related trans-border crimes Both forces from Myanmar and Bangladesh should exchange visits, training, and joint exercises on a regular basis.  These will aid in the reduction of mistrust and the promotion of trust and understanding.

This could also help to resolve the region’s long-standing Rohingya refugee crisis.

On the environmental front, the Tatmadaw and Bangladesh military may collaborate to lessen the risk of regional environmental degradation through coordinated disaster management systems, operations, and projects. Cyclonic Storm Sitrang was a tropical cyclone that affected India and Bangladesh on 25 October 2022. Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar could work together. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was the best illustration of it. This natural calamity wreaked havoc on both countries’ coastlines. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have several opportunities to work in order to lessen the risk of environmental degradation and loss.

The two countries’ relations are based on cross-border dialogue between ordinary people on both sides of the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. The most effective strategy to progress together and maintain a peaceful relationship between the concerned countries is to establish a people-to-people connection between the two sovereign countries. This is especially essential when the countries in question are neighbors. The people of Bangladesh and Myanmar must have a harmonious and thriving relationship. Both militaries can essentially promote trade and commerce with one another.

Potential mutual benefit

Apart from India, Myanmar is the only other country on our border. It has the potential to provide Bangladesh with strategic benefits. It could be the starting point for a land-based alternative to the maritime route to China and Southeast Asia. Such a road link has the potential to expand Bangladesh’s communication network with Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Myanmar is also a country with a lot of promise, thanks to its abundant natural resources. Myanmar’s forests and natural resources, such as gas, oil, and stones, are vast, and Bangladesh can considerably benefit from them. As a result, maintaining good relations with Myanmar is more in Bangladesh’s interest for reasons of national security.

Unfriendly relations between Bangladesh-Myanmar Myanmar can cause instability in the region and pose a severe national security threat for both Myanmar and Bangladesh. So, for ensuring greater regional and bilateral interest, Myanmar and Bangladesh must engage militarily through defense cooperation.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have a lot of potential in their bilateral relationship. There are a lot of areas where the two countries may collaborate and work together, the most important of which is the upgrading of existing military and commercial connections, which are now in poor form. But military diplomacy from the perspective of defense cooperation can help strengthen bilateral ties with a neighborly spirit and solve bilateral problems such as the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have opportunities to strengthen military ties in the face of common dangers.Terrorism and transnational crime are two of BIMSTEC’s key concerns, both of which are impossible for member governments to combat on their own. Over time, the nature of terrorism and militancy has also changed. Cyber risks are more important than ever before in the digital age. This type of fighting in the sovereign space necessitates strong intelligence exchange and capacity building, which can be eased by combining the two countries’ military skills.

Cross-border arms trade, as well as unlawful human and drug trafficking, will be hampered by institutional collaboration in this area Furthermore, high-level delegations would encourage bilateral negotiations aimed at overcoming previous impasses and providing UN peacekeeping deployments with capacity-building opportunities.

Finally, engaging with Bangladesh would benefit Myanmar. Military relations between the two neighboring countries can provide peace, harmony, regional stability, increased regional interest, and other benefits throughout the region (South Asia and Southeast Asia).

Bangladesh: Promoting “culture of peace” through UN peacekeeping

558 views
5 mins read

The establishment and maintenance of stability through cooperation was the key motivation behind the UN’s founding in 1945. The primary objective of the UN is to “maintain international peace and security, and in pursuit of such ends, to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace and to bring about by peaceful means and in compliance with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.” As a part of a global peace movement, the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) were established in 1948 to settle international conflicts. The first mission was to send UN Army investigators to the Middle East to observe the agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In recent years, the UN peacekeeping operation has changed to reflect the dynamic nature of international conflicts and the global political landscape. The UN peacekeeping role was specifically extended after the Cold War.

South Asian countries send a sizable contingent of soldiers to peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping operations are one area of international activity where the region’s united efforts have had a positive effect. Bangladesh has assumed a leadership position in the UN’s peacekeeping mission and is well-versed in the history of such missions. Bangladesh is one of the UN’s most significant and trustworthy partners thanks to its ongoing commitment, adherence to the organization’s regulations, and prompt adaptation measures. It has stayed committed to acting as an accountable UNPKO stakeholder despite the changing nature of the world’s security environment. Instead of concentrating only on peacemaking and peacebuilding, modern peacekeeping aims to ensure social protection in both pre- and post-conflict environments and to seal harmonious connections. After intrastate warfare ended and armed conflict began, peacekeeping now has a variety of responsibilities that go beyond its core duties. One of the main goals of UN peacekeeping missions may be to increase state efficiency and reduce state fragility. As a result, the current batch of troops may significantly affect the UN forces’ ability to operate.

Despite challenging topographical, meteorological, and other unfavorable conditions, Bangladeshi forces are completing the job with the utmost integrity, dedication, and professionalism. Bangladesh has been actively taking part in peacekeeping operations all over the world for the past three decades, and it has been essential to maintaining world peace and stability. In 1988, Bangladesh participated for the first time in both the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG) in Iraq and the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. In addition to multiple successful operations in Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladeshi troops ensured that rebels in Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) gave up and laid down their arms. The country also closely monitored the elections in Mozambique, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and other African countries. Since 1988, Bangladesh has sent almost 175,000 soldiers, including more than 1,800 women, on 54 peacekeeping operations to 40 different countries on five continents. Presently, around 7,000 military and police are participating in ten distinct tasks. The majority of Bangladesh’s peacekeepers are stationed in Africa. The nations and names of the missions where Bangladeshi personnel are presently stationed are included in the following table.

When they first joined the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1993, a detachment of 1,002 soldiers was headed by the 3rd East Bengal Regiment, an infantry regiment from the Bangladesh Army. The operation in Cambodia was a huge endeavor for Bangladesh, and the military of that nation contributed a sizable detachment to the peacekeeping effort. The Bangladeshi military participated in DDR efforts in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, and Liberia as well as demining operations in South Sudan. They have also helped Juba have access to water, sanitation, basic education, jobs, and other means of livelihood. In response to the growing threat presented by improvised explosive devices, Bangladesh’s Engineer Centre and School of Military Engineering and Ordnance Centre and School has started providing specialized training on counter-IED (IED). All peacekeeping units getting ready for deployment to Mali receive specialized training from these two institutes. Bangladesh was one of the first countries to adopt the 2016-introduced Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System. It has accelerated its deployment by contributing troops to the UN mission in Mali. Bangladesh is dedicated to upholding its reputation in order to bring about world peace. The most casualties occurred during three large ambushes against Bangladeshi contingents in 2017 and 2018. Eight valiant Bangladeshi warriors gave their lives in these three ambushes, inflicting serious injuries on 10 more troops.

A brigade-sized force was able to be sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone as a result of Bangladesh’s prompt provision of more troops in response to the UN’s request and in compliance with the mission’s increased mandate. Bangladeshi soldiers continued to serve in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo by frequently keeping an eye on villages to maintain security. Missions by Bangladeshi contingents in Darfur, Cyprus, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were completed successfully. Former peacekeepers and observers claim that the UN hired the majority of Bangladeshi soldiers for peacekeeping operations worldwide over the previous three decades because of their neutrality, professionalism, and quick responsiveness during the deployment. In addition to their competence, former members of the military forces and the police claimed that Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ high moral standing while serving in UN missions also assisted the country in sending out more troops. In 2011, 2014, 2015, 2021, and 2022, Bangladesh was the country that supplied the most troops.

In November 2019, Bangladesh Police received the Best Police Unit Award for its dedication to UN Peacekeeping missions. The Nyala Super Camp in South Darfur, Sudan, was secured by the Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (FPU) 11, which received praise for its outstanding efforts in boosting the capabilities of the police force. In 2021, some 110 Bangladesh Navy servicemen who took part in the UN mission to uphold stability in Beirut, Lebanon, were awarded the Peacekeeping Medal. Rear Admiral Andreas Mugge, the Maritime Task Force (MTF) Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, presented the medal to the officers and crew of the Bangladesh Navy destroyer “Sangram” in recognition of their contributions to peacekeeping operations. Since the Navy was sent to Lebanon 11 years ago, its personnel have performed their responsibilities with the utmost integrity, commitment, and efficacy. The Navy’s proud participation has strengthened Bangladesh’s status and image overseas. Additionally, Bangladesh was warmly commended this year by the US Embassy in Dhaka for their contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. When Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former president of Sierra Leone, paid a visit to Bangladesh in 2003, he expressed his appreciation for Bangladesh’s significant help to Sierra Leone as a result of the performance of the nation’s peacekeepers in Africa. Ivorians frequently called Bangladeshi soldiers “munami,” which is Ivorian for “my friend.” Additionally, the UN awarded medals to about 861 members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, including 19 women, who were serving with the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2020 for their unwavering efforts to ensure the safety of civilians.

The UN peacekeeping deployment is a significant illustration of internationalism and world collaboration. It has been proven to be one of the best strategies for promoting and upholding global peace and stability. The “Blue Helmet” now stands for global cooperation and collective leadership for world peace. Bangladesh eventually joined the “Blue Helmet” family with pride due to its enormous commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts over time. The nation of Bangladesh has reached unprecedented heights as a result of its participation, service, and sacrifice in UN peacekeeping missions for world peace. Bangladesh has been building its reputation in the UN for more than three decades thanks to its diligence and commitment. As a global peacekeeper and advocate, Bangladesh may be regarded as exceptional and exemplary. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have served in Africa’s arid regions and continue to do so. They have made a significant contribution in a variety of fields as security personnel, medical professionals, engineers, trainers, and advisors while dealing with numerous security threats, difficulties, and challenges. Around the world, threats are currently taking on new dimensions, which is likely to jeopardize world peace. Radicalization, environmental concerns, enormous human migration, the growth of right-wing extreme nationalism, catastrophic catastrophes, trade conflicts, etc. are some of the primary security dangers of the new millennium. The UN may react to the fresh challenges and change its emphasis to take into account the developing nature of the dispute and the evolving role of PKO. If Bangladesh is to keep up with the rate of global development and manage difficult disagreements, it may need to make progress.

Bangladesh as UNHRC Member

842 views
4 mins read

In the recent past, Human rights are perhaps one of the most talked about issues in Bangladesh, nationally and internationally.  Bangladesh on October 11 achieved its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council for the term2023–2025 with the highest vote from the Asia-Pacific region. In the election, 160 countries among 189 supported Bangladesh’s membership in the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which is an outstanding achievement for the government. It is mentionable, this would be the fifth term of Bangladesh as a member of the 47-member UNHRC. In the previous UNHRC elections, Bangladesh won in 2006, 2009, 2014, and 2018; effectively for all possible terms as per the rules of business of the Council.

This achievement is a great honour for Bangladesh as a country, and also a warning of responsibility in the midst of criticism from the United Nations, the United States, and other countries regarding the allegations of disappearances and human rights violations. The task of the Human Rights Council is to monitor the human rights situation of member countries around the world and make necessary recommendations. Bangladesh is now one of the countries responsible for taking care of human rights situations in different countries. Truly speaking, this victory will enhance the image of Bangladesh and the current government in the international forum.

Victory at UN

As a responsible member state of the UN, Bangladesh remains committed to making all efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights nationally and globally. This prestigious win is a manifestation of recognition by the international community that Bangladesh’s human rights situation is not alarming, and the government is quite aware of ensuring human rights. This UN council takes care of human rights in all countries of the world. So, if Bangladesh’s human rights state had been terrible, 160 countries would not have voted for it to join the Human Rights Council.

The result of the vote is also a big blow to the active groups that continues to try to embarrass Bangladesh and its government in the international arena by spreading false information about frequent human rights violations in the country. This nullifies the ongoing smear campaign with falsified and fabricated information by some politically motivated vested corners at home and abroad aimed at negatively portraying the human rights situation of Bangladesh a foreign press ministry press release said.

The human rights situation in Bangladesh is not satisfactory according to the United Nations. They urged Bangladesh to improve its human rights situation. Last year, the US imposed sanctions on RAB and six of its former and current officials.  They are ignoring the requests to withdraw it despite the situation’s improvement. Against this backdrop, electing Bangladesh as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council is proof of the international community’s deep confidence in Bangladesh’s contribution to the UN human rights system and ability to carry out the duties of the Council under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Undoubtedly, such a position of Bangladesh in the United Nations will take Bangladesh a step forward in making its human rights more integrated.

International Community’s Deep Confidence

At the invitation of the Government of Bangladesh, Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner visited the country in August this year and held a series of consultations with the relevant stakeholders in Bangladesh. However, Bachelet did not mention anything alarming about the human rights situation in the country in the written statement she handed over to journalists before leaving Bangladesh at the end of her scheduled visit. As she called on the government to discuss with various parties to update the Digital Security Act, she also praised the steps taken by the Bangladesh government in various fields, including the Rohingya issue.

Cases of human rights abuses in various countries including Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Myanmar have come up in the latest report of the UN. But Bangladesh is not among these countries. On the contrary, the incident of sheltering the Rohingya minority fleeing from the massacre and persecution of the military forces in Myanmar has also been highlighted. Through this, the humanity that Bangladesh has shown by sheltering the Rohingyas in danger has been highlighted as a unique example in the international arena including the United Nations.

This observation of Michelle Bachelet about the human rights situation in Bangladesh proved that Bangladesh is respectful to the international human rights mechanisms and there is nothing to worry about the human rights situation in Bangladesh.

This paper however does not suggest that Bangladesh does not have any case of human rights violation. In fact, human rights challenges are faced just like any other country in the world does. Unfortunately, rule of law, democracy, and human rights are subjected to the enormous challenge of manipulation of the superpowers which want to impose imperial designs on the world in the name of peace. However, some isolated incidents have occurred in Bangladesh in which the rights of any individual or institution have been violated by some overenthusiastic members of the government or law enforcement that have embarrassed the government. But no such incident is happening regularly in Bangladesh that may be considered a human rights violation. As a result, it is not right to promote those incidents as human rights violations.

The Challenges Are Ahead

The issue of human rights is explicitly written in the constitution of Bangladesh. Article 11 of the Constitution states that “the Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed.” As a result, the state or the government does not have the power to take away the rights of any person or organization because the government runs the state within the guidelines of the constitution. Moreover, Bangladesh has an independent judiciary and a Human Rights Commission. These institutions should be strengthened so that any allegation of violence, extra-judicial killing, or unlawful detention against law enforcement agencies can be addressed immediately and effectively. Additionally, the law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh should be provided with intensive training to ensure that they do not violate human rights while combating terrorism and crimes unless in a given situation application of force is mandatory to save their own lives.

The responsibility of looking after the human rights situation of various countries is entrusted to the council. Bangladesh should respect the trust that the member states have shown in Bangladesh and the current government in the vote of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Finally, everyone expects that as a member of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh will be able to make a significant contribution to the implementation of UN principles in the field of human rights, especially in the context of emerging global challenges.

Bangladesh: Military Diplomacy

888 views
4 mins read

As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centrepiece of all geo-strategic play. So, Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year’s 46th Seminar, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest conference for land forces in the region and one of the preeminent army engagements that provide a platform for the senior military leadership of Indo-Pacific regional ground forces to exchange views and opinions on peace and stability.

This year’s conference brought together senior officers of the military forces of 24 countries. Under the theme of “Possibilities and Challenges for Maintaining Peace and Security in the Indo-Pacific Region,” the main focus of the event was “robust peacekeeping,” “women empowerment,” and “land power in regional cooperation.” Apart from these, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, leadership development, countering transnational crime, and empowering women were being discussed.
Significance of Military diplomacy

Bangladesh has historically been part of ancient Indo-Pacific connectivity. It is indeed in Bangladesh’s interest to advocate and work for an open, resilient and interconnected Indo-Pacific. In a broader sense, its own continuing sustainability as an independent, sovereign, prosperous nation-state depends on this idea. With close to 40 nations comprising its make-up, the Indo-Pacific region covers more than half of the earth’s surface, home to 60% of the world’s population producing 60% of global GDP, contributing two-thirds of current global growth. By 2030, the overwhelming majority (90%) of the 2.4 billion new members of the middle class entering the global economy will live in the Indo-Pacific. 7 of the world’s 10 largest armies are in the region where border disputes and sovereignty concerns are headline events. Therefore, maintaining peace and security across the region is central to global progress.

However, the conference brings army senior leaders together to discuss differences, establish trust, mitigate miscalculations, resolve challenges, and find commonality among multinational-professional soldiers.There are issues that cannot be solved in isolation by just one or two countries. This platform allows military leaders in the region to get together, share their ideas, and find a collective solution to a pressing and immediate problems. The relationships developed throughout the seminar and through Army-to-Army engagements would help to identify issues of common interest for arriving at pragmatic multi-lateral solutions, and dealing with the escalating threats.

It is imperative to build trust at the strategic level. So, the armies need to work together with the public sector in policy-making and lay out a development foundation that links economic and social development with the protection of the environment and natural resources. The IPAMS promotes network building among military chiefs at all levels to join forces in coping with the world’s various changes and challenges for sustainable advancement of the region. The forums provide a unique opportunity to advance understanding of key issues while showing respect for each other’s role in promoting security and stability. It would build interpersonal relations, mutual trust, and confidence among the ground forces in the region, which would reduce tensions. “The IPAMS can create a sense of friendship and warmth so that peace and stability prevail in the region,” PM Sheikh Hasina said while addressing the opening ceremony of the seminar.

The meetings are yet another symbol of the close cooperation between Bangladesh and the United States. It also paved the way for stronger cooperation between the armies of the two countries. Charles A. Flynn, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, assured that the United States will cooperate with Bangladesh and other Indo-pacific countries to ensure the security of this important region. Again, the Bangladesh Army Chief expressed hope that working together will give the Bangladesh army a lot of scopes to learn as the US Army is one of the best in the world and very developed.

While the militaries of the participating countries discussed disaster management, transnational crime, security issues, and women’s empowerment, the issue of Rohingya refugees who have fled from violence in Myanmar is not overlooked. It is undeniable that since the Rohingya crisis erupted in the Indo-Pacific region’s heartland, it has all the potential to directly threaten the peace and stability in the region.

Because of the prolonged stay of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees in crowded camps, the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability in the region will be seriously affected. A delegation of top military officials from 24 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, and Vietnam, visited the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where Rohingyas expressed their desire to go back to their home country of Myanmar’s Rakhine State and not to any third country. The members of the group witnessed the plight of the Rohingyas firsthand and developed a “clear perception” of the gravity of the refugee crisis and the need for their repatriation to Myanmar.
Organizing such an international military conference is a great achievement for Bangladesh Army.

Noteworthy, The Bangladesh military’s positive and active role has earned the nation an international reputation with political and diplomatic mileage. The Armed Forces of Bangladesh have glorified the country on the global stage through their brilliant participation in UN peacekeeping missions. As the UN peacekeeping operations have been evolving continuously, Bangladesh has regularly been carrying out the performance appraisal of its peacekeepers and taking measures to cope with future challenges.

Despite being a late entrant (in 1988) as a troop contributor, Bangladesh has emerged as a credible UN partner over the last three decades. Since 1988, Bangladesh has participated in 54 peacekeeping missions in 40 different countries across 5 continents with more than 175,000 uniformed personnel, including over 1,800 female peacekeepers. Currently, there are over 7,000 troops and police deployed in 10 missions (as per data from the Armed Forces Division). Praising the Bangladesh Army, US Army General Charles A. Flynn said: “The Bangladesh Army is known for its leadership globally because of its contributions to UN peacekeeping operations. Its peacekeeping campus and training center are not just known within the region, they are known internationally. There are many, many things that the US Army and so many other armies can learn from the experiences of the Bangladeshi Army in their international and global commitment to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. “This acknowledgement has once again proved that our armed forces are a vital factor in upholding global peace and are able to keep our country safe from the subversive activities of internal and external enemies.

Last but not least, this conference is a critical opportunity to connect with the world’s military leaders to foster alliance partnerships and cooperative relationships. It is expected that dialogues like these will further strengthen ties between the Indo-Pacific countries and the Bangladesh Army and increase possibilities for mutual cooperation to cope with recent challenges in order for the region to move forward in a secure and sustainable manner.

Hasina’s India Visit: A Balance Sheet of Diplomacy

/
695 views
4 mins read

On Sept 5, India welcomed one of the closest friends in the neighbourhood, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who visited India on a four-day visit. During the course of her trip, she hold a bilateral meeting with PM Narendra Modi as well as interacted with President Droupadi Murmu. The immediate outcome of the visit was the signing of the seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in various fields, including the withdrawal of water from the cross-border Kushiyara river, cooperation in space technology, collaboration on IT systems used by railways in areas such as movement of freight, science and technology cooperation, training of Bangladesh Railway personnel and Bangladeshi judicial officers in India, and cooperation in broadcasting between Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Television, aimed at boosting ties between the two countries.

Among the seven pacts signed on September 6, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on withdrawal of 153 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water from the Kushiyara by Bangladesh is most welcomed by Dhaka. It is the first such deal the two countries have inked after the Ganges River water-sharing agreement in 1996 and is seen as a breakthrough in addressing an issue that has cast a shadow on their otherwise close ties. The deal came to the Sylhet region as blessings that are expected to help alleviate some of Dhaka’s concerns. A pact to share water resources from transboundary rivers that run downstream from the Himalayas from India into Bangladesh has long been a priority for Bangladesh, a lower riparian state that suffers from crippling water shortages. Earlier, India and Bangladesh finalised the Teesta water-sharing deal in 2010 and it was likely to be signed in 2011. But it could not be inked due to opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee.

The agreement will benefit southern parts of Assam state in India and the Sylhet region in Bangladesh. According to the agreement, the withdrawal of 153 cusecs of water from Kushiara river through Rahimpur canal will bring major changes in dry season farming in Jokiganj upazila bordering Bangladesh. At the same time, the farmers of Kanighat and some parts of Biyanibazar Upazila will benefit.

The two leaders engaged in talks on connectivity, trade, flood management, counter-terrorism, food security, and nuclear energy partnerships. In a bid to help Bangladesh deal with the energy crisis, the two leaders unveiled the first unit of the Maitree Thermal Power Plant, a 1320 MW supercritical coal-fired thermal power plant at Rampal in the Khulna division of Bangladesh. The project is being set up at an approximate budget of $2 billion out of which $1.6 billion was Indian Development Assistance that will enhance Bangladesh’s power generation capacities. Experts believe that the Maitree Power Plant will give citizens of Bangladesh access to affordable electricity, boosting Bangladesh face the difficulties that the country is facing in because of the growing energy prices worldwide.

Both leaders also discussed the issue of counterterrorism. “Today we also stressed on cooperation against terrorism and fundamentalism. To keep the spirit of 1971 alive, it is also very necessary that we face such forces together, who want to attack our mutual trust,” PM Modi said. In flood management, India has extended the period of sharing flood water-related information in real-time which will help Bangladesh counter the annual floods.

Connectivity boost

An important project that was inaugurated was the Rupsha bridge. The 5.13 km Rupsha rail bridge is a key part of the 64.7 km Khulna-Mongla Port single-track Broad Gauge rail project, connecting for the first time Mongla Port (Bangladesh’s second largest port) with Khulna by rail, and thereafter to Central and North Bangladesh and also to the India border at Petrapole and Gede in West Bengal. “The inauguration of the railway bridge over the Rupsha river is a remarkable step towards enhancing connectivity. This bridge is an important part of the new railway line being built between Khulna and Mongla Port under India’s Line of Credit” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement during a joint media appearance with Hasina.

An announcement was also made that India would supply road construction equipment and machinery in 25 packages to the road and highways department of the Bangladeshi government. The Khulna-Darshana railway line link project was also announced to upgrade the existing (doubling of broad gauge) infrastructure, linking the current cross-border rail link at Gede-Darshana to Khulna and thereby augmenting the rail connections between the two countries, especially to Dhaka, but also in future, to Mongla Port. The project cost is estimated to be USD 312.48 million. Another project, Parbatipur-Kaunia railway line, will see the conversion of the existing metre-gauge line to dual-gauge line at an estimated cost of USD 120.41 million. The project will connect the existing cross-border rail at Birol (Bangladesh)-Radhikapur (West Bengal) and enhance bilateral rail connectivity. The connectivity initiatives are part of the ongoing projects in Bangladesh that are aimed at converting the country into a major connectivity hub of South and Southeast Asia.

It is mentionable that, India has provided concessional loans worth $9.5 billion for development projects in Bangladesh, especially connectivity initiatives. These initiatives include improving rail connectivity between Khulna and Dhaka, Chilahati and Rajshahi and connecting Mongla port with Darshana-Gede at a cost of $312million, the Parbatipur-Kaunia rail project to facilitate the transportation of fuel that is being built at a cost of $120million, and the supply of road construction equipment and machinery worth $41million to repair and maintain Bangladesh’s road network. With the expansion of connectivity between our two countries, and the development of trade infrastructure on the border, the two economies will be able to connect more with each other.

Trade prospects under CEPA

It is true that While India is Bangladesh’s largest trade partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade reaching a record $18 billion in the last financial year, there has been a significant trade imbalance between the two countries. To narrow the trade gap and to further accelerate this growth, two sides agreed to begin negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) this year. When the CEPA is operationalised, bilateral trade potential would be USD 40 billion. Moreover, the CEPA will boost bilateral and sub-regional connectivity that Bangladesh is championing in its policy initiatives.

During this trip, PM Hasina met with Indian industrialist Gautam Adani, who recently became the world’s third-richest person, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Adani Power, a subsidiary of Adani Group, will supply power to Bangladesh from its upcoming 1,600 MW thermal power plant in the Godda area of Jharkhand. The project is significant as Bangladesh has been recognised as an important partner under India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.

Finally, it is observed that the cooperation during the visit extended to all fields, including trade and commerce, power and energy, transport and connectivity, science and technology, rivers, and maritime affairs. The visit will act as a catalyst for closer coordination and cooperation in resolving all issues, including Teesta river water sharing. It is also expected that Indo-Bangladesh ties will touch new heights and will continue to add more depth and momentum in the coming days.