Military Diplomacy

Myanmar-Bangladesh ‘Border Guard Diplomacy’ strengthens ties

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Border Guard Bangladesh in a top-level meeting with their Myanmar counterpart Border Guard Police on Thursday called for maintaining peace and curbing trans-boundary crime.

In the meeting held in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, the Bangladeshi side also urged building mutual trust between the two forces.

The BGP is hosting the eighth edition of this top border conference, where several hours of discussion were held. A joint discussion will be held again today.   BGB director general Major General Shakil Ahmed is leading a 10-member Bangladesh delegation, while police force deputy chief Major General Aung Naing Thu is leading a 15-member Myanmar delegation. The Myanmar delegation includes senior officials from Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP), as well as representatives from the country’s ministries of defence, home affairs, foreign affairs, and labour and population affairs.

Representatives from Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office, home and foreign ministries, among others, are attending the discussion.

 Bangladesh wants a ‘peaceful’ and ‘crime-free’ border through the building of mutual trust. A press release shared by BGB headquarters said that issues related to recent border tension, including airspace violations, transnational counter-terrorism and criminal activities, drug smuggling, and human trafficking, among others, were on the priority list in the discussion.

The meeting also discussed joint patrolling and trust-building measures, it said. The Bangladesh delegation will return to Dhaka on November 28.

The meeting was held just 10 days after Squadron Leader Rizwan Rushdee, 30, an officer of the Bangladesh Air Force deputed to the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, and a Rohingya woman were killed and a member of the Rapid Action Battalion was badly injured during an anti-smuggling operation on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border near Naikhyangchari under the Bandarban district on November 14.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army was blamed for the killing.Earlier on October 30, border forces from Bangladesh and Myanmar pledged to improve bilateral relations after shells landed in Bangladesh amid clashes between Myanmar forces and the rebel Arakan Army in Rakhine State.

On October 26, Myanmar’s special operations commander, Lieutenant General Phone Myat, visited Bangladesh’s army chief, General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, in Dhaka in an apparent attempt to improve relations and boost regional security.

Bangladesh filed diplomatic complaints after fighter jets and drone flights violated its airspace and mortar shells landed on its territory several times between August and September.

On September 16, a Rohingya teenager was killed and five people were injured when a mortar exploded at a Rohingya camp along the Naikhyangchari border.

A 10-member Bangladesh delegation led by BGB Director General Major General Shakil Ahmed are participating in the conference.

The topic of discussion at the conference includes de-escalation of the tense situation at the border caused by the recent internal conflict in Myanmar, violation of the air border, combating inter-state terrorism and preventing the activities of cross-border criminal gangs, prevention of illegal infiltration, prevention of drug and human trafficking, enhancing mutual cooperation to increase security at borders, exchange of various information related to borders, conducting joint patrolling, organising regular coordination meetings/flag meetings at the region and battalion levels, repatriation of detained/punished citizens of both countries, repatriation of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals to their original abodes and increasing mutual trust between BGB and BGP.

There had always been tension along the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Along the 271-kilometer sea and land boundary between the two nations, the two have a history of conflict. For instance, a border battle with the Myanmar military in 1978 necessitated the deployment of Bangladeshi troops along the border. When Myanmar sent out its naval ships to place a Korean drilling rig in Bangladesh’s exclusive economic zone close to St. Martin’s Island in 2008, Bangladesh too came dangerously close to having a maritime conflict. But the current issue really began in 2017 with the exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar.

The entire world is aware that in 2017, more than a million Rohingya refugees sought safety in Bangladesh. These refugees have been hosted by Bangladesh on humanitarian grounds. To maintain regional stability, the Rohingya refugee situation must be solved.

Bangladesh is under great pressure due to the current Rohingya crisis. In dealing with this crisis, the country has had to face, and continues to face, some new diplomatic realities. It suddenly discovered that some of its long-time friends were no longer with it. It has largely failed to achieve the expected results by applying traditional diplomatic methods to resolve the crisis. Therefore, there is a need for new thinking in the successful application of the various methods of modern diplomacy. Such as economic diplomacy, military diplomacy, or cultural diplomacy. Military diplomacy is a special strategy among the strategies used by various countries to protect the country’s interests and strengthen the state’s diplomatic position in the international arena, and both its influence and application in the current world are increasing.

What did Bangladesh do at that time? First and foremost, Bangladesh found a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the tension it currently experienced at the border with Myanmar. There has never been any notion that it can resolve the issue through violence or armed war. But diplomatic action alone is insufficient.

It must be supported by deterrents because deterrents are what give diplomatic actions bite. Some international experts have also contended that the military balances are likely skewed in favor of Myanmar, making it challenging for us to demonstrate an effective level of deterrence. However, Bangladesh made an effort to make sure that its diplomatic actions have a solid foundation.

In an effort to deliver protest notes to the Myanmar ambassador, the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry has so far used diplomatic channels. It hasn’t changed anything. In addition to civilian diplomacy, the Bangladesh government has taken a step forward in solving the border and Rohingya crisis through successful military diplomatic activities. IT must be of no surprise that in special circumstances, a country’s military diplomacy plays an instrumental role in managing foreign relations.

Relations between the two countries are now at a chilly level, with rounds of talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar surrounding the Rohingya crisis and Myanmar’s last-minute bungling of repatriation. In such a context, Bangladesh is looking for a possible solution to this crisis in military diplomacy.

Just like political diplomacy, military diplomacy has had positive discussions with Myanmar’s military leadership to resolve the Rohingya crisis, and in terms of defense cooperation, the relationship between the two countries will accelerate and strengthen mutual trust with this friendly country.

The influence of the military on state power in Myanmar is immense. Apart from that, the current Rohingya crisis falls within the ambit of the army. As a result, any move to deal with the crisis without involving the country’s army is bound to fail. Had there already been a close professional relationship between the Bangladesh and Myanmar armies, that relationship could have been put to good use in de-escalating the current crisis.

The Bangladesh army and border guard have seen success in military diplomacy before. In May 2014, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) member Naik Mizanur Rahman was killed in firing by Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP), causing intense tension on the border between the two countries.

Later, on the instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the then BGB Director General  took the initiative to develop bilateral relations with the BGP. In June of that year, he led an eighjt-member Bangladesh delegation to a meeting of the BGB and Myanmar Police Force (MPF) chiefs in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

This was the BGB’s first meeting with the MPF. The meeting was considered as a milestone in the development of the border forces of the two countries. BGB and BGP worked together for a long time by accepting the land border agreement during the visit of the then BGB Director General.

This brings relief to Bangladesh’s 261-km border with Myanmar. Based on that meeting, Myanmar then expressed good neighbourly behavior with Bangladesh.

A Myanmar military commander visited Bangladesh and met its Army chief in Dhaka in an apparent attempt to improve relations and boost regional security on October 27.

According to an ISPR statement, the Myanmar military’s special operation commander, Lt Gen Phone Myat, explained the situation in Myanmar and how the junta was trying to maintain law and order while working with friendly countries. The statement said Bangladesh army chief discussed improving military relations, discussions between commanders and training exchanges.

Bangladesh COAS Gen Shafiuddin Ahmed called for Myanmar to work with Bangladesh to ensure regional security and the rapid repatriation of the Rohingya community. Myanmar’s delegation expressed interest in cooperating in professional growth and training exchanges, increasing friendship and solving problems bilaterally, the statement said.

General Shafiuddin stated in September that Bangladesh’s armed forces were prepared to act if Myanmar’s troops continued to fire across the border while pursuing the Arakan Army. He claimed that he complained strongly to his counterpart in Myanmar about the shelling, gunfire, and interference with jet and drone flights that resulted in the death of a Rohingya refugee and injuries to others in the Bandarban district.

Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar, has been engaged in combat with the AA in northern Rakhine State, close to the Bangladeshi border. Since August, Bangladesh has complained to the international community about fighter jet and drone flights over its territory as well as mortar and machine gun rounds that cross the border.

Mohammad Ikbal, a 17-year-old Rohingya teenager, was killed by at least three mortar rounds launched into Bangladesh on September 16. Six other people were also hurt. The visit was welcomed and is a great development.

A battalion-level flag meeting between BRB and BGP decided to improve bilateral relations between the two countries, while the Myanmar side regretted the recent incidents of shelling along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.The meeting stressed the need to take necessary steps to boost communication, confidence, and trust between the border guarding forces of the two ‘friendly countries.’

Although it has a long history, military diplomacy is currently being addressed in several nations. The Rohingya issue and the most recent border dispute have a negative impact on the peace, security, and stability of the region. Regional peace and security will be threatened by the Rohingya repatriation’s delay. Military influence and diplomacy may play a decisive role in ending the Rohingya crisis.

Additionally, given that Myanmar is currently governed by a military government, the military’s position will be able to strengthen bilateral ties. The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry can therefore develop plans and measures to end the Rohingya issue with this goal in mind. The solution to the border conflict between Bangladesh and Myanmar lies in multilateral diplomacy. Strengthening military diplomacy is necessary in this regard.

Although Bangladesh and Myanmar share a border of 271 km, the Rohingya refugee crisis has been a long-standing bilateral issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh. But in order to assist in resolving this regional humanitarian crisis, both involved parties must participate in meaningful political dialogue. To establish a long-lasting political solution, Myanmar and Bangladesh could use military diplomacy as a tactic.

Basically, there should be regular exchanges of visits, training sessions, and joint exercises between the military forces of Bangladesh and Myanmar. These will lessen mistrust while boosting assurance and comprehension. Additionally, this may assist in resolving the region’s ongoing Rohingya refugee problem.

Bangladesh and Myanmar must forge military-diplomatic ties in order to successfully handle the Rohingya repatriation process. The Rohingya situation might be resolved with the use of military diplomacy and clout. The military role will be able to promote bilateral relations because Myanmar is governed by a military regime.

Military diplomatic communication is an effective strategy in strengthening relations with neighboring states. As Myanmar is Bangladesh’s only neighbouring country after India, its strategic importance is undeniable for Bangladesh. It has tried all kinds of bilateral and multilateral efforts to deal with the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, but so far, no promising results have been achieved.

The influence of the military on state power in Myanmar is immense. Apart from that, the current Rohingya crisis falls within the ambit of the army. As a result, any move to deal with the crisis without involving the country’s army is bound to fail. Had there already been a close professional relationship between the Bangladesh and Myanmar armies, that relationship could have been put to good use in de-escalating the current crisis.

President and U.S. Ambassador Commission the U.S-donated Cutter

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On November 22, 2022, the President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Secretary to the Minister of Defense Kamal Gunaratne, the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung attended the commissioning of the Navy Ship Vijayabahu, formerly the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, in Colombo Harbor.  The United States had donated the ship to Sri Lanka on October 26, 2021 as part of its continuing commitment to strengthen Sri Lanka’s ability to protect its maritime sovereignty and security.

Viewing the commissioning ceremony with Sri Lankan dignitaries, Ambassador Chung extended her appreciation to the ship’s officers and sailors for their skillful handling of the ship during the voyage.  She also expressed her thanks to the families and loved ones of the sailors for their sacrifice during the crew’s long absence.  

Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is seven times the size of its land area and maintains a Search and Rescue area nearly 25 times as large. The new vessel is capable of performing wide-ranging operations that include conservation of marine resources, search and rescue of naval and fishing vessels in distress and interdiction of drug and weapons smuggling among other crucial functions. 

The Vijayabahu is the third ship donated by the United States to the Sri Lanka Navy, preceded by the Gajabahu in 2018 and the Samudura in 2004, which continue to patrol the nation’s waters.  The latest ship, a former Hamilton-class high-endurance 115-meter cutter, undertook one of the longest voyages in Sri Lankan naval history embarking from Seattle, Washington, on September 3 and arriving in Colombo on November 2, 2022. 

In its former U.S. role, the then-Douglas Munro enforced fishing regulations in Alaskan waters, seized trawlers engaged in illegal practices and interdicted 11.5 tons of cocaine off the coast of Mexico, one of the largest hauls in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.  After the 2004 tsunami, the cutter provided food and water to Indonesians and later seized a vessel overtaken by pirates off the Horn of Africa.  The ship also rescued survivors of numerous shipwrecks in dangerous and frigid waters off the Alaskan coast.

The transfer of the vessel is just one point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.  The U.S. is committed to supporting Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect its sea lanes, which are vital to alleviating the current economic crisis.

Commissioning of the Navy Ship Vijayabahu, formerly the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, in Colombo Harbor. [ Photo: US Embassy in Colombo]
Commissioning of the Navy Ship Vijayabahu, formerly the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, in Colombo Harbor. [ Photo: US Embassy in Colombo]

Bangladesh-Myanmar: Military Diplomacy

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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).

Myanmar Military Junta: Sinking Within

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The piercing sound of air raids, mortar shelling, and gunfire on our southern border not only violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty but also presents a gloomy image of an uncertain future for the people of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the entire region.

The sound of gunshots also serves as a metaphor for the Myanmar Junta’s struggles and failures in establishing control over its own nation. The present violence in Myanmar has all the characteristics of a civil war.

Burma (Myanmar) is already engulfed in a civil war. Organized opposition groups, credible challenges to state authority, ground presence, alternative governance infrastructure (usually), and external recognition are often necessary for civil conflicts. All those components exist in Burma. The opposition is not organized along ethnic lines. They have had success in battling the security forces and Burmese army.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy was democratically elected to power in Myanmar, but that government was overthrown last year, and the military took its place. The recent trend of increased fighting and violence in Myanmar is evidence of growing unrest against the military establishment (NDL).

Following the military takeover, a sizable pro-democracy movement emerged, which later evolved into armed resistance in response to the Junta’s violent assault on dissent, which claimed the lives of at least 2,300 civilians throughout Myanmar.

People’s Defence Force (PDF), an anti-coup resistance force, has been in charge of a widespread armed resistance campaign since the coup. The National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government in exile run by Suu Kyi’s NLD’s expelled MPs, served as the foundation for PDF.

Frequently armed only with handmade weapons and a thorough understanding of the terrain, PDF has managed to astound the military with its capabilities.

To put an end to the resistance movement, the Junta in reaction conducted indiscriminate airstrikes, shelling, and arson attacks against cities and villages.

The Junta’s support among the populace has been eroded by this indiscriminate violence against the civilian population, which has brought the nation dangerously close to civil war as more civilians take up guns to oppose the military regime.

The failure of the Junta military to take control of the country is due to the lack of popular support brought on by the indiscriminate violence against the country’s population, the Myanmar military’s lack of professionalism, and corruption at every level of its military leadership and law enforcement agencies.
Ethnic Armed Forces Organizations (EAOs), also known as powerful ethnic armed organizations, have formed coalitions to combat the Junta on the battlefield as a result of the Junta’s failings. There are some of them that have friendly ties to the military establishment.

In light of recent developments, the heads of Myanmar’s seven most potent ethnic armed groups, including the Arakan Army, recently met in the remote WA area bordering China to strengthen their alliance.

Some of these EAOs have actively given military training and other types of support to anti-coup resistance, even if they are not actively engaged in the campaign to topple the Junta regime in Myanmar, which is the PDF’s main goal.

The crisis in Myanmar has already served as a flashpoint for major world powers, just like every other contemporary conflict throughout the globe.

A semi-proxy battle has already developed in this conflict. China firmly supports the Burmese government. While western nations have denounced Burmese activities, supported the opposition diplomatically and helped them make their voices heard.

Myanmar has been attempting to take advantage of the west’s diversion in attention away from this region due to the conflict in Ukraine to annihilate its rivals on the battlefield.

The Junta has been looking for supporters domestically and abroad as part of its so-called “counter-terrorism” drive to combat the diplomatic isolation the west imposed on the country last year.

Last June, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging nations to stop arming Myanmar.

However, the call was ignored. China, Russia, and Serbia are now Burma’s top three weaponry suppliers.
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, criticized Russia and China for continuing to supply the Junta with weapons despite “proof of the horrific crimes being committed with impunity” since launching a coup last year in his report released in February. However, Russia is still selling the Junta military equipment, and as part of a 2018 contract, it will soon send brand-new Sukhoi SU-30SM jet fighters.

Due to an uptick in violence, conditions in Myanmar have recently gotten worse for a great number of innocent people.

This brutal crackdown has unleashed a major refugee crisis forcing tens of thousands of people from almost every region to flee the country.

Since the coup, at least 1.3 million people have been forcibly evacuated in an effort to flee military attacks, he claimed, adding that the effects of this refugee flow would be felt throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

The largest increase in the number of refugees arrived in the Indian state of Mizoram. Since the military overthrew the government in 2021, about 30,000 people from Myanmar have sought refuge in Mizoram, according to Hindustan Times.

Bangladesh is also seeing a small influx of refugees despite intensive monitoring and surveillance in border regions. A minimum of 10-15 Rohingyas have sought refuge in the Kutupalong and Balukhali shelter camps in Cox’s Bazar since September 10 as a result of the resumption of hostilities between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army in Rakhine.

The “spectre of violence” in Myanmar has started to compellASEAN members to take action against Myanmar. This is a very significant development.

Bangladesh and Thailand have both been patient and cautious in their response (to airspace violation and artillery shelling), but if conflict persists and such violations become routine, Burmese provocations will in the future be responded to and that might create region-wide instability and chaos.

The Indo-Pacific region’s stability is threatened by the recent flare-up of fighting in Myanmar, which has alarmed neighbouring nations. The continuous insecurity and instability in Rakhine state have produced a spillover impact across the region.

Everyone worries that terrorist groups like IS and al-Qaeda may exploit the deteriorating situation in Rakhine state if the situation there is not adequately addressed. The world must emphasize the necessity of taking action on a global scale to address the security risk brought on by the unrest in Myanmar.
Bangladesh and Myanmar share a turbulent, almost 300-kilometer border, which has the potential to have negative repercussions on both countries.

For more than a month, tensions have been rising between Dhaka and Naypyidaw. On the Bangladesh side of the border, numerous instances of Myanmar’s brutal army airspace violations, deadly shelling, and gunfire have been documented.

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar’s Ambassador in Dhaka, Aung Kyaw Moe, to express opposition to the provocation following a recent incidence of mortar fire in Bangladesh that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old Rohingya boy in the no-land man’s near Bandarban.

Bangladesh must support the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Gambia, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and other international organizations leading the efforts to hold the Myanmar military accountable for their actions against the Rohingya people in order to ensure the sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh needs to take the right actions to raise the Rohingya people’s voices and their grievances to the world community. Regional countries’ targets should be strict against the brutal Myanmar military. The world including regional countries must realize that the Rohingya issue is likely to remain stuck until the Myanmar junta is kicked out of power – and this could take a long time.

Bangladesh: Military Diplomacy

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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.