Myanmar has been ‘inciting war’ on the Bangladesh border for several days. Last Saturday (September 3), bullets and mortar shells were fired from Myanmar army helicopters across the border in Naikkyangchari. According to media reports, two shells of Myanmar’s security forces came within 120 meters of Bangladesh territory near the zero line at the Naikshyongchari border in Bandarban. The two shells exploded in the uninhabited hills, but no casualties were reported.
Earlier on August 28, two mortar shells landed in the populated area of Ghumdhumpara, north of Naikshyongchari. However, there were no casualties as the two shells did not explode. The next day, the army’s expert team defused it. Two days later on August 30, a Myanmar helicopter entered the Bangladesh border. A Myanmar helicopter was seen circling several times within 3-400 yards of the Baishfandari border of Ghumdhum Union at noon on that day, the local public representative told reporters.
Read more: Five years of the Myanmar-Bangladesh Rohingya crisis
Understanding the matter better
It may be recalled that Myanmar violated the airspace of Bangladesh in July 2018 as well. In August 2017, after hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape the Myanmar army’s ethnic cleansing, Myanmar helicopters flew over Bangladesh’s airspace at least three times. Even then, Bangladesh officially protested.
This time too, the country’s ambassador was summoned and warned against the firing of mortar shells and bullets on the territory of Bangladesh and the violation of the Bangladeshi airspace by Myanmar’s helicopters.
Bandarban Superintendent of Police said that law enforcement agencies including Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are on alert and intelligence surveillance has also been increased near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Last Thursday, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Shahriar Alam told reporters that the government is planning to inform the diplomatic community about the situation in the border area of Rakhine State with the Arakan Army in the border area and to prevent Myanmar nationals from entering Bangladesh. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said, “We do not want to step into Myanmar’s provocation or trap.”
In October 2017, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also said that she was careful to avoid inciting war on the part of Myanmar amid the Rohingya crisis. He said, ‘Our very neighbor, at one stage, showed such an attitude; There will be a war with us, something like that. I warned our army, border guard, and police to not get distracted by any provocation. Until I direct.’
Read more: Why Myanmar military should step forward for Rohingyas?
This raises an important question
The question is, why is Myanmar firing mortar shells and bullets on the border of Bangladesh and violating the airspace?
It is reported that Myanmar security forces have been fighting with the Arakan Army (AA), a rebel group of Myanmar, for more than two weeks. Shelling is especially frequent in the Walidong Hills near the RejuAmtali border. That’s why there is panic on the border of Bangladesh. Especially in border-adjacent areas, those doing jumchas cannot even go to jumkaz for fear of being shot at.
However, if the only reason is the fight with the Arakan Army, or if there is also a calculation of regional geopolitics, it is also necessary to think about what will be the strategy or strategy of Bangladesh in such a provocation; summoning the ambassador of Myanmar will be limited to protest.
The constitution of Bangladesh (Article 25) states in the foreign policy of the state, “Respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, peaceful resolution of international disputes and respect for the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter – these principles shall be the basis of the international relations of the state.”
In response, Bangladesh may not fire mortar shells and bullets on the Myanmar border, but the language of protest must be different. We have to talk to those who are friends of Bangladesh. Bangladesh should raise the issue in the international arena and conduct diplomatic activities instead of merely expressing formal protest.
Bangladesh is very important in the dominance strategy of India and China in the region. Bangladesh has good relations with both China and India. Both these countries are development partners of Bangladesh and Bangladesh is important to both of them in geopolitical and economic rivalry. Especially the sea of Bangladesh. That is why India gets angry when Bangladesh gets closer to China. Again, when Bangladesh gets closer to India, China gets upset.
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Since China’s big friend in the region is Myanmar and Bangladesh has a bilateral complication with Myanmar over the Rohingya issue. Due to China’s indulgence, it is alleged that Myanmar has a mentality of not caring about anyone in the world on the Rohingya issue, and since the issue of Rohingya repatriation has recently been discussed anew, it is also necessary to think whether these equations are also playing a role behind the instigation of Myanmar’s war on the Bangladesh border.
Bangladesh is being shelled by Myanmar warplanes
Dhaka has also summoned the ambassador of Myanmar. Is there actually anything to worry about? The Myanmar ambassador should be repeatedly summoned and strongly protested for such incidents.
The matter needs to be brought up in the regional forum. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is going to Delhi, which is known to have good relations with Myanmar. The matter of Rohingya needs to be raised during the Prime Minister’s visit and be discussed in the UN General Assembly and Security Council. Myanmar wants to provoke Bangladesh, and there is no reason not to understand the matter. Myanmar wants Bangladesh involved in the conflict, but Bangladesh has to keep a cool head.
Perhaps Myanmar wants to complicate the matter so that the return of the Rohingyas can be delayed further. They see benefits if they can disturb Bangladesh with conflict or military action. That is why Bangladesh should bring the issue to the international forum as soon as possible. There will be a kind of pressure on Myanmar if this can be done.
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The body language of Bangladesh was not right from the beginning. It has approached the solution bilaterally and was unable to raise the issue of genocide in a significant way when it could have taken it up in the international forum. Furthermore, Bangladesh entered into a bilateral agreement within two months, during which there was no deadline for taking back the Rohingyas.
Bangladesh has a thousand times more friends than Myanmar
Bangladesh really should not stay silent in this situation. Myanmar wants war but Bangladesh does not. The world needs to understand this war cannot be a solution. There can be no alternative to diplomatic negotiations. For instance, we can see that Russia and Ukraine are at war which is making everyone suffer. In the end, the solution will be discussions.
Therefore, the issue needs to be highlighted in the world forum because Myanmar can go from small incidents to big incidents. Caution must be exercised in advance and Myanmar must be warned.
The writer is a development worker and independent researcher based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.