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Will Sheikh Hasina's Delhi visit focus on role of China in Myanmar-Bangladesh conflict?

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan* 

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 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.
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, 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. She said, “Our very neighbour, at one stage showed such an attitude; there will be a war with us, something like that. I warned our army, border guard, police to not get distracted by any provocation. Until I direct.”
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 Reju Amtali 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, is this the only reason is the fight with the Arakan Army, or is there also a calculation of regional geopolitics? It is also necessary to think and what will be the strategy or strategy of Bangladesh in such a provocation; summoning the ambassador of Myanmar will have limited impact.
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.
China's big friend in the region is Myanmar, and Bangladesh has a bilateral complication with Myanmar over Rohingyas
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. When Bangladesh gets closer to India, China gets upset.
Since China's big friend in the region is Myanmar, and Bangladesh has a bilateral complication with Myanmar over the Rohingya issue, Myanmar has a mentality of not caring about anyone in the world on the Rohingya issue. 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.
The matter needs to be brought up in the regional forum. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is in Delhi and will have talks with her counterpart Narendra Modi. Delhi has good relations with Myanmar. It needs to be raised during the Prime Minister's visit. It needs to be discussed even in the UN General Assembly and Security Council.
Myanmar wants to provoke Bangladesh. There is no reason not to understand it. They want Bangladesh involved in conflict. Myanmar wants to bring the Rohingya issue to the fore through conflict. But this crisis will not be resolved through conflict. The crisis will increase.
Maybe they want to complicate the matter so that the return of 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. If this can be done, there will be a kind of pressure on Myanmar.
From the behavior of Myanmar in the last few years, we have to understand that they want Bangladesh to be involved in the conflict. Myanmar wants to bring the Rohingya issue to the fore through conflict. But this crisis will not be resolved through conflict. The crisis will increase. It took ups and downs to make Bangladesh an enemy.
The body language of Bangladesh was not right in the beginning. We have approached the solution bilaterally. We could not bring the issue of genocide in a big way. We could have taken it up in the international forum. We entered into a bilateral agreement two months back, but there was no deadline for taking back the Rohingyas.
---
*Development worker and independent researcher, Dhaka

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