Indian civilizationalism: a potential next hot spot?
The northeastern part of India, together with the surrounding countries of Southeast Asia, is a fascinating seismotectonic zone. The region is bordered to the north by the east and northeast Himalayas, to the east by the Indo-Burmese/Myanmar ranges, to the south by Bangladesh and to the southeast by the Andaman-Sumatra region.
Southeast Bangladesh has a land border with Myanmar of 210 kilometers (130 miles) and India of 330 kilometers (205 miles). According to one analyst, insurgents such as Myanmar’s Arakan Army have slipped through the porous borders, attacking Bangladeshi border police on at least one occasion.
The three bilateral relationships have enough content and context to start working on possible trilateral cooperation initiatives. This would not only benefit the three participating countries, but would also encourage increased cooperation in larger setups like BIMSTEC or BCIM-EC, as these three countries serve as a geographic hub for the other frameworks.
Bangladesh and Myanmar are two of India’s most important potential economic partners, but non-trade barriers such as connectivity, investment, infrastructure, logistics and technical capacity have prevented them from realizing their potential.
In recent years, there has been much talk in Indian political circles about expanding regional cooperation with India’s eastern neighbours. Although politically difficult, the concept of more trade, investment and connection between Bangladesh, Myanmar and the northeastern Indian states is worth pursuing, especially as this region , one of the least integrated in the world, is home to some of the world’s poorest people.
Recent economic and political changes in Myanmar, as well as the Modi government’s “Look East” economic policy, underscore the critical need to integrate one of the least developed regions of South Asia, namely the northern states. eastern India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, which share borders. .
According to media reports, Bangladesh has already announced that a road construction project in the remote areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox’s Bazar will be extended until 2024, saying the increased infrastructure will help combat smuggling in across the neighboring borders of Myanmar and India, among other things.
The amended road network proposal in the steep and generally inaccessible southeastern region has been approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, headed by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The roads and highways department plans to construct a 317-kilometre (197-mile) border road through three districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts – Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban – as well as Cox’s Bazar district, which will skirt Myanmar and northern states. -East India. borders.
Bangladesh Border Guard operations are hampered by the hills and dense vegetation in the area. For the first time in 2020, the government has purchased two helicopters for the BGB along the southeastern border.
Building the border road would make it easier for our soldiers to get from one outpost to another, making border patrol more efficient. The smuggling of weapons and narcotics would be prohibited.
Improved communication links in the districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Cox’s Bazar, as well as “government control in border areas through increased security measures”. Can help solve some common regional problems between India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Cross-border smuggling of illegal weapons, narcotics and human trafficking would be combated through such methods.
The rugged and inaccessible terrain has been exploited by separatist movements. A group of Arakan Army militants from the Myanmar side attacked the BGB in the Bandarban area on August 25, 2015, injuring two soldiers.
The terrain in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox’s Bazar along the border was extremely difficult and impassable. Cross-border criminal syndicates use this rugged and hilly terrain to smuggle weapons, narcotics and other goods, while different separatist factions travel freely between countries.
The Rakhine Army frequently enters Bangladesh territory from Myanmar because BGB members cannot patrol all the time, and anti-Bangladesh forces easily cross Myanmar. Once the road is completed, criminals and separatist organizations will no longer be able to move.
India suggested the pipeline in the early 2000s, but the Bangladeshi government rejected it. In 2015, during talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a pipeline was again suggested. It was included in India’s Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 plan, which was released in 2016. Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan claimed in December 2018 that India was still looking for ways to expand its grid gas to Bangladesh via Myanmar. However, no update on the resuscitation of this trilateral pipeline arrangement is publicly available as of August 2021, therefore the project is presumed cancelled. But this trilateral project will benefit India-Bangladesh-Myanmar if the project can be implemented successfully. Thus, everyone must think about the project to revive the India-Myanmar-Bangladesh gas pipeline.
Bangladesh is still showing interest in joining the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral highway to improve connectivity with Southeast Asia, which would usher in a new era of Indo-Pacific cross-border corridors. During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s virtual summit with his counterpart Narendra Modi in 2020, Dhaka expressed interest in joining IMT, despite BCIM making little progress. According to the joint statement released after the summit, she asked for India’s help to enable Bangladesh to join the effort. India’s northeast states’ better connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar can benefit the region.
The Rohingya refugee crisis is destabilizing the entire sub-region, which must be resolved as soon as possible. India should and must help resolve this protracted refugee crisis for the best interests of the three countries in the sub-region. Needless to say, India would be one of the beneficiaries if a successful and lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis could be found. India should make Myanmar understand this problem.
After coming to power in January 2009, Sheikh Hasina embraced the policy of regional peace and stability and is taking action against Indian insurgent groups using Bangladeshi territory. It is Sheikh Hasina (of course) who would never allow any kind of support for extremist and separatist groups in Myanmar and India. Thus, it is the responsibility of India and Myanmar to cooperate with Bangladesh to maintain peace in the region. India, Myanmar and Bangladesh must work trilaterally to combat these common threats.
In the case of Myanmar, after 1962, there was some confusion in Indo-Burmese relations. Myanmar responded by allowing Indian militants to operate on its soil. Moreover, India’s border with Myanmar is largely forested and the rebels exploit it without the knowledge of the Burmese authorities. However, the government of Myanmar has recently taken various measures to combat Indian rebel groups.
Bangladesh shares a land border with India, strategically located in the Bay of Bengal. Greater connectivity between India, Bangladesh and Myanmar via northeast India and Bangladesh would be strategic. Any trilateral initiative to strengthen ties will benefit the North East and it will be interesting to see how the region evolves.
Improved political relations between Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, as well as the resolution of long-standing maritime territorial issues in 2012 and 2014 respectively, provide an ideal opportunity to explore trilateral cooperation in resource sharing, the interconnection of connectivity and the combination of security measures.
Although bilateral security cooperation has grown over time, new forms of collaborative security activities between the three countries can be explored. Similar to trilateral maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, India can establish trilateral naval security cooperation with Bangladesh and Myanmar. India is already conducting joint military exercises with Bangladesh and Myanmar, which could be expanded into trilateral exercises to counter transnational security concerns in the Bay of Bengal region. The three stakeholders must collectively ensure good use of the blue economy.
Collaboration between the three countries can maximize the region’s abundant natural resources. The BoB maritime boundary disputes between Bangladesh and India, as well as between Bangladesh and Myanmar, provide an opportunity for the three nations to begin collaborative natural resource development.
Bangladesh shares a border with the five Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Myanmar. This offers the three countries a number of interesting opportunities to work closely together. As the world ‘pivots to Asia’ and India’s policy of looking East turns into policy of Acting East, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India have the potential to play a role important in the great effort to intensify trade in the region.