Bangladesh-Myanmar Bilateral Relations: A Short Overview

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Bangladesh-Myanmar Bilateral Relations: A Short Overview
By Sawban Ibn Farid – Honors Final year, 44th batch, Dept. of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University.

Bangladesh-Myanmar relations have gone through period of collaboration and conflict. Conflict means the sense of conflict of interest and result of diplomatic problems. Bangladesh-Myanmar relations formally started from 13 January 1972. On that day Myanmar gave recognition Bangladesh as a sovereign country. But, throughout the years the situation has experienced unwelcome change and the relations between these two neighbors was not been so friendly as expected due to some uncertain disputes like Rohingya refugees and maritime boundary division.

Aside this main tension now a day’s Myanmar can be a great option for Bangladesh to maintain bi lateral relations. Myanmar is our main neighbor that we have borders beside other country India. It can give certain vital preference to Bangladesh. Other than the sea it is more networthy as it has potential gateway of land rout towards China and South east Asia. It could be a great link between Bangladesh and other south Asian countries including Malyasia, Thailand and Singapore.

Myanmar itself was a good potential country with resource. Bangladesh can be greatly benefited from the natural resources of Myanmar such as gas, oil and stones. And these natural resources are in huge amount of stock in Myanmar. Therefore, it is more in Bangladesh’s interest to maintain good relationship with Myanmar for the reasons of national security. Unfriendly relations with Myanmar can cause benefit to small insurgent groups of hill tracks, which can cause national security. By the way, this question is less important now a day as the Rohingya issue has immerged as international concern. Very recently Myanmar argued that Saint Martin Iceland is actually in their land and they draw a map including the Iceland but after pressure from Bangladesh they removed it.

However, before Rohingya issue the relations between these two nations encountered an unpleasant taste in 1991. Myanmar assaulted and ransacked bordering Rejupara border out post- BOP. 3 members of Bangladesh Rifles (now BGB) were killed by Myanmar force and all the arms and ammunition were looted. Bangladesh was put on a high military alarm and both of the states came to in a breaking point.

War was almost to occur. However, a major clash was able to avoid by newly elected government. Since then the relationship has never been smooth. There are a bunch of factors which has been making problem in the normal relationship between two neighbors. Among them the Rohingya refugee problem is the most complex one and now days it is the burning issue all over the world. Maritime dispute was solved anyway in 2012 but Myanmar has attitude to violating it several times. Before the recent Saint martin’s Iceland problem there was another disputes back in 2008 when Korean ships guarded by Myanmar navy started searching for natural resources in south west of saint martin within the area of 50 nautical miles in Bangladesh’s water.

Though Myanmar withdrew their activities later facing strong challenge from Bangladesh but they didn’t stop. Back in 2 years with Rohingya issue they violated the border peace and settled situation many times. So it can be said that the relation is not smooth anymore, hardly can in future. 

Three agreements were signed between two countries within the time of 1972 and 1985. These were; i) General Trade Agreement (3 August, 1973), (ii) Repatriation of Refugee Agreement (1978), and (iii) Land Boundary Agreement (1979). For the relations between two nations these agreements were milestones. Since then many visit from the top level took placed from the both side to develop the bilateral relationship. Even in the most complex Rohingya dispute situation this visit is being continued.

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