By Mehjabin Bhanu
Military diplomacy has long been regarded as an important component of international diplomacy and an effective tool for fostering bilateral and regional relations. Military training and cooperation is an important part of military diplomacy and aids in the development of close relationships with other countries. This type of collaboration also aids in the strengthening of strategic security ties and the resolution of common security challenges.
Bangladesh and Myanmar are two neighbouring countries that share a border of 271 kilometers. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971. Myanmar recognized Bangladesh as an independent state on January 13, 1972.
Bangladesh and Burma signed a broad trade agreement on August 13, 1973. On June 1, 1989, three memorandums of understanding were signed to begin border commerce and economic cooperation.
The bilateral partnership between the Myanmar military and the Bangladesh military has a lot of potential. There are a lot of areas where the two countries may collaborate and work together, with the enhancement of relations being the most important.
Myanmar’s military-to-military ties with other countries are crucial for Myanmar, which has been governed by the military for decades. The military of Bangladesh should likewise enhance its links with the Tatmadaw. Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) should strengthen ties with Bangladesh’s military to safeguard common bilateral interests.
Myanmar’s military can collaborate with Bangladesh’s military to broaden the scope of their relationship and explore deeper cooperation in areas such as counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, Bangla-language skills, Burmese-language skills, joint naval and air exercises, and intelligence sharing in the Bay of Bengal region. In order to combat trans-border crimes such as illegal arms trade, drug trafficking, and human trafficking, the two military forces can increase mutual cooperation through training exchanges, intelligence sharing, and joint patrolling along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
The exchange of military delegations between Bangladesh and Myanmar could open the way for the two countries to resolve their bilateral concerns. Both sides can cooperate and exchange their knowledge and expertise to address certain common bilateral issues. Military training exchanges between the two-armed forces can help both sides improve their operational skills. Some examples of sectors of cooperation include combined military exercises, UN peacekeeping operation (UNPKO) training, and disaster management cooperation, as well as exchanging programs, senior-level visits, and medical cooperation, sports events, adventure activities, military tourism, joint cycling expeditions, and adventure training.
In 2019, Bangladesh’s then-Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Aziz Ahmed, embarked on a four-day tour to Myanmar. The goal of the tour was to strengthen both countries’ current military connections and determine the breadth of potential cooperation. General Aziz’s visit to Myanmar was Bangladesh’s first high-profile military visit to Myanmar in over five years.
Gen. Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan, the former chief of the Bangladesh Army, visited Myanmar in 2014 to discuss topics such as trans-border crime and human trafficking. Air Marshal Muhammad Enamul Bari, the Chief of Air Staff, and his five subordinates departed Dhaka for Myanmar in 2019.
U Ne Win, president of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (Myanmar), arrived in Dhaka for a four-day official visit on April 26, 1974. Bangladesh president Muhammadullah and prime minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman greeted him at the airport.
In 2011, Lt. General Myat Hein, the then-Commandant in Chief of the Myanmar Air Force, arrived in Dhaka for a six-day visit to Bangladesh. These types of high-level visits, on the other hand, are critical for both Myanmar and Bangladesh to strengthen ties and improve mutual understanding.
In the past, Myanmar defense officers attended Bangladeshi training schools such as the National Defense College and the Defense Service Command and Staff College (DSCSC). However, to maintain a higher level of interest, these training exchanges must be resumed. As a result, Bangladesh and Myanmar should work together to provide additional training opportunities.
The two forces’ joint endeavours may pave the way for stronger ties between the two neighbours. Improved military connections between Bangladesh and Myanmar can help to smooth out ties and resolve long-standing concerns including the Rakhine displaced persons crisis in Bangladesh, maritime disputes, and border-related trans-border crimes.
In general, members of Myanmar’s and Bangladesh’s armed services should exchange visits, training, and joint exercises regularly. These will help to eliminate mistrust and increase trust and understanding. This may also aid in the resolution of the region’s long-standing Rohingya refugee dilemma.
On the environmental front, both Bangladesh and Myanmar should guarantee that global climate conferences do not merely focus on climate issues, but also set actual steps and a constructive framework, with the genuine purpose of reducing environmental degradation.
The only thing that matters for Bangladesh is that there is enormous economic potential for Bangladesh within Myanmar. Bangladesh should have no concerns about the military in Myanmar ruling the show. Regardless of who is in power in Myanmar, Bangladesh must fight for tighter connections. Myanmar’s Constituent Assembly still has a strong military presence. Bangladesh has discovered new opportunities to earn billions by exporting to and investing in Myanmar. As one of Myanmar’s five neighbours, Bangladesh should endeavour to seize such possibilities, strengthen its connections with Myanmar, and take advantage of Myanmar’s economic potential through military diplomacy between the two countries.
Countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, which are among the worst-affected by climate change, with the worst yet to come, may band together to solve concerns related to global environmental degradation. Aside from the obvious issues of poverty and illiteracy, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s environmental vulnerability is particularly concerning. Basically, through collaborative disaster management systems, operations, and initiatives, the Tatmadaw and Bangladesh military may work together to reduce the risk of regional environmental degradation. The finest example to grasp it was Cyclone Nargis in 2008. This natural disaster impacted both coastline countries. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have numerous potentials to collaborate in order to reduce the danger and loss of environmental deterioration.
The relations between the two countries are the cross-border communication of general people from the two sides of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The people-to-people connection between two sovereign countries must be made the most effective way to progress together and to keep a peaceful relationship between the concerned countries. This factor is particularly important when the concerned countries are neighbours. There must be a smooth and vibrant relationship between the people of both Bangladesh and Myanmar. Basically, both militaries can promote Trade and Commerce with each other.
Being one of the closest neighbours of Myanmar, both countries should maintain a friendly relationship with each other. Bangladesh armed forces must take effective steps to improve the relations with Myanmar armed forces assuring the zero-tolerance policy of the Bangladesh government against terrorists, human traffickers, illegal drug traders criminals.
Myanmar’s military should take effective steps to foster the ties. It must understand that Bangladesh is a peace-loving country and friendly neighbours. Bangladesh believes in peaceful coexistence.
Thus, engagement with Bangladesh would be beneficial for Myanmar also. Military ties between the two neighbouring countries can assure peace, harmony, regional stability, regional greater interest, etc. in the whole regions (South Asia and Southeast Asia).
Mehjabin Bhanu is a resident of Rajshahi City Corporation in Bangladesh. She holds Honours and Masters Degrees in Political Science from the University of Rajshahi.