X-Posting from Bangladesh Thread.
Tension between Bangladesh and Myanmar intensified Friday as Myanmar started reinforcing border troops after talks in Myanmar over disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal failed.
This also prompted Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) to be on alert at strategic points in Bandarban and Cox's Bazar districts.
According to sources in BDR, the paramilitary forces have been put on alert in Rezu, Chakdhala, Asadtali, Fultali, Lebuchhari, Dhumdhum, Amtali, Tamru and Ukhia borders in the two districts.
Bangladesh Navy intelligence gathered information Thursday that Myanmar had begun mobilising ground troops near the Naf river but the mobilisation was not visible. Then the Navy alerted the BDR.
BDR sources yesterday said since Myanmar continued reinforcing troops along its border with Bangladesh, Bangladesh has also taken appropriate steps as a precautionary measure.
Local sources said BDR also alerted people living in the border areas apprehending untoward incidents. A number of schools in the areas were vacated and BDR troops took position there.
The dispute emerged after Myanmar started oil and gas exploration last week in a stretch of sea claimed by Bangladesh. Bangladesh deployed naval ships to the area and simultaneously sent a diplomatic team to Myanmar seeking to resolve the issue through negotiations.
Officials claimed that the meeting ended without any resolution but Bangladesh notified Myanmar authorities its claim on the territory. Bangladesh was in good terms with the Myanmar authorities until this dispute emerged.
In 1991, Myanmar had driven more than 250,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh creating a war-like situation between the two countries. Bangladesh gave shelter to the Rohingyas and through diplomatic moves made Myanmar agree to take them back.
But repatriation of them remains slow and Bangladesh still has several thousand refugees on its soil.
Our Bandarban correspondent quoting Naikkhangchhari UNO Nowab Aslam Habib reports: Tension built up as Myanmar forces mobilised along the border. No untoward incident in Naikkhangchhari was reported, he said.
A defence source said BDR is unable to keep a close watch on 173km-long remote and hilly border area. BDR has only five watchtowers in that long stretch of border. Following the 1991 incident with Myanmar, BDR recommended increasing the number of towers there but there was no follow up.
Locals alleged that the Nasaka, border force of Myanmar, shot four Bangladeshis dead near the border last Sunday. Agitated people on Friday captured two Myanmar citizens, Mohammad and Azizul Haq, at Rezu-Amtali border areas. They are now under BDR's custody.
To review the situation, an eight-member high-level BDR team led by Chittagong Sector Commander Colonel Akhtar visited Lembuchhari and Chakdhala border areas of Naikkhangchhari.
Meanwhile, sources said the situation in the Bay of Bengal remains unchanged. There was no exploration activities for the second day yesterday but the Myanmar ships remain anchored 55km southwest at 227 degrees from St Martin's Island.
The Myanmar ships started exploration activities on November 1 ignoring Bangladesh Navy warnings of trespassing on Bangladesh waters. The area is well within Bangladesh's territory and marked as deep-sea blocks 8-13. Bangladesh officially lodged protest before Myanmar ambassador last Sunday. Myanmar also protested before the Bangladeshi ambassador in Myanmar the same day.
Bangladesh later on requested North Korean government to ask Daewoo, which is conducting the exploration for Myanmar, to stop its activities in the Bay. Bangladesh also requested Myanmar's closest ally China to ask Myanmar to quit Bangladeshi waters till the maritime boundary is marked as per the UN guideline.
On Thursday, China suggested that Bangladesh and Myanmar settle their dispute through friendly negotiations, apparently stepping back from taking any measure.
"We hope the countries will settle it through equal and friendly negotiations and maintain a stable bilateral relationship. As their friend, China will contribute in an appropriate manner," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a press conference, reports Xinhua.
This is happening in India's backyard
. China has forced itself onto Bangladesh to play the role of arbitrator in South Asia, a role which would have been India's. China is telling Bangladesh, that if it wants its security interests preserved, it would have to negotiate with China and give China concessions. On the other hand, China is giving Myanmar a long leash to go about expanding its military influence and browbeat its neighbors without any fear of retaliation, as it is under China's security cover.
India on the other hand is so paralyzed, that it cannot do anything. China is the primary country influencing Myanmar, so Myanmar would look up to Chinese leadership and not heed to what India has to say. So India siding with Myanmar in this dispute would be superfluous. India siding with Bangladesh would mean that the relationship that India had built up over the last decade, even playing second-fiddle to China on this, would come to naught. If India wants to play the role of a neutral mediator, guess what, India is not invited. Bangladesh did not come to India, but went straight to China, because Bangladesh knows, who pulls the strings on this. Should this dispute escalate, Western countries would throw their lot with Bangladesh to spite Myanmar, and Myanmar would go running even deeper into the Dragon's embrace, which means further strategic loss to India's interests. So whichever way you look at it, this is India's loss.
This stinks very strongly like something the Chinese have provoked. Myanmar is doing this at the behest of the Chinese, and the Bangladeshis are walking into the trap.
India would have to give this new turn of events some serious thought. This should also be something decisive. The most optimal outcome would be if those officers of the Myanmar junta, who are responsible for this event, are demoted or otherwise shunt out from decision-making, allowing other leaders to take up the mantle. Another course of action would be for India to completely rethink our strategy of appeasement of military junta in Myanmar, and forcing a people's revolution there with the help of the West. If Chinese influence is growing there by leaps and bounds, then India's current strategy is is bound for doom anyway.
This is turning very serious indeed. This is a very forceful entry of the Chinese into the South Asian Theater, otherwise India would be losing sway in all countries of South Asia, be it Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. The Chinese mean business, and India better learn to do things differently.
The Chinese may have decided to stoke this new conflict, so that when Obama is in the White House, the Myanmar-Bangladesh Conflict becomes the first crisis on his hands. He would have to turn to the Chinese to influence the Myanmarese to back off. With the side-effect, that the Chinese again prove to the USA, that they are the prime power in the whole of Asia, even in the South Asian region, and that Obama should not see India as a credible counter-weight as Bush used to see India.