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Why should India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh exchange regional strategic advantage

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The northeastern part of India, as well as the surrounding countries of Southeast Asia, is a fascinating seismotectonic zone. The region is bordered on the north by the eastern and northeastern Himalayas, on the east by the Indo-Burma ranges/Myanmar, on the south by Bangladesh, and on the southeast by the Andaman-Sumatra region.

Bangladesh’s southeast has a land border with Myanmar of 210 kilometers (130 miles) and India of 330 kilometers (205 miles). According to an 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 ties have enough content and context to begin working on potential trilateral cooperation initiatives. This would not only benefit all three nations participating, but it will also encourage increased cooperation in broader setups like BIMSTEC or BCIM-EC, as these three countries serve as the geographical fulcrum for the other frameworks.

Bangladesh and Myanmar are two of India’s most important potential economic partners, but non-trade obstacles such as connectivity, investments, infrastructure, logistics, and technical capacity have prevented them from realizing their potential.

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk in Indian policy circles about expanding regional cooperation with India’s eastern neighbors. Although politically difficult, the concept of more commerce, investment, and connection among Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India’s North-Eastern states is worthwhile to pursue, especially given that this region, one of the least integrated in the world, is home to some of the world’s poorest people.

The recent economic and political changes in Myanmar, as well as the Modi government’s ‘Look East’ economic policy, highlight the critical need to integrate one of South Asia’s least developed regions, namely India’s north eastern states, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, which share borders.

According to media reports, Bangladesh has already announced that a road-building project in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox’s Bazar will be extended until 2024, claiming that the increased infrastructure would assist combat illegal smuggling across the nearby Myanmar and India borders, among other things.

The amended proposal for the road system in the steep and generally inaccessible southeastern region was approved by the National Economic Council Executive Committee, led by the Bangladesh prime minister.

The roads and highways department plans to construct a 317-kilometer (197-mile) border road in three Chittagong Hill Tracts districts – Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Bandarban – as well as Cox’s Bazar district, which will run along Myanmar’s and northeastern Indian states’ borders.

Border Guard Bangladesh’s operations are hampered by the region’s hills and dense vegetation. For the first time in 2020, the government purchased two helicopters for the BGB along the southeastern border.

The construction of the border road would make it easier for our soldiers to get from one outpost to another, making border patrol more efficient. Arms and narcotics smuggling would be prohibited.

Improved communication linkages in the districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachhari, and Cox’s Bazar, as well as “government control in the bordering areas through increased security measures.” Can help to tackle some common regional problems amongst India-Bangladesh-Myanmar. Border smuggling of illegal weaponry, narcotics, and human trafficking would be combated with such methods.

The rugged and inaccessible terrain has been exploited by separatist movements. A group of Arakan Army militants from the Myanmar side attacked BGB in Bandarban area on Aug. 25, 2015, wounded two soldiers.

The terrain in Chittagong Hill Tracts and Cox’s Bazar along the border has been extremely difficult and impassable. Cross-border criminal syndicates use this rugged hilly terrain to smuggle arms, narcotics, and other goods, while different separatist factions travel freely between countries.

The Arakan Army frequently enters Bangladesh territory from Myanmar because BGB members are unable to patrol all of the time, and anti-Bangladesh forces readily cross into Myanmar Once the route is finished, criminals and separatist organizations will be unable 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 once again suggested. It was included in India’s Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 plan, which was published in 2016. India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, claimed in December 2018 that India was still looking on ways to expand its gas network to Bangladesh via Myanmar.  However, no updates on the resuscitation of this trilateral pipeline arrangement are publicly available as of August 2021, hence the project is presumed canceled. But this trilateral project will benefit India-Bangladesh-Myanmar if the project can be implemented successfully. Thus, all need to think about the revival India-Myanmar-Bangladesh Gas Pipeline project.

Bangladesh always shows interest in joining the India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) trilateral expressway to improve connectivity with Southeast Asia, which would usher in a new age of Indo-Pacific trans-border corridors. During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s virtual summit with her counterpart Narendra Modi in 2020, Dhaka showed interest in joining IMT, despite the fact that BCIM has made little progress. According to the joint statement issued at the end of the summit, she requested India’s assistance in enabling Bangladesh to join the effort. The higher connectivity of India’s North-Eastern states with Bangladesh and Myanmar can benefit the region.

Rohingya refugee crisis destabilizes the whole sub-region which needs to be resolved as soon as possible. India should and must help solve this long-pending refugee crisis for the greater interest of the three sub-regional countries. It is unnecessary to quote that India would be one of the beneficiaries if the fruitful and sustainable solution of Rohingya crisis could be found. India should make Myanmar understand about this issue.

After coming to power in January 2009, Sheikh Hasina adopted the policy of regional peace and stability and is taking action against Indian insurgents’ groups who have been using Bangladeshi territory. It is Sheikh Hasina (of course) who would never allow any kind of support towards the extremist and separatist groups from Myanmar and India. Thus, it is India and Myanmar’s responsibility to cooperate Bangladesh to keep the region peaceful. India, Myanmar and Bangladesh must work trilaterally in combatting these common threats.

In the case of Myanmar, after 1962, there was some confusion in Indo-Myanmar ties. Myanmar responded by allowing Indian militants to operate on its soil. Furthermore, India’s border with Myanmar is largely forested, and rebels exploit it without Myanmarese authorities’ knowledge. However, the Myanmar government has recently made various moves to combat Indian rebel groups.

Bangladesh shares a land border with India, which is strategically located in the Bay of Bengal. Greater connectivity amongst India, Bangladesh and Myanmar via India’s north east and Bangladesh would be strategically. Any trilateral initiatives to strengthen links will benefit the North East, and it will be interesting to see how the region evolves.

The improvement of political relations between Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar, as well as the resolution of long-standing maritime territorial issues in 2012 and 2014 respectively, present an ideal opportunity to explore trilateral cooperation in resource sharing, inter-linking connectivity, and combined security measures.

Even though bilateral security cooperation has grown over time, new forms of collaborative security activities between the three countries can be explored. Similar to the trilateral maritime security cooperation between India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, India can establish trilateral naval security cooperation with Bangladesh and Myanmar. India already conducts joint military exercises with Bangladesh and Myanmar, which might be expanded into trilateral drills to counter transnational security issues in the Bay of Bengal region. All three stake holders should ensure proper utilization of blue economy collectively.

Collaboration between the three countries can maximize the region’s abundant natural resources. The BoB’s maritime border 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, and Tripura and Myanmar. This provides the three countries a number of interesting opportunities to work closely together. As the world ‘pivots to Asia’ and the Indian look East policy transforms to the Act East policy, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India have the potential to be an important part of the great endeavor of greater trade in the region.

I am a lady school teacher in Bangladesh. I am a resident of Rajshahi City Corporation in Bangladesh. Teaching is my profession. On the other hand, I am also a local social worker. My academic background: Honors and Masters in ' Political Science' from the University of Rajshahi.

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South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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South Asia

When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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South Asia

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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