The situation has many different facets to it- there are both problems and opportunities that arise from sharing border with Myanmar. At the moment, we are having to deal with the problems. There have been such instances in the past as well. I feel that it is imperative now that we make Bangladesh's presence felt along the border. In the past we have relied on diplomacy, as we should, in the face of extreme provocation from Myanmar for the sake of keeping the peace. This might have led them to take our presence along the border for granted. The time is now to evaluate a strategy with respect to Myanmar on our handling of the border and to develop an appropriate response to deter such unprovoked action should they continue to behave in the way that they have recently. For this, the onus is very much on the government of Bangladesh to develop a strategy that takes recent situation into consideration. We cannot keep brushing issues under the carpet thinking only of the opportunities. The border problems need to be dealt with our eastern neighbour through discussion.
Having said so, I admit that this is a complex situation. We, as a country, are peace loving and do not embark upon open hostilities with others. And from our side we can only go so far but that will have to be reciprocated if such situations are to be avoided in the future.
And while we make all that is necessary diplomatically to resolve the issue we have to take the necessary steps to defend our territory. Looking at it diplomatically, there appears very little hope of resolving the issue with Myanmar as they have been reluctant to do so in the past as well. Given our relationship with the likes of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia I do not think it is good enough to put pressure on Myanmar through international quarters. I am also doubtful of the amount of support we will receive regarding this issue from the two big bordering states India and China. We have consistently been trying to be diplomatic, and rightly so. But I do not know how confident the current government is of resolving the situation diplomatically but I have not seen anything that makes me optimistic about it.
The writer is a retired Brigadier and former Defence Attache to Myanmar.