by Ozair Islam

Notwithstanding misinformation about Bangladesh’s Saint Martin, and Myanmar’s persistent
provocations, Bangladesh rightly pursues the concept of “defense diplomacy” with Myanmar in a
nonviolent manner. The Myanmar border situation can only be resolved by “diplomacy”, according to Bangladesh’s new army leader. He also said there was no chance of hostilities between the two forces.

It is very difficult for one army to launch a war without warning when the two armies are in communication with one another. When General Waker-uz-Zaman took command, he informed reporters at the army headquarters in Dhaka, “This does not happen.” But he issued a warning, saying, “We want to avoid any provocation.” Other than the Rohingya crisis, we have no problems with Myanmar. We demand that they return the Rohingya. Apart from that, I don’t think there is any animosity or issue between us and them. According to Zaman, the two armed forces were “trying to solve the Rohingya issue in a peaceful way” and were in continuous communication.

The new army leader of Bangladesh is spot on when it comes to handling its neighbor, Myanmar. The Bangladeshi army has made it quite clear that it wants amicable ties with Myanmar, but Myanmar has to cease acting provocatively near its borders. Bangladesh’s southeast border has been impacted by Myanmar’s internal turmoil, particularly St Martin’s Island. Any actions the Myanmar Army conducts in the border areas must be done so with extreme discretion. Myanmar is not seen as an enemy by Bangladesh. Bangladesh doesn’t want to go to war with any nation, notwithstanding Myanmar’s rather extreme approach towards Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s policy is to keep friendships with all people since it is a peaceful nation.

However, it is incorrect to consider Bangladesh to be weak. Meanwhile, as Myanmar is very busy to deal with its massive insurgency, Myanmar military can’t bear the cost of another conflict war with Bangladesh. Thus, it is inappropriate to think that Myanmar military will engage in conflict with Bangladesh.

Bangladesh currently has world-class armed forces. Bangladesh is among the best countries in the world for its highly developed infantry. Myanmar would be very naive to believe that Bangladesh’s military forces are insufficient.

But as General Waker-uz-Zaman correctly pointed out, it is very difficult for an army to launch a battle on short notice when two troops are in communication with one another. This doesn’t take place. I don’t think there is any animosity or issue between us and them. Myanmar has to be more practical and all-encompassing.

The newly appointed head of Bangladesh’s armed forces is sending a proactive and nonviolent message to its neighbor, Myanmar, expressing Bangladesh’s continued belief in good neighborly relations and Dhaka’s desire to maintain the recent level of bilateral relations and military exchanges. It shows that Dhaka is eager to have regular military-to-military contact again. This is important to prevent a direct clash between the two neighboring nations since a military battle between Bangladesh and Myanmar would have terrible implications for both sides. The ball is now in Myanmar’s court. It is hoped that Myanmar would be more pragmatic.

Stable bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar may be greatly influenced by their constructive discussions on border and Rohingya concerns. Bangladesh has approached this problem with a fairly benevolent attitude as it believes that whatever is occurring in Rakhine is an internal business of Myanmar. Dhaka has resisted taking any additional action other from diplomatic ones because of this. It has protested cross-border fire via diplomatic channels and has also raised issues with any reports of border transgressions.

Additionally, it has made an effort to facilitate the groups who invaded Bangladesh to return in peace. In the process, it made it very clear to both the Myanmar side and the international community that Bangladesh views the continuing war as being solely inside its borders and that it has no desire or intention of becoming engaged. Its main goal is to make it easier for the Rohingya community, who have sought safety in Bangladesh, to return to Myanmar as soon as feasible. That continues to be its top focus.

From the standpoint of defense cooperation, military diplomacy may assist in resolving bilateral issues like the Rohingya refugee crisis and fostering stronger bilateral relations with a neighborly attitude.

At this point, it is crucial that Bangladesh will take the necessary steps to protect its territorial integrity in addition to communicating with Myanmar diplomatically and informing them that it is not interested in their domestic issues. Myanmar shouldn’t want to see a problem in the area right now, and Bangladesh wants peace and stability in its neighborhood, therefore these two parties have similar interests. It is essential to solve the fundamental problem of how to handle the interaction between two nations’ defense diplomacy in order to convert this shared objective into cooperative action to create a regional security framework.

The fundamental question in this case is how Myanmar perceives Bangladesh’s legitimate rights, interests, and reasonable expectations. Over time, it seeks to find a middle ground and creates some kind of institutional structure that is acceptable to all parties. Despite the difficulty in improving military ties between Bangladesh and Burma, the two countries’ combined efforts may open the door to deeper ties between their two neighbors. Strengthened military relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar may facilitate the normalization of relations and the settlement of long-standing problems such border tensions, border-related trans-border crimes, and the Rohingya crisis.

In the long run, both should keep working together to maintain regional security and explore ways to deepen their military relationships. They should also have cooperative talks, training exchanges, coordinated disaster relief efforts, and information sharing. Together, they should manage crises, avoid miscalculations, and stay out of conflicts. Since there is much potential for growth in their bilateral relationship, military diplomacy may be an essential instrument in efforts to restore relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar. There is great potential for Myanmar and Bangladesh’s military cooperation.

While there are many ways in which the two nations may cooperate, improving ties is by far the most important.

About the writer:

Ozair Islam, a strategic affairs and foreign policy analyst, is currently working as a consultant to a Bangladeshi NGO. He can be reached at