Myanmar has become so aggressive and out of control that Bangladesh can only ignore this threat from across the border at its own peril. So far, Bangladesh's response to Myanmar's savage acts of violence against the Rohingya community has been inadequate. There is good neighborliness in Dhaka's behavior; there is general peacefulness in its conduct; there is textbook diplomacy; and there is even a naive belief that a regime that can burn villages, carry out massacres and ethnically cleanse large parts of its territory will change its behavior if the right amount of persuasion is applied.
Where are those hard-nosed Bangladeshi officials who will do some straight talking with the Myanmar's regime? It did not have to reach a level where Bangladesh would be forced to host 1 million Rohingya refugees because another country with no ethics has decided to get rid of an ethnic minority to build a rabid Buddhist nationalist state. Myanmar has followed a process to profiteer from its genocidal violence. It cultivated relationships of greed with dishonest Westerners by showing them business prospects if they overlooked its savagery against the Rohingya people.
In particular, American and British establishments in their moral bankruptcy have found numerous excuses to engage with the rogue regime. Whether it was former U.S. President Barack Obama or British Prime Minister David Cameron, the dastardliness of those who talk big on democracy and human rights was visible in their dealings with Myanmar.
The regime also believes it has China and India on its side because it can distribute some natural resources to them. The issue of the Rohingya genocide and the expulsion from their historic homeland of Arakan must not remain confined to a swathe of territory inside Myanmar. Those who carried out these horrific crimes did so with the ugliest of intentions. It must have global and regional implications. There are cruel minds in Myanmar that have no compunction in conducting mass murder and using criminal methods to suppress a significant part of the country's population. Only places like Syria and Israel can match them in such barbarity. Bangladesh is, of course, aware of the kind of involvement Israel has in Myanmar and in other parts of Asia. The threats should be obvious and the preparations to tackle them must begin in all seriousness. If Myanmar is not subdued on the Rohingya issue, it may become a huge source of destabilization in the whole region.Another danger in not dealing with the problem decisively is that Myanmar-like situations may emerge elsewhere. A strong Bangladesh able to defend its independence, interests and political positions is an absolute necessity in Asia.
Toward this end, it must have an uncompromising principle of military superiority over Myanmar in all areas whether it is artillery, air defense or anti-submarine warfare. When various countries are flexing their military muscle in its neighborhood, Bangladesh must stop being shy about developing its own means to project power. It is not about an arms race or developing intercontinental missiles, but basic national defense. The military controlled administration in Myanmar has created a situation whose consequences it has not foreseen. It drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya in a nonchalant manner in six months since August last year. Because it faced no real pressure to reverse its genocidal behavior, the regime continued to obstruct attempts to resettle refugees and accept their legitimate citizenship rights. Its agreement with Bangladesh to take back refugees is both dubious and unrealistic. Unless Bangladesh is directly involved in providing security guarantees to the Rohingya and until normalcy is fully restored in the Rakhine state, it is meaningless to talk about refugee repatriation.
Strict international monitoring of Myanmar's troubled regions is a must to ensure that the regime does not suppress the returnees or put them in the concentration camps it has built. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must also have a role in refugee resettlement and welfare.All this looks unachievable in the prevailing situation. Instead of seeking peace, Myanmar is getting more menacing. On March 1, the regime sent trucks full of weapons and men to the border area where thousands of Rohingya were stuck in a desperate situation. The Border Guards Bangladesh's (BGB) director general, Brig. Gen. Mujibur Rahman, described the deployment of heavy arms by Myanmar against the border's norms. Bangladesh's government lodged a diplomatic protest and put its security forces on high alert along the border. Any expectation that Myanmar would follow any norms or laws is simply wrong.Such incidents may lead to a wider confrontation for which Bangladesh must be fully equipped. A new security doctrine must emerge in Bangladesh, taking into account various evolving threats in its neighborhood and the Southeast Asian region. The threat should be tackled as a part of a long-term strategy. Let there be consequences for those who casually give up their humanity to indulge in ethnic cleansing and genocides.
* India-based journalist