Why Did Bangladesh Exchange Felicitations With Myanmar On 75th Anniversary Of Independence Day Of Myanmar? – OpEd

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Myanmar declared independence from British colonial rule on January 4, 1948, after a long fight championed by General Aung San. Ceremony to hoist and salute the State Flag to mark the 75th Diamond Jubilee Independence Day was held in Nay Pyi Taw on the 4th of January 2023.

On the occasion of the diamond jubilee of the independence of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the people of Bangladesh extended warm greetings and felicitations to the people of Myanmar and wish them inclusive peace and prosperity.

On the auspicious occasion of Diamond Jubilee, 75th Anniversary of Independence Day of Myanmar, congratulatory message was sent to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairman of the State Administration Council and Prime Minister of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. 

Bangladesh wishes progress and prosperity for the people of Myanmar.  In the message, it was said that over the last fifty years Bangladesh and Myanmar have enjoyed warm and cordial relations based on values of mutual respect and understanding. The two countries will continue to strengthen multilateral cooperation through the framework of the United Nations, as well as other international and regional structures including the BIMSTEC, ASEAN cooperation. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has said that as a next-door and friendly neighbour, Bangladesh has been committed to developing an amicable relationship with Myanmar, the ministry said.

Myanmar’s junta chief on Wednesday lashed out at countries for intervening in his country’s affairs while thanking others for “positively” cooperating, noting how it was working closely with neighbours such as Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand.

Myanmar junta hits out at critics, thanks neighbours for help. ‘We are closely working with neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand. We will work together for border stability and development,’ Min Aung Hlaing said in a televised speech.

“I want to say thank you to some international and regional countries and organizations and individuals who positively cooperated with us… in the midst of all the pressure, criticisms and attacks,” Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech to mark Myanmar’s 75th Independence Day.

“We are closely working with neighbouring countries such as China, India, Thailand, Laos and Bangladesh. We will work together for border stability and development,” Min Aung Hlaing said in a televised speech from a national day parade in the capital Naypyitaw. Myanmar troops and weaponry have paraded through the capital Naypyidaw to mark 75 years of independence from Britain.

Bangladesh’s relation with Myanmar goes back to history. Myanmar is the only country apart from India with which we share both land and maritime borders. Myanmar was amongst the first neighboring countries to have recognized Bangladesh on 13 January 1972. Myanmar was the sixth country to recognize Bangladesh as an independent country. Immediately after the independence, Bangladesh established diplomatic relations with Myanmar and quickly opened its Embassy in Yangon on 01 April 1972. The then Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. Abdus Samad Azad, visited Myanmar as early as in May 1972.

Both the neighbours signed their first bilateral agreement; the Trade Agreement, in August 1973. Exchange of many high-level visits including Presidential, Prime Ministerial and Foreign Ministerial level visits steered bilateral relations between the two countries. Myanmar’s the then President General Ne Win was the first Asian Head of State to visit independent Bangladesh in April 1974. He again visited Bangladesh in May 1979 and November 1982.

The then President of Bangladesh paid state visit to Myanmar in July 1977. The then President of Bangladesh visited Myanmar in February 1982. The then Chief Marshal Law Administrator (CMLA) of Bangladesh visited Myanmar in May 1983. Myanmar’s Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) paid a state visit to Bangladesh in December 2002. The then Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited Myanmar in 19-21 March 2003. Former Prime Minister of Myanmar General Khin Nyunt visited Bangladesh in April 2004.

Former Vice Senior General of Myanmar U Maung Aye, Vice Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) visited Bangladesh from 7-9 October 2008. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to Myanmar on 5-7 December, 2011 at the invitation of the President of Myanmar. PM Sheikh Hasina again visited Myanmar in March 2014 to participate in the 3rd BIMSTEC Summit. Since establishing diplomatic relations, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed more than 30 (thirty) Agreements, Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and Protocols.

The history of relations among the people from some territories, which currently exist as the political entity of modern-day Bangladesh and Myanmar, dates back to centuries, with renewed elements added to the relations every now and then. As the communities around the globe are globalizing, it would be disadvantageous for any country not to be proactive in seeking greater engagement with other countries, especially when it is a next door neighbour.  Therefore, Bangladesh’s recent attempt of seeking greater engagement with its next door neighbour Myanmar is a pragmatic approach on the part of Bangladesh. Trade & investment, BCIM-EC, environment, insurgency etc. are the areas where both sides may cooperate

The message that Bangladesh wants to forge friendship, good neighbourliness and close cooperation with neighbouring Myanmar in all areas of common interests.  Myanamr should respond with a sincere and warm gesture by expressing its willingness to move forward bilateral relations with Bangladesh. It emphasized that there should be frequent engagements between the two neighbours. No issues and incidents should distract the willingness of frequent engagements and increasing cooperation between the two countries. Both neighbours should face all challenges jointly. The relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar should not be hostage to any third party, be it any third state or any other non-state actors.

There is a vast scope for the bilateral relationship between Myanmar and Bangladesh. There are a number of areas where the two countries may cooperate and work together; the key area being the improvement of existing trade relations, which is not in good shape at the time being. Bangladesh has lot to gain from the improving trade relations with Myanmar.

Countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, which are the major victims of climate change with the worst victimization still awaiting, may work together in order to address the issues related to the global environmental deterioration. Besides the major problems of poverty and illiteracy, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s vulnerability to environmental deterioration is very alarming. 

Another challenge posed to the relations between the two countries is the cross-border communication of general people from the two sides of Bangladesh and Myanmar. People to people connection between two sovereign countries is the most effective way to progress together and to keep a peaceful relationship between the concerned countries. This factor is particularly important when the concerned countries are neighbours. There was a smooth and vibrant relation between the people of both Bangladesh and Myanmar in the pre-Mughal era that continued till the British era. However, the post-British era saw degradation in the relationship between the people from both sides and circumstances only got worse when the Rohingya issue took the centre stage in shaping up Bangladeshis’ perceptions towards Myanmar. 

A positive gesture was shown from Myanmar’s side in working with Bangladesh now. Myanmar senior general’s televised speech, which was made from Myanmar’s side, highlighted Myanmar government’s firm resolve to find solutions to the challenges with BD.

Moreover, taking a step towards genuine solution regarding the Rohingya issue would likely to normalize and smoothen the communication between the people from both sides. Since Bangladesh and Myanmar governments have good relations, a good relation between the general mass from both sides would help to make ideas like BCIM-EC to become operational and, thereby, functional.

For Bangladesh, the only relevant thing that is to be taken into account is that there are immense economic opportunities for Bangladesh within Myanmar. There should be no concern on Bangladesh’s part as to who runs the show in Myanmar.Instead, Bangladesh should push for closer ties with Myanmar irrespective of who holds Myanmar’s power. 

Therefore, being one of the five neighbours of Myanmar, Bangladesh should try to grab such opportunities, should bolster its relations with Myanmar and take the benefit of Myanmar’s economic liberalization.

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