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Can Dhaka do Military Diplomacy to resolve Rohingya crisis?

Migration 2022-03-10, 12:00am

rohingya-houses-burning-in-2017-f4e494e5dee71ddac8bcd441cf6430671646848821.jpg

Rohingya houses burning in 2017



Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed

The Rohingya crisis is presently one of the major problems in Bangladesh, but the country has been struggling with the refugee issue since 1978. The dilemma first began when almost one million refugees came to Bangladesh from Myanmar to take shelter. These Muslim refugees are known as “Rohingya.” This historic incident was repeated in 2017–2018 when about 400,000 Rohingya refugees escaped from the Rakhine state of Myanmar and sought refuge in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. This religious minority is deprived of fundamental human rights and civil rights. The Rohingya issue has now become a burning question for Bangladesh, which is already a densely populated country, as the refugees continue to enter Bangladesh for shelter. As a result, Bangladesh is facing various socio-economic, political and financial challenges while trying to provide the necessities of life to those refugees. Legally, Bangladesh is not the final safe zone or destination for refugees because it is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol or a party to the Statelessness Conventions of 1954 and 1961. But neither could Bangladesh reject shelters to the Rohingya refugees on humanitarian grounds. Even though Bangladesh has decided to assist the refugees, it is not prosperous enough to accommodate the Rohingya refugees. There is also a lack of strict domestic law concerning refugees or political asylum in Bangladesh, which is struggling to overcome this “Rohingya Crisis” to save its image in the international arena. The Rohingya people were forced to leave Myanmar and settle in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has tried to address the multi-dimensional “Rohingya Crisis”, which is also being considered seriously by numerous international agencies and NGOs in Bangladesh. There has been worldwide concern regarding the atrocious act of the Myanmar government towards the Rohingya refugees sheltered in Bangladesh. In this dire situation, there is a need for greater awareness about this multi-dimensional crisis. It is time for world leaders to develop an open-minded, reorganized, and diplomatic outlook to address the Rohingya Crisis. The mass influx of Rohingya refugees and their concentration in Cox’s Bazar have raised several serious issues-i.e., humanitarian, economic, environmental, regional relations, and most of all, security concerns. The security concerns have two dimensions: the potential conflict between the Rohingyas and the host community; and the radicalization of the Rohingyas who have suffered unprecedented deprivations, religious persecution and other inhuman atrocities. This assessment is undertaken to identify the overall impacts, crisis and challenges associated with security risks.

Bangladesh is under great internal pressure over the Rohingya crisis. In tackling this crisis, the country has had to face some new diplomatic realities and is still doing so. Our longtime allies have not seen effective initiatives to resolve the Rohingya crisis. We have largely failed to achieve the expected results by applying the traditional diplomatic approach to overcoming the Rohingya crisis. Therefore, in order to successfully implement the various approaches of modern diplomacy, there is a need to rethink. Such as- economic diplomacy, military diplomacy, cultural diplomacy etc. Among the strategies adopted by various countries to safeguard the country's interests and strengthen the state's diplomatic position in the international arena, military diplomacy is a special strategy and its influence and application are increasing in today's world. Bangladesh must find a way to resolve the Rohingya crisis through military diplomatic relations and activism. In this case, with the cooperation of China, positive results can be obtained.

Although military diplomacy is one of the approaches, its implementation varies from state to state. As a result, there is no universally accepted definition of military diplomacy. In general, however, it can be said that the military means of a state are used to achieve bilateral strategic goals with other countries in the diplomatic interests of the state through peaceful negotiation and cooperation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for formulating and implementing strategies related to military diplomacy. The military media plays a supporting role. Military diplomacy is open and transparent. Many countries in the world have formulated national strategies on military diplomacy. Spain, for example, has an excellent national strategy for military diplomacy. We do not know if our foreign ministry has any such national plan. This kind of military diplomacy has significance and importance in the present world. Military diplomacy is being discussed in many countries lately, but its history is very old. However, its nature and application were different with time. In ancient times, emperors of different countries used to send military delegations to different countries. Sometimes for economic purposes, sometimes for influence. On behalf of the ancient Ming emperor of China, Zheng Ho, a military officer, traveled to various parts of the world, including India. Although the nature of military diplomacy has changed, the purpose remains the same. The purpose is to uplift the diplomatic interests of the country. There are various strategies to realize various benefits in the interest of the country by using military diplomacy. Bangladesh has several advantages and possibilities in this regard. 

Bilaterally, it is possible to strengthen diplomatic relations by training military officers. There are international standard military training institutes in Bangladesh. Army officers from different countries come here for training. For example, most important senior officers of the country's armed forces are trained in our country. Countries in the Western world have built and deployed effective military alumni networks in these areas. We can think the same way and use it for the diplomatic interests of the country. It is possible to strengthen our diplomatic position and influence in the respective countries by utilizing the army officers of various countries trained in Bangladesh. This is an effective strategy for strengthening military-diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. As Myanmar is the only neighboring country of Bangladesh after India, its strategic importance is undeniable for us. We have made every effort bilaterally and multilaterally to address the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, but so far no promising results have been achieved. The military's influence in Myanmar's state power is immense. Moreover, the current Rohingya crisis falls under the purview of the army. As a result, any move to address the crisis without involving the country's military would not be effective. If there had been already close professional communication between the armies of Bangladesh and Myanmar, that relationship could have been put to good use in resolving the present crisis.

The Rohingya issue has been a major obstacle in Myanmar-Bangladesh bilateral relations for the past four decades. Their military government has imposed this problem on Bangladesh for the benefit of the politics of their power. In the future, the Rohingya issue could act as a catalyst in bringing Myanmar to the level of bilateral conflict with Bangladesh. In order to deal with such a situation, we need accurate and strong diplomatic measures and a solid national unity on the issue of Myanmar. If the Rohingya issue continues in the long run, internal and regional peace is likely to be at stake. As a result, the nation may have to pay the ultimate price. Therefore, in order to expedite the Rohingya repatriation process, we need to establish military diplomatic relations with the military junta government of Myanmar. At the same time, we hope that we can succeed in tackling the Rohingya crisis if we can increase all kinds of bilateral and multilateral international activities.

Finally, we can say that, the impact of Rohingya crisis carries negative message for regional peace, security and stability. The delay in Rohingya repartiation wiil be a threatening factor for regional peace and security. Military Diplomacy and influence may act the promotional role player in resolving the Rohingya Crisis. Moreover, the military role will be able to promote a biliteral relation as Maynmar is governed by Military govt. now. So with this end in view, our forgien ministry can formulate plans and policys to resolving the Rohingya crisis.

(Former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh Ansar and VDP the writer is columnist and researcher)