South Asia is a region of great significance in the current world politics. Geo-strategically and Geo-economically, this region plays a vital role in the world economy.
Geopolitically Bangladesh is very important in the world politics. Bangladesh also plays an important role in the perspectives of geo-strategy and geo-economics in south Asia.
In the beginning of this assignment, I would like to mention the potentials and limitations of Bangladesh in the context of South Asia in the geo-political perspective.
Potentials and Limitations of South Asia & Bangladesh:
There are some important potentials as well as some limitations of South Asia. In brief, the limitations of South Asia are- border dispute, water and environment issues (collective action problem), trade imbalance, insurgency, extremism, women and children trafficking etc. The potentials are- trading, sharing culture, connectivity, track- 2 diplomacy.
In brief, the limitations of Bangladesh are- border issues, energy crisis, dense population, ethnic conflict (CHT), insurgency, small territory, natural disaster (like flood, cyclone), technological backwardness, locked by India etc. The potentials are- Chittagong & Mongla ports, connectivity (with seven sisters), Asian highway, Sundarbans, jute, carbon trade, tourism, alluvial land etc.
Border Issues of Bangladesh:
On the basis of above potentials & limitations, here, I would like to describe about border disputes of Bangladesh in the context of South Asia through geo-politically, geo-economically & geo-strategically.
Geo-politics of Bangladesh refers to the inter-state politics of the country which is dependent on its territory. Bangladesh has importance in both South Asia and in the world for its geographical location. Bangladesh is enclosed almost entirely by India. It shares both land & maritime borders with India & Myanmar. But a number of issues have arisen relating to Bangladesh’s border with both these countries.
In some places, Bangladesh’s border with India is not specifically demarcated & sometimes it creates strain in Bangladesh- India relationship. There are three types of border, such as- porous border, adverse possession and enclave problem.
The major land border crisis are border killing & illegal migration. The pressures for emigration will increase manifold, with India being first in line to face the brunt of this pressure. The various agencies claims that there is about 2 million of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants are staying in different parts of India. On the other hand, the major maritime border crisis are water distribution e.g. Farakka, Tista barrage & adverse sea border possession. Moreover, geographical features of this deltaic nation have emerged from the changing courses of three of Asia’s great rivers: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. Bangladesh shares 54 rivers with India but agreement has signed only about 2 rivers. This is a political issue for both countries.
6.5 k.m. land border is not specifically demarcated between Bangladesh & India. 551.8 acres area of Bangladesh has in the adverse possession of India and 226.81 acres area of India has in the adverse possession of Bangladesh. Enclave problem is also a significance issue in Indo-Bangladesh relation. Thus, there are overlapping claims of the same pieces. [Ref: The Daily Star, 6th June 2010]
The border disputes arise with Myanmar primarily because of un-demarcated boundary. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh face an increased risk. The nature of border conflicts between India & Bangladesh and Myanmar & Bangladesh is defined by the attacks and killing of Bangladeshi peasants and innocent border dwellers. Bangladesh media accused the BSF of abducting 5 Bangladeshi children (8-15), from the Haripur , Upazilla in Thakurgaon district of Bangladesh in 2010. They were setting fishing nets near the border. [Ref: The Daily Star,24th July 2010]
BSF allegedly killed a 15 years old Bangladeshi girl on 7th of January 2011 while she and her father was climbing the Indo- Bangladesh barrier by using a ladder.
[Ref: http//blog.akmnhid.com/country Bangladesh/bsf-killed-innocent-bangladeshi –girl-117.html]
Geo-economy of Bangladesh refers to the inter-state economy of the country which is dependent on its territory. Bangladesh may gain economic development by proper utilization of it’s resources those are in the mainland as well as in the sea.
South Asian countries are dependent on external sources of finance, investment & technology for their indigenous development. The South Asian countries are substantial world producers of primary products such as- jute, tea, leather goods, readymade garments & handicrafts especially Bangladesh.
The balance of trade is enormously adverse against Bangladesh. There are two types of trade- legal & illegal, where illegal trade is conducted through the porous & un-demarcated border ways. The economic activities- both legal & illegal have made serious impacts on economy, culture, security, health & other sectors of Bangladesh borders & Bangladesh in general.
At present legal economic activities are conducted through various land ports nevertheless smuggling remains a lucrative & ever expanding business along Bangladesh- India border and Bangladesh- Myanmar for immediate high profit.
The illegal trading items are smuggled from Bangladesh and smuggled in to Bangladesh through India and Myanmar borders (both land & maritime). Small arms, sugar, onion, rice, vegetable oil, fake notes, saving creams, cosmetics, motor parts & bike etc are the major smuggling goods.
People of different socio-economic & political backgrounds are involved in smuggling as they take it as profession. From Bangladesh’s point of view, smuggling is detrimental to its national economy as it has damaging impact on its domestic industries. Also, the government loses huge amount of revenue as a result of smuggling.
[Ref: Bangladesh and its Borders: A Preliminary Study of Cross-border Issues by Bhuian Md. Monoar Kabir]
A significant pathway to strengthening economic interaction between Bangladesh and India lies in promoting cross-border investments. Bangladesh has to decrease it’s huge trade imbalance with India and China. Connectivity with her neighbor states is also important for trading and economic development.
Geo-strategy of Bangladesh is the strategy of the country which has taken to protect her national interest and geographical integrity. Geo-strategy of Bangladesh is more important in the context of South Asia for its geographical location. Various ethnic groups create tensions along the Bangladesh- India borders and the Bangladesh- Myanmar borders and raising concerns for security among Bangladeshi population and governments.
South Asia is one geo-strategic unit with China overlooking it from the north .It also shares a common culture, historical-civilization heritage that, through the process of political divide, has turned the region into “a region of mistrust”. As Bangladesh is locked by India in three sides, India always shows aggressive and hegemonic approach to Bangladesh, so to ensure security it has to keep good bilateral relation with India.
China is the rising power of this region and will obviously keep influence on the other states of this arena. So, Bangladesh has to keep a good relation with China by taking the “Look East policy” .Maritime boundary demarcation is essential in this regard to solve the maritime boundary dispute with China and India.
There are two issues that may guide our relationship with other countries of South Asia. These two are: one, our future national security will impact on others foreign policy of this region. Two, Chittagong port facility to monitor growing Indian and Chinese presence in the region. Indian government has already constructed border fencing to prevent illegal threat and insurgency, so Bangladesh government should be more careful in this issue.
Bangladesh Naval Force should be stronger to ensure the security of the maritime boundary which will be a positive step in protecting our sovereignty.
Summary and Recommendation:
Banglades , a region of South Asia, has a significance role in the perspectives of geo-politics, geo-economics and geo-strategy for the geographical location. Both potentials & limitations have played a great role here.
Border crisis or border dispute is the vital issue to the development process of Bangladesh. The dwellers of the porous borders are involved in illicit activities across the borders, make the border area hot beds of illegal activities including gun running & drug trafficking , guerilla activities and Islamic militant activities .
Major recommendations of border issue are-
- Negotiation and international arbitration can be used by Bangladesh for resolving these disputes.
- Problems should be resolved by flag conference.
- Border killing should be stopped.
- Militants and extreme nationalists should be eliminated by government policy.
- Informal trade should be legalized.
- Aggressive and hegemonic approach of India should be lessened.
- Un-demarcated border should be demarcated by international laws.
- Foreign policy should be based on “friendship to all, malice to none.”
- 1. The Daily Star,6th June 2010.
- 2. The Daily Star,24th July 2010.
- 3. http//blog.akmnhid.com/country Bangladesh/bsf-killed-innocent-bangladeshi –girl-117.html.
- 4. Bangladesh and its Borders: A Preliminary Study of Cross-border Issues by Bhuian Md. Monoar Kabir.
- 5. Regional cooperation in South Asia by Bimal Prasad