Rohingya, trade high on agenda
|(Photo: Giulio Di Sturco/VII Mentor)|
By Rezaul Karim
August 24, 2014
Repatriation of Rohingya refugees, border management, human trafficking, boosting trade and investment, and introduction of coastal shipping will be high on the agenda at the Bangladesh-Myanmar meeting to be held in Dhaka on August 31.
The foreign secretary-level Eighth Foreign Office Consultation will also discuss issues like regular holding of security dialogues, import of gas from Myanmar, confidence-building measures to remove misunderstanding between the two neighbouring countries, cooperation in areas of climate change, energy, agriculture, education and increasing border trade and tourism.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and Myanmar Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs U Thant Kyaw will lead their respective sides in the talks.
An eight-member Myanmar delegation will arrive in Dhaka on August 28.
Bangladesh is ready to allow Myanmar vessels use its inland ports, officials at the commerce ministry said. Both countries have already marked Chittagong, Mongla, Narayanganj and Teknaf ports in Bangladesh and Yangon, Pathein, Sittwe and Maungtaw ports in Myanmar for each other's use.
Sources said the two countries have reestablished Dhaka-Yangon air connectivity and is now working on road connectivity.
The officials further said Myanmar wants to set up a wholesale market with Bangladesh and hold trade fairs near the border to increase bilateral trade. Myanmar has such markets and trade fairs with China and Thailand.
Diplomatic sources said Dhaka has recently taken a number of steps to resolve bilateral issues with Myanmar.
During her visit to Myanmar last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally offered financial assistance and expertise to Myanmar to assist it in resolving the Rohingya problem.
Bangladesh also proposed holding dialogues for enhancing security.
As there is no structured security cooperation in place, Bangladesh will make a formal proposal for Security Dialogue and discuss a Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) over security issues.
To reduce tension between the border guards of the two nations, Dhaka last year suggested signing a Memorandum of Understanding to hold regular dialogues on security matters.
This proposal was tabled at a foreign secretary-level meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, during the last Foreign Office Consultation in 2013.
The foreign ministry has been trying to convince Myanmar for a year to create space for dialogues to build trust between the two countries.
To that aim, the government allowed a Myanmar frigate to cross the Naf river for the first time last year. The frigate stayed in Myanmar territory bordering Cox's Bazar for a month.
Officials at the foreign ministry said Bangladesh has been making all kinds of positive gestures as per the prime minister's directives “to build the best possible relationship with Myanmar”.
Chiefs of the Bangladesh army, air force and navy have already paid visits to Myanmar while the Myanmar naval chief has visited Dhaka and its air chief is expected to visit Dhaka soon.
The meeting was scheduled for June 18 but was deferred by Myanmar after tensions ran high between the countries over the killing of Border Guard Bangladesh corporal Mizanur Rahman by Myanmar security forces on May 28.