Friday, March 27, 2009

Bangladesh caged?

From: The Telegrapgh, Calcutta:

Bangladesh is being fenced in like a country in a cage on its 38th anniversary today. Myanmar, the only other country with whom India’s eastern neighbour has a land border, has reinforced troops close to its border with Bangladesh. They are carrying barbed wire and rolls of concertina coil and stakes to fence part of the 270km frontier.

Fencing has begun between the Myanmarese townships of Maungdaw and Paletwa along the Naaf River, according to reports collated by intelligence agencies in India.

India has a 4,095km land border with Bangladesh, nearly two-thirds of which is fenced. The fence is in Indian territory and runs parallel to the border along Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. It is essentially a reinforcement for the Border Security Force.

The reports suggest that Myanmar’s frontier guard, the Na Sa Ka, is doing the same. But it is doubtful if the Na Sa Ka under the Myanmarese junta that runs the country from its new capital in Nyapidaw will be able to mobilise an estimated additional seven battalions to guard the fence, an analyst in the Indian security establishment said.

Unlike the fence along the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Indian fence along the Bangladesh border is not an Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System equipped with alarm systems designed to obstruct and immobilise militants trying to cross over from Pakistan. Even then, India has taken up a project to light up the fence for about 277km in Bengal.

The details of the fence that Myanmar is designing are not known. But Indian analysts note that the timing is important because it comes ahead of an international deadline to demarcate boundaries.

Last November, Bangladesh and Myanmar mobilised forces along their tense border, which is also near oil and gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal. China is attempting to play peace broker.

For Bangladesh, which declared its independence on March 26, 1971, and is seeking to re-establish its credentials as a democracy after last December’s elections, this is a major blow because it pushes the poverty-stricken country closer to the status of a pariah state in which Islamic fundamentalist outfits are suspected to have fomented the mutiny in the Bangladesh Rifles.

Myanmar has taken advantage of the disarray in the BDR to reinforce its border.
Bangladesh is being fenced in — or fenced out — by neighbours, one of which is the world’s largest democracy and the other a rare military dictatorship in the 21st century.

India and Myanmar are strengthening diplomatic relations at the same time. Last month, Vice-President Hamid Ansari visited Myanmar and inaugurated a fibre optic telephone link in Mandalay to bring the two countries closer.

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