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Sunday, March 27, 2016

STRATEGICALLY SPEAKING: A ransom seeking neighbour!

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd) 

It seems that there was lack of coordination between the Myanmar government and its border police, as evident from the two different news items related to the fate of the BGB soldier abducted by the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) more than a week ago, emanating from the Myanmar side. Whereas one report had it that Myanmar had tagged a condition, an outrageous one, to the release of Nayek Razzak, as confirmed by the state minister for home, the BGB DG, who was abroad then, stated that Nayek Razzak would be released unconditionally. It appears that Myanmar had not decided for six days on the disposal of the issue and perhaps it wanted to play politics with the matter, as apparent from the fact that it is after six days that the BGP has accepted BGB's request for a flag meeting, for today.
Abducting a member of the border force of a neighbouring country is a hostile act, and if there were any misunderstanding, as we heard our state minister for home say there was, it should not take seven days to clear that unless of course there were ulterior motives behind the abduction. The actions on the part of Myanmar that have followed the incident show that there were. Razzak should have been returned with full honour and with his weapons immediately instead of making him suffer such humiliation.
And Myanmar's reaction following the incident is rather surprising and shoddy to say the least. Not only was the letter and spirit of the guidelines for the management of the border between the two countries violated, the government of Myanmar also acted like a ransom seeker. It had put unacceptable conditions for the return of a person belonging to the border force of a neighbouring country who was abducted by the Myanmar BGP. The condition was that Bangladesh must take back five hundred or so victims of human trafficking, who Myanmar claimed were Bangladeshis, without verifying their nationality. They are part of the 727 rescued by the Myanmar Navy from the Andaman Sea. Trying Razzak was also one of the options that Myanmar was contemplating. 
It is difficult to rationalise actions of agencies of a country governed by a military junta. Just over a year ago, a member of the BGB was killed from BGP firing in Naikhongchhari in CHT in an incident that was precipitated by the Mynmar border security forces. And instead of returning the body, the BGB personnel, who had gone to collect the body, were shot at. 
One fails to understand also why the Myanmar BGP has taken six days to respond positively to BGB's request for a flag meeting. The guidelines for border control should allow for the local commanders to meet at each other's request at very short notice, at least that is what the arrangements should be, if not there now, for better border management between two neighbours. 
We also wonder at the very circumstances of Razzak's abduction. The press release by the BDR Headquarters raises more questions than it answers. According to it, “The BGB soldiers were conducting routine patrol on civil boats. Suddenly, around 5:30am, soldiers of the Myanmar BGP appeared with a boat, opened fire on one of the BGB boats, injuring one soldier. The BGB team also retaliated with gunshots.” Obviously, there was physical contact between them when the two sides locked into a scuffle. And the BGP patrol fled when the second BGB boat approached the scene. But what raises our eyebrow is the following part of the press release which says, “The BGP men then disappeared and took BGB Naik Razzaq and his SMG along with them. The rest of the members of that boat saved them by jumping into the river and swam ashore.”
We take it that the BGP had intruded illegally into our territory since the BGB boats were inside our territory and a scuffle cannot take place unless the two sides are physically upon one another. If the BGP disappeared at the sight of the second BGP patrol boat, how come they managed to abduct BGB Nayek with his weapons while beating retreat? Why did our border guard personnel have to swim ashore when there were not one but two boats on the scene? And what did Nayek Razzak's comrades do to prevent his abduction? And what was the misunderstanding that the state minister for home was referring to?
The BGB has been at the receiving end in the two recent incidents involving the BGP, which necessitates a fresh look at our border security capability. Along with investing the BGB with better equipment, there is need also for better trained manpower. And while diplomacy must be the first and the second and the third line of our defence, we must back it up with a demonstratively credible capacity which will not only be fully capable of safeguarding our border but also competent in protecting those who are engaged in that duty. 
The writer is Editor, Op-Ed and Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.

Source: The Daily Star, 25 June 2015

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