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Conflict in Myanmar is worrying India and Bangladesh: Hasan Mahmud

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud meets National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in New Delhi on February 7, 2024. Photo: X/@DrHasanMahmud62

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud meets National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in New Delhi on February 7, 2024. Photo: X/@DrHasanMahmud62

The escalating conflict between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed organisations (EAO) is a matter of concern for both India and Bangladesh as both countries share borders with Myanmar, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Hasan Mahmud said in New Delhi on Wednesday. Speaking to the media after meeting National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the visiting Minister said the two sides were working on ensuring stability and regional security, and assured that new connectivity projects were likely to take off between India and Bangladesh in the coming months.

“We discussed the situation in Myanmar because the situation is getting worse day by day. So far, until today — this morning — 388 people, mostly border security guards of Myanmar, and Army personnel, have entered Bangladesh [through the border along Chittagong and Rakhine]. We have given them shelter. We are in consultation with them so that they take them back,” Mr. Mahmud said during an interaction with the media at the Press Club of India.

Mr. Mahmud is on his first visit abroad after taking charge as the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh on January 11.

“Our Ambassador in Myanmar has met with the Foreign Minister of Myanmar and they have agreed to take them back. How they will take them back — by ship or by air — that is a question of discussion. But the situation in Myanmar is worrying both the countries because both the countries share the border with Myanmar. We discussed this issue with the National Security Adviser because regional peace and security is important,” Mr. Mahmud said. Myanmar border guards and military personnel who are in Bangladesh featured in the talks with Mr. Doval, he said.

Apart from the incursion of military personnel from Myanmar, Bangladesh has faced spill-over bombing from the Myanmarese side in the last few days, which killed two civilians in its territory. The fight between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military is taking place very close to the border with Cox’s Bazar, and witnesses have reported that they can hear the sound of explosives and bullets being exchanged.

The conflict in Myanmar has escalated since last October when a coalition of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army launched a joint attack on the Myanmar military units, which subsequently led to the Arakan Army capturing the commercially significant Paletwa town near the India and Bangladesh borders. With increased casualties on the Myanmarese side, a number of Myanmar border security personnel and military personnel have been seeking refuge in Bangladesh and in India’s Mizoram. Mr. Mahmud met with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and held delegation-level talks on Wednesday evening, which included a review of cross-border connectivity.

Bangladesh already hosts more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees who were displaced by the Myanmar military in 2017. Now, both India and Bangladesh are facing the fall-out of the clashes between the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, and ethnic armed organisations.

On January 2, at least 150 Myanmarese military personnel were flown from Mizoram to Sittwe. On January 23, a Burmese Army plane crashed at Lengpui airport, which was engaged in the evacuation of personnel who had sought refuge in India. While the fighting that is worrying India and Bangladesh is taking place in the Chin and Rakhine States, and the Sagaing division, there are reports that equally intense conflicts have been taking place in other parts of the country.

On Wednesday, the UNICEF condemned the killing of four children and two teachers in an air strike by the Myanmar military in Kayah State near the Thailand border in the east.

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