US maritime co-op with Bangladesh is wolf in sheep’s clothing

Editorial: NewAge, February 10, 2009

When the visiting US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher expressed his country’s willingness to help Bangladesh in patrolling and protecting its maritime boundaries on Sunday, the offer had a terrifying resonance though dressed in the clothing of goodwill. At a pre-departure press conference, even as Boucher sought to explain that his country had no plans to establish a permanent military base in Bangladesh, he brought up the possibility of cooperation in this area, as reported in Monday’s New Age. While the US asserts its naval and military dominance on the Indian Ocean through the use of its military base in Diego Garcia — one of the largest US military bases in the world — this dominance would extend into the Bay of Bengal if Bangladesh were to accept this evidently innocuous offer.

While Bangladesh has long standing maritime boundary disputes with neighbours India and Myanmar that have gone unresolved for the past 38 years, seeking a military solution, that too with the aid of US military prowess will likely be a deadly endgame in which Bangladesh might see its interests compromised, its standing in the region, and its territorial sovereignty, though US corporate and geostrategic interests may be served. Bangladesh, after all, finds itself at this critical juncture largely because successive governments since 1971 have shirked the responsibility of resolving the disputes over maritime boundaries, as have the establishment in Delhi and Yangon. In fact, we find it unfortunate and malafide that both Myanmar and India engaged in pseudo-military brinkmanship with Bangladesh over the maritime disputes in the past year, possibly exploiting the fact that Bangladesh was at its most vulnerable point at the time, governed by an unelected interim regime. Both countries violated Bangladesh’s territorial sovereignty by sending in mineral exploration survey vessels flanked by navy ships. This is not the sort of neighbourly behaviour which builds confidence in the ongoing diplomatic talks on the maritime disputes. In this context, we urge the incumbents to initiate effective and pragmatic dialogue with Yangon and Delhi so that the culture of brinkmanship and opportunism is replaced with more meaningful processes.

In the meantime, we want to politely remind the people of Myanmar and India — and their respective governments — that a US naval dominance in the Bay of Bengal is as much a threat to their geostrategic interests and goals as it is to our territorial sovereignty. Not only will the entire region find itself gradually succumbing to US military and consequently economic control, it is almost axiomatic now that a friendly alignment with US military-corporate interests earns nations more enemies than they can count, making small nations complicit in military aggression and corporate oppression that they can neither stop nor disown. Under these circumstances, perhaps all three nations locked in maritime disputes will find it in their interests to seek a diplomatic solution resisting the mediation and pressure of third parties.


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