Sunday, 31 May 2020

Dhaka, Bangladesh: A seminar was held at the CIRDAP auditorium of Dhaka on the theme of “Bangladesh’s Maritime Boundary Concerns, Regional Tensions and the Center Burma Faction”, on November 22. It was organized by the Neeti Gobeshona Kendro, a Policy Research Center, according to our participant from Dhaka.

Speakers said that bilateral and multilateral negotiations were very important to find solutions to the problems of national issues like maritime boundaries, demarcation of borders, Asian highways with neighbouring countries. They also said that a national consensus could help to solve certain problems.

Prof Dr Tareque Shamsur Rehman moderated the dialogue, while columnist Farhad Mazhar, Prof Dr Dilara Chowdhury, journalist Jaglul Ahmed Chowdhury, Abu Sayed Khan, Prof Maimul Ahsan, Prof Khairul Azim, Prof Mansoor Huda, former Ambassador Rased Ahmed Chowdhury, Ayesha Kabir, Farida Akter, Maj (retd) Rashed Ahmed Chowdhury, Ziaur Rahman Chowdhury were the spoke persons at the seminar.

Farhad Mazhar said that the dispute regarding the maritime boundary with Burma/ Myanmar and India is a part of control of worldwide energy resources. "We must move forward keeping that reality in mind," he said adding that several 'contractors' of multinational companies were actively promoting their selfish interests.

Earlier US oil company, Conocophilips was awarded an offshore block for gas and oil exploration, he said adding that now they wanted eight offshore blocks.

He alleged that the multinational companies had been trying to make the country act as per their needs. "For this they had engaged the 'so-called' civil society people here," he added.

"We cannot control our own maritime resources until we can uphold our national dignity," Mazhar said.

Prof Dr Dilara Chowdhury said that USA, China and India were playing a vital role in the geopolitics of this region. "So, Bangladesh has a major challenge to sustain in the geopolitical arena," she added.

Bangladesh could build better diplomatic relations with Myanmar/ Burma if it wants; she said adding that unfortunately it could not promote bilateral relationships due to indifference and negligence.

The government did not take any initiative to promote better ties also with neighboring India, to solve problems regarding the Asian highway, Prof Dilara alleged.

Abu Sayed Khan said that political harmony between the government and opposition parties was required to take any decision on issues of national interest. "However, foreign affairs of the country change here with the change in government in our country," he said.

He said that only proper bilateral relations with India and Myanmar/Burma could solve the maritime boundary problems.

Earlier, Professor Mahbubul Haque, Director of the Policy Research Center presented the keynote paper. In his key note paper, he mentioned that Myanmar/Burma hadn’t posed any threat. The main bone of contention with Burma and its military junta was the Rohingya issue. This issue has on and off been an irritant between the two countries, but not to an extent where hostilities were overt. Things have changed. It wasn’t too long back that we heard the beating of war drums and the sound still echoes in our ears.

On a note of great hope, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni has declared that Bangladesh will take up the matter at the International Arbitral Tribunal, to lay claim to its legitimate maritime boundary.

The maritime boundary is, of course, not our only bone of contention with our neighbors. The Rohingya issue is also a matter of deep concern.  

About 100 people, including reporters from different media groups, intellectuals, retired ambassadors and retired army officers and professors attended the seminar. It began at about 10:30 am, and  was over by 1:00 pm.