“The ever more sophisticated weapons piling up in the arsenals of the wealthiest and the mightiest can kill the illiterate, the ill, the poor and the hungry, but they cannot kill ignorance, illness, poverty or hunger.”
― Fidel Castro
South East Asia is possibly one of the most volatile global hot-spots after Middle East and Africa. Fundamental extremism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area is making the region more dangerous by the day. One of the major reasons for this is the large scale proliferation and easy availability of small arms and light weapons.
India has witnessed over 150 militant uprisings since its independence in 1947, of which 65 are believed to be still active in one form or the other. Pakistan is still the primary source of India bound small arms. Islamabad regularly uses ISI funded terrorist organizations to destabilize India by smuggling small and light weapons via sea and land routes. Funding for these weapons proliferation can be accredited to money laundering and safe havens abroad organized through ‘hawala’ or ‘hundi’ channels. The transfer of small arms takes place mostly through clandestine routes and the grey market.
The Chinese role in the clandestine industry also cannot be ignored. China made guns and ammunition gained massive popularity among the insurrectionary groups in India’s north eastern region. Competitively low priced, the Chinese weapons are smuggled in through disputed territories of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese weapons pipeline also permeated into Myanmar’s underground markets along the Thai border. In no time China became the prime official supplier to the rebels in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Chinese continue to supply small arms to Indian insurgent groups in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura through Bangladesh, Myanmar and possibly Nepal, since the Indo-Nepal border is known to be porous.
However, the complexity of small arms proliferation is not merely a security issue, it is also a question of human rights and of development.
The Rohingya influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious common security challenge for the entire region, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla said here.
“Rohingya influx from Rakhine state of Myanmar to Bangladesh is a serious and common security challenge not only for Bangladesh but for the entire region,” Shringla told IANS during an interview.
“Bangladesh has engaged itself to address the issue. They have taken up the issue with the UN. The Bangladesh government is also working through multilateral agencies besides bilateral negotiations with Myanmar.
“Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingya Muslims. This is a humanitarian crisis even though the issue posed a common security challenge not only for Bangladesh but for all the countries of the region.”
Over 1.15 million registered Rohingya have been residing in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh, known as the Cox’s Bazar region, after they fled Rakhine to escape a military crackdown on their villages last August.
To a question about extremist activities in Bangladesh, the visiting Indian envoy said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pursued a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism.
“After the terror attack in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in July 2016, law and order agencies have been active against terror activities. No major incident has taken place since. The issue cannot be resolved overnight. This is a continuous process,” Shringla said.
The High Commissioner came here on Thursday and held a series of meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Governor Tathagata Roy and other senior officials.
The visiting diplomat during his meeting with Deb discussed various issues like connectivity, people to people contact, hassle free movement of Indians to Bangladesh, trade and economic activities.
The Indian envoy said that Bangladesh has been promoting peace and security not only within its territory but ensuring regional and international peace and security.
About China’s rising cooperation with Bangladesh and investment in Dhaka, the diplomat said that India’s relations with Bangladesh were enduring and sustainable.
“India’s relationship and partnership with Bangladesh was based on cooperation, mutuality of benefit and respect for each other. People to people contact is very important,” Shringla said.
The High Commissioner said that 111 agreements have been signed between India and Bangladesh in the last ten years in different sectors. India has given $8 billion in three Lines of Credit to Bangladesh.
According to the envoy, total trade between the two countries in 2016-17 was $7.5 billion while $3.3 billion worth Indian investment proposals are registered with the Bangladesh government.
He said that India is currently supplying 660 MW of power to Bangladesh from West Bengal and Tripura.
India has spent Rs 19.14 crore to create the infrastructure for the third International Internet Gateway in Agartala to get the 10-gigabit bandwidth from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited.
For this, an optical fiber cable link has been established between Akhaura (along Agartala) and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Regarding the 2019 Bangladesh parliamentary elections next year, the Indian envoy said it was the country’s internal matter.
“Bangladesh has a vibrant democracy like ours. The country is holding periodic elections. We look forward to a very free and fair process of election in Bangladesh.”
He said that India-Bangladesh relations were based on common history, language, culture besides a common border of over 4000 km.
“Today we are enjoying the best ever relations. During the past 10 years, relations have improved enormously. Cooperation, friendship and partnership are beneficial for both the countries.
“The countries have invested significantly to develop infrastructure along the borders to promote trade among the two neighbors. The border infrastructure is being further developed to enhance trade and economic activities between the two nations.
“Currently 36 land customs stations (LCS) are operational along the India-Bangladesh border. Further upgradations were being done along the Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura besides West Bengal borders,” he added.
Shringla said that to further improve the ongoing bus services between Dhaka, Kolkata, Agartala, Shillong and Guwahati, more steps would be taken to make the bus services more effective as it is inexpensive for people of both the countries.
Five Indian states – West Bengal (2,216 km), Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share the 4,096-km border with Bangladesh. (IANS)