THE BAY OF BENGAL AT THE CROSSROADS

THE BAY OF BENGAL AT THE CROSSROADS New Delhi, October, 2014 FES INDIA PAPER Recognizing that the problems and challenges emanating from the region re...

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FES INDIA PAPER

New Delhi, October, 2014

THE BAY OF BENGAL AT THE CROSSROADS POTENTIAL FOR COOPERATION AMONG BANGLADESH, INDIA AND MYANMAR* BY K. YHOME The re-emergence of the Bay of Bengal (BoB) in regional strategic calculus has immense geopolitical consequence. As this opens up enormous economic opportunities, there is a need for the littorals to chart out a shared vision of building a community based on peace, prosperity and stability. Recognizing that the problems and challenges emanating from the region require a regional approach holds the key for regional cooperation. Creative re-imagining of the geographical advantages, historical and cultural linkages may unlock the potential for regional collaboration as much as in dismantling the artificially constructed boundaries. Improving political relationships among the governments of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar and the settlement of long-standing maritime territorial disputes provide an opportune time to explore trilateral cooperation in resources sharing, inter-linking connectivity and joint efforts to enhance security. * This paper is based on deliberations at an international conference on “The Future of the Bay of Bengal” held in Kolkata on 3-4 March, 2014 organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

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The Bay of Bengal at the Crossroads Potential for Cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Myanmar BY K. YHOME

INTRODUCTION Emerging geopolitical changes in the Bay

have brought more focus on the BoB

of Bengal (BoB) region are unleashing its

region. This has necessitated stronger ties

enormous economic potential. However,

with the key littorals. The role of India’s im-

if political obstacles, among these littoral

mediate eastern and strategic neighbours

states, along with strategic competition

in furthering, what has been termed as an

between the major powers, are allowed

“Enhanced Look East” policy, has thus only

to shape the evolving dynamics, they may

reinforced the geopolitical significance of

not only constrict the region’s economic

Bangladesh and Myanmar.

prospects, but also turn it into one more theatre of conflict. In such a scenario, the key

Historically, the BoB region has played the

littorals – Bangladesh, India and Myanmar

crucial role of a connector – where trade,

– need to leverage emerging opportunities

commerce and cultures were intertwined

through various forms of cooperation to

for centuries. In fact, the entire BoB region

chart anew the economic geography of the

was under one rule without geographical

region, and evolve regional mechanisms

borders during the British Raj in India.

to manage conflict, a critical condition for

This changed drastically as new nations

regional peace and stability.

emerged in the post-colonial period. Nation-building projects of the littorals

With the launch of its Look East Policy (LEP)

forced them to look inward, at the cost of

in the nineties, New Delhi has strengthened

commercial and cultural interactions across

its political, economic and strategic ties with

the BoB, as political tension and mutual

Southeast Asian countries and beyond.

suspicion characterised relationships of

India’s economic growth and the region’s

the newly created nation-states. In the

interdependent and vibrant economies

1960s, Myanmar adopted an isolationist

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policy and completely withdrew from the

one another will greatly determine the

international community. The domestic

future shape of the BoB region. This paper

political upheavals from the late 1980s led

attempts to examine the region’s political,

to further isolation of the country, as the

economic, and strategic future by focusing

regional and international community,

on the key littorals – Bangladesh, India and

including India, took a strong stand against

Myanmar. It highlights the potential areas

the brutal military suppression of pro-

for cooperation among the three countries,

democracy supporters. India reviewed its

provides specific policy recommendations to

Myanmar policy in the mid-1990s.

deal with common challenges, and explores shared prospects for the region.

Globalisation and the economic rise of Asia have provided new drivers to reconnect

CHANGING REGIONAL DYNAMICS

and revive old linkages and ties as the

Political Transitions

21st century presents an opportunity to

India’s neighbourhood has seen drastic

redefine the economic future of the region.

domestic political changes in recent years.

It was realised that in a globalised world,

This has opened up opportunities for

some form of regional integration was

New Delhi to play a constructive role in

required for market access and production

economic development and strengthening

beyond national borders to sustain high

of democracy in the region. Myanmar has

economic growth rates. This has also been

witnessed major democratic and economic

accompanied by increasing rivalry among

reforms since the country’s transition from

major powers. China’s continued south-

military to civilian rule in 2011. Bangladesh,

ward orientation and the renewal of the

under the Sheikh Hasina government, has

United States (US) focus on Asia mean

been trying to fight terrorism and margin-

more intense strategic competition for

alise extremist elements in that country.

natural resources, strategic transit routes,

The Hasina government has adopted a

port facilities and access to markets in the

‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism

region. This may adversely impact efforts to

and enacted necessary laws such as the

promote a BoB community.

Anti-Terrorism Act to combat terrorism and militancy. India’s relations with Bangladesh

How the key littorals chose to interact with

have witnessed a steady improvement

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since the Hasina government took over. An

With Bangladesh, New Delhi has been less

important factor that contributed to impro-

successful. While India has succeeded in

ving relations was the Hasina government’s

building a strong relationship with the ruling

strong stance against India’s insurgent

Awami League (AL) of Sheikh Hasina, New

groups based in Bangladesh.

Delhi’s relations with the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)

Despite notable achievements in both

have been marked by ups and downs.

Bangladesh and Myanmar, there are inherent weaknesses that include weak

New Delhi enjoys good relations with

democratic institutions, personality-based

the current regimes in Nay Pyi Taw and

politics, rampant corruption, one-upmanship

Dhaka, but the challenge is to sustain the

among political parties, and a high tend-

hard earned cordial relationships. India’s

ency for street violence. Above all, there

new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has

is a lack of inclusiveness as radicalism and

indicated that his government’s priority will

majoritarianism have grown in both coun-

be the neighbourhood. By inviting South

tries in recent years. Despite these daunting

Asian leaders to attend his swearing-in

challenges, both countries continue to

ceremony and making Thimphu, Bhutan his

move on the path of democracy and India’s

first foreign trip, Modi has struck a positive

role in strengthening this process is critical.

note with the neighbours. The Modi government is likely to continue the policy of

India has adopted a multiple-engagement

the Congress-led government and build on

strategy with the key political players in

what Manmohan Singh’s government had

both Bangladesh and Myanmar. New

achieved. It was unfortunate that no leader

Delhi has successfully engaged important

from Myanmar was invited for the function

players in Myanmar, including Aung San

and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had to

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy

be represented by Bangladesh Parliament

(NLD) and the ruling military-backed Union

Speaker, Dr. Shirin Shamin Chaudhury, as

Solidarity for Development Party (USDP),

she was on a state visit in Japan. Be that as

among others. With general elections

it may, the positive start by Prime Minister

slated for 2015, India seems prepared to

Modi augers well for India’s relations with

work with any player that comes to power.

all its neighbours including Bangladesh

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and Myanmar. Considering that there were

important factor for this dramatic growth.

reports about widespread apprehensions

Since the signing of the Bilateral Investment

in Bangladesh on the prospects of the

Promotion and Protection agreement,

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a right-wing

Indian investment in Bangladesh has been

party with close links to Hindu religious

growing. On the other hand, India’s bilateral

groups – coming to power in New Delhi in

trade with Myanmar has been a modest

the recent general elections, the early move

US$ 1.9 billion in 2012-13. Indian invest-

to build confidence on the part of the Modi

ment in both Bangladesh and Myanmar

government was a good sign.

however remains small with most of it going towards infrastructure development, and

That the new regime in New Delhi will focus

natural resource extraction, particularly

on its immediate strategic neighbourhood

oil and gas in Myanmar. One of the major

has also been indicated by the new Indian

obstacles to increasing trade is the poor

External Affairs, Minister Sushma Swaraj,

transportation infrastructure linking the

making Dhaka her first foreign trip in June

three countries.

2014. This atmosphere of cordiality and friendship provides a great opportunity

For historical reasons and because of the

for New Delhi to redefine its relations with

porous nature of regional borders, informal

both Bangladesh and Myanmar beyond

trade among these countries is much

bilateralism and move towards trilateral

higher than formal trade. In the recent past,

cooperation.

India has established the ‘Border Haats’ concept, a local market across borders,

Economic Interactions

with Bangladesh and Myanmar, hoping to

India’s economic interactions with both

encourage cross-border trade and minimise

Bangladesh and Myanmar have grown

illegal transactions. The challenge, however,

gradually in recent years. Bangladesh has

is to make legal trade across borders more

replaced Sri Lanka as India’s largest trading

attractive than smuggling. Even as India

partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade

has been unilaterally opening its market to

touching US$ 5.7 billion in 2012-13. The

South Asian nations and trying to strengthen

duty free access given by India to Bangla-

physical connectivity with its neighbours,

desh for all items except 25 has been an

China’s growing economic footprint in the

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region also presents another dimension of

Given the centrality of the BoB in the Indo-

the challenge for India. China is today the

Pacific region as the link between South

largest trading partner of both Bangladesh

Asia and Southeast Asia, and between

and Myanmar.

the Indian and Pacific Ocean, it is but natural that infrastructure development

The BoB region is endowed with rich natural

for transportation and other facilities in

resources including oil and gas reserves

and around the BoB region will have a

and marine products. So far the level of

huge impact on how countries in the

cooperation required for joint development

region interact. India has been stepping

of natural resources is low. Furthermore, the

up its role of building infrastructure in the

level of resource sharing, particularly water

region, but its involvement in Bangladesh

and energy, among Bangladesh, India and

and Myanmar needs to be hugely scaled

Myanmar remains difficult owing to political

up. China has been involved in the

obstacles. In the mid-2000s, Bangladesh,

development of infrastructure, both in

India and Myanmar missed an opportunity

Bangladesh and Myanmar, which includes

to develop a trilateral gas pipeline. However,

pipelines, ports, road and railways. The

in recent years there are signs that cross-

gas pipeline connecting China’s Yunnan

border sharing of resources has been

Province with Myanmar’s Rakhine state

gaining ground. Bangladesh and India have

is already in operation and a parallel oil

established inter-grid connectivity for export

pipeline will soon begin operating. China

of electricity to Bangladesh. India’s new

has also been involved in building deep-sea

external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj,

ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar. While

has informed the Bangladeshi leadership

these are much needed facilities in the BoB

that the new regime in New Delhi is trying

region from a geo-economic perspective,

to build a renewed consensus on the Teesta

geo-strategically it adds pressure on India as

River treaty. Earlier, during his meeting with

China strengthens its reach into the Indian

Bangladesh Parliament Speaker, Dr. Shirin

Ocean.

Shamin Chaudhury, Prime Minister Modi has assured Bangladesh that his government will positively consider signing the Teesta water-sharing deal.

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Cross-Border Security Cooperation

final demarcation process and it will be in

The under-developed borderlands of

the interest of both sides to find an early

Bangladesh, India and Myanmar have long

resolution to the issue before it becomes

been characterised by ethnic conflicts,

contentious in their bilateral relationship.

gun-running, smuggling, narcotics and human trafficking. They are far away from

Land and maritime boundaries disputes

the political and economic centres of all

between India and Bangladesh have long

the three countries and the absence of

been a bone of contention in bilateral

effective administrative controls have led

relations. The Manmohan Singh govern-

to these areas becoming breeding grounds

ment was close to settling the land

for all sorts of illegal activities. Cross-border

boundary issue in 2012, but failed to ratify

security cooperation has been a major

it in parliament owing to strong opposition

concern of India’s bilateral cooperation

from a few regional parties. On 7 June,

with Bangladesh and Myanmar. In fact,

2014, the International Tribunal for the

the

with

Law of the Sea (ITLOS), an independent

Indian insurgent groups taking shelter in

body under the United Nations Convention

Bangladesh and Myanmar has deepened

on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), one of

mutual trust and enabled India to develop

the judicial organs of the United Nation,

closer political and security interactions

announced the verdict of the Permanent

with its two eastern neighbours.

Court of Arbitration on the delimitation

progress

made

in

dealing

of the maritime border between India and One of the challenges in cross-border

Bangladesh, awarding Bangladesh 19,467

cooperation has been the issue of unsettled

sq km of the disputed 25,602 sq km sea

land and maritime territorial boundaries.

area in the BoB region. The positive react-

India and Myanmar have settled most of

ions of both governments ended the long-

their land and maritime disputes, except

standing differences. Bangladesh officials

for an 80 kilometre stretch in the Indian

described the verdict as a “win-win sit-

state of Manipur and Myanmar’s Sagaing

uation”, while India stated: “We respect

area. This issue has re-emerged as a result

t he ve rd ic t ...”. The settlement of the

of India’s fencing activities in this area.

maritime boundary has not only removed

India and Myanmar have recently begun a

a controversial issue in bilateral relations

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but also allows both Bangladesh and India

in maritime criminal activities – piracy, arms

to jointly as well as individually develop

smuggling and human trafficking. A recent

resources in these waters. The settlement

phenomenon has been crossing the Bay

of the Bangladesh-India and Bangladesh-

of Bengal by small boats – carrying mostly

Myanmar maritime boundary disputes

Rohingyas, a Muslim minority in Myanmar,

through arbitration demonstrates the deep

who have been fleeing the country in the

respect for international law in these three

face of communal violence. According to

countries.

a June 2014 briefing of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),

A dimension that cannot be overlooked in

more than 86,000 people in the region

the maritime domain is China’s growing

have tried to cross over to India since 2012.

military interaction with Bangladesh and

Hundreds lost their lives and those who

Myanmar. The growing ties of the US with

survived the ordeal faced unwelcoming

Bangladesh and Myanmar also cannot

coast guards.

be underplayed at a time when China-US rivalry has been growing in other Asian

Social, cultural and commercial interactions

waters particularly in the East and South

among the littoral states of the BoB region

China Seas. India has been wary of growing

flourished for centuries. The BoB was

naval cooperation and activities in the BoB.

known as the Chola Sea named after the

While the Indian Navy remains the most

South Indian Chola dynasty who built

powerful in the region, it needs to ensure

an empire in the 11th century. Maritime

that its position is not weakened as a result

linkages have had a great impact on the

of evolving power politics by external forces.

social attributes of the entire region – whether religion, food or customs. During

Social and Ecological Dimension

the colonial period, intra-region migration

One of the key indicators of the social

reached its peak. This equalled, according

dimension of regional integration is the

to an estimate, the same number of people

increasing level of intra-migration among

who travelled across the Atlantic during

littoral nations. Today, legal migration in

the 19th and early 20th centuries. Waves

the BoB region is negligible. The majority of

of migration have produced multicultural

migrants are illegal, and some are involved

and cosmopolitan cities such as Chennai,

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Kolkata, Pondicherry, Sittwe and Yangon.

to create a shared prosperous future

Throughout history, social connections

strengthened by inter-twining cultures,

have greatly shaped the common culture

economic linkages and ecological con-

and social milieu of the region.

servation. The common space enjoyed by the region in the past could be revisited

About one-quarter of the world’s population

with commercial linkages to find ways of

and over 30 per cent of the world’s coastal

restoring civilisational bonds. There is a

fishermen live and work in the BoB region.

need to extend existing bilateral tracks

Unfortunately, this region is prone to

into trilateral dialogues. There are on-

natural disasters like tropical cyclones.

going infrastructural projects, bilateral

This has huge implications for coastal lives

economic and security mechanisms in

as demonstrated by the devastating 2004

place. These mechanisms could be taken

Tsunami. Cyclones – Mala in 2006, Sidr in

forward towards trilateral cooperation

2007, Nargis in 2008, Giri in 2010 and

and India could perhaps lead this process.

Phailin in 2013 – are other graphic examples. Rising sea levels, marine pollution, coastal

Trans-Border Cooperation

erosion and overfishing, among other issues

The key to strengthen trilateral relations

are serious challenges for the region. As

is to focus on cross-border land and mari-

port-building, shipping and development

time cooperation. A priority for regional

activities grow, the ecological balance will

governments is to develop transport and

come under greater pressure. These issues

communication infrastructure linking Ban-

have a huge impact on the quality of life

gladesh, India and Myanmar who have the

and livelihood of millions of people. Since

advantage of being connected both by land

these issues are transnational in nature,

and sea. International financial institutions

any effort to manage these challenges

such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB)

also requires a regional approach.

could enhance investments in infrastructure to strengthen connectivity among the three

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

countries.

Creating a Shared Vision Building a BoB community needs a shared

Exploring new ways and approaches to

vision. Given the shared past, the task is

address migration is of upmost importance

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as it is a major bone of contention in the

Bihar and the Ajmer Dargah in Rajasthan

region’s external relations. Creating fences

are significant shrines for Buddhists and

and barriers will not solve the issue. More

Muslims, respectively. Visa regimes need to

creative approaches including more legal

be eased to promote tourism. Promoting

economic and employment opportunities

eco-tourism, particularly in the borderlands,

in the borderlands such as trade, strategic

will not only help in conserving the rich

investment and facilitating temporary work

biodiversity of the area but also generate

permits are needed.

incomes and above all increase people-topeople contacts among the three countries.

An area where the three countries can

India’s decision to ease tourist visa norms for

jointly cooperate is in development of the

Bangladesh announced by Sushma Swaraj

borderlands. India has initiated a border area

during her visit to Dhaka is a step forward.

development programme with Myanmar. A

Bangladeshi nationals under the age of 13

similar programme could be planned with

and above 65 years can now avail multiple

Bangladesh and also trilaterally. A border

entry visas for five years instead of one.

development programme can be envisioned

That the new government has taken this

at the tri-junction of the three countries

step towards easing tourist visa norms is a

involving the Chin state in Myanmar, Chit-

positive beginning. However, there is need

tagong division in Bangladesh and the

for more such measures.

Mizoram state of India. Joint development of borderlands will not only address the

Visas could also be relaxed for nationals from

much needed socio-economic develop-

Bangladesh and Myanmar for education and

ment of local populations, but will also

medical reasons. For instance, health visas

address the long-standing issue of illegal

may be issued to Bangladeshi nationals at

immigration.

the border to visit India for medical reasons. This could also be extended to Myanmar

Another promising area is tourism, including

nationals visiting Indian border states for

eco-tourism and pilgrimage, among the

medical reasons.

three countries. India attracts huge numbers of people from neighbouring countries for

Cross-border cooperation can be further

religious pilgrimage. The Bodh Gaya in

facilitated by structural changes in economic

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interactions. The three countries need to

collaborative efforts on security issues can

work on a free trade agreement and explore

be explored among the three countries.

the synergy of existing structures and

India can initiate trilateral naval security

emerging ones. Sharing of the rich natural

cooperation with Bangladesh and Myanmar

resources will open up new approaches

similar to the trilateral maritime security

to strengthening relations. For instance,

cooperation between India, Maldives and

cross-border electricity connectivity among

Sri Lanka. India already conducts joint

the three countries could be explored. An

military exercises with both Bangladesh and

important area where all three countries

Myanmar, which may be expanded into

can benefit is transit facilities for each

trilateral exercises to address transnational

other. Located in the centre between India

security threats with joint patrol and

and Myanmar, Bangladesh is a natural

surveillance in the BoB.

land bridge that can provide seamless connectivity among the three countries.

The region’s rich natural resources can be

Myanmar is a land bridge for Bangladesh

optimally utilised through collaboration

and India to access Southeast Asia and its

among the three countries. The settlement

thriving markets, and both countries are

of maritime boundary disputes in the BoB

gateways for Myanmar to reach South Asia.

between Bangladesh and India and

On the other hand, Bangladesh and India

between Bangladesh and Myanmar is

could provide transit to each other in terms

opportune for the three countries to initiate

of connecting India’s landlocked northeast

joint development of natural resources

with the rest of the country and, in turn,

particularly energy. The three countries need

Bangladesh could access Bhutan, China and

to revisit the trilateral gas pipeline. Also,

Nepal through India. These initiatives will

starting a coastal shipping service between

greatly inject new dynamism in to border

Bangladesh, India and Myanmar connecting

trade and other economic activities among

the major ports in the BoB will form a key

the three countries.

area of revival of their economic linkages.

A Sea of Enormous Potential Even though bilateral security cooperation has increased over the years, new forms of

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Human Security and Environment

greatly enhance capability and resources in

Conservation

dealing with disasters. It may be noted that

More often than not, the social dimension

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral

has only been seen as a source of bilateral

Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIM

tension in the BoB region. There is a need

STEC) has agreed to set up a weather and

to relook at the rich historical and vibrant

climate centre in New Delhi and more

exchange of people and cultures to

such initiatives need to be explored. The

revitalise the social dimension for regional

three countries could also jointly establish

integration. No cooperation is sustainable

institutes of oceanic studies.

without the active involvement of people and without the due importance to ecology.

Regional cooperation can have immense

Hence, human security and environment

positive impact on migration and the

conservation need to form the base of

environment. There is an urgent need to

community building. Involving civil society in

frame a more humane policy for migration;

the efforts to build a community could help

a regional policy that provides basic

governments in reaching the grassroots and

protection to migrants. Similarly, a regional

creating awareness about opportunities in

approach could be explored to deal with

health, education and migration. Creative

natural disasters (prevention, mitigation

use of technology in networking non-

and rehabilitation), fishing, coastal erosion,

governmental organisations with coastal

and marine pollution. As Sunil Amrith, the

people to share conservation and disaster

author of Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The

management experiences may be one way

Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Mi-

of strengthening social integration in the

grants argues: “Hope for a new regionalism

BoB area.

lies in recognising that the bay’s history, as much as its ecology, transcends national

Several fishermen are often arrested for

frontiers”. These issues know no national

trespassing maritime boundaries in the BoB.

boundaries and cannot be addressed by

The three countries can explore possibilities

a single country alone. The only hope to

of allowing fishing rights. Working on

deal with trans-boundary issues is through

shared disaster management in terms of

regional cooperation.

cyclone forecasting and relief operations will

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Outlook

are an indication of India’s resolve to continue

The value of the BoB region is likely to grow

its focus on its immediate neighbours. There

for several years to come. Unlike in the

is a strong recognition that India’s destiny

20th century, when the drivers of economic

is inextricably linked to its neighbourhood.

and strategic dynamics in the region were

The challenge before New Delhi is to act

distant players, today’s dynamics are driven

upon this vision and the new Modi regime

by players within the Asian region. The

has the opportunity to start the process in

region provides an opportunity to develop

the BoB region.

one of the most populous and poorest regions in the world. At the same time,

BIBLIOGRAPHY

rapid economic growth also put pressures

Amrith, S. S. (2013). The Bay of Bengal, in Peril From Climate Change. The New York Times, October 13; available at http:// www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/opinion/the-bay-of-bengal-inperil-from-climate-change.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

on the resources of the area. In the era of globalisation, the region has been moving towards regional integration, though at

Amrith, S. S. (2013). Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

a painfully slow pace. Even as the three countries share land and maritime borders,

Bissinger, J. (2011). Bangladesh-Myanmar Maritime Border Fix Puts Bay of Bengal on Play. World Politics Review, September 29.

the level of economic integration is still very low. While most of their eastern neighbours

Raja, M.C. (2014). Drawing Lines in the Water. The Indian Express, July 14; available at http://indianexpress.com/article/ opinion/columns/drawing-lines-in-the-water/99/

have developed a strong regional supplychain, the three countries are yet to take full advantage of their regional geography.

Samaranayake, N. (2012).The Long Littoral Project: Bay of Bengal: A Maritime Perspective on Indo-Pacific Security. CNA Corporation.

As External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj,

Thant Myint-U. (2011). Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

ended her visit to Bangladesh on 27 June,

Yhome, K (2014). Myanmar and the Geopolitics of the Bay of Bengal.ORF Issue Brief 68, January; available at http://www. observerindia.com/cms/export/orfonline/modules/issuebrief/ attachments/issuebrief68_1392022323312.pdf

2014, India’s Vice President, Hamid Ansari, was meeting Myanmar’s President, Thein Sein, in Beijing on 29, June, on the sidelines of the summit meeting held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”. These growing and frequent high-level exchanges

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GLOSSARY

ADB

Asian Development Bank

AL

Awami League

BIMSTEC

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation

BJP

Bharatiya Janata Party

BNP

Bangladesh Nationalist Party

BoB

Bay of Bengal

ITLOS

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

LEP

Look East Policy

MGC

Mekong-Ganga Cooperation

NLD

National League for Democracy

SAARC

South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation

UNCLOS

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

UNHCR

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

USDP

Union Solidarity and Development Party

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

THE FRIEDRICH-EBERT-STIFTUNG IN INDIA

K. Yhome is a Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a New Delhi-based public policy think tank. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Hyderabad Central University and a doctorate in South Asian studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Prior to joining ORF, he was with South Asia Foundation where he worked on migration, refugees and identity politics in South Asia. He also worked with the Indian Foreign Affairs Journal. His research interests include India’s regional diplomacy, regional and subregionalism in South and Southeast Asia, the Bay of Bengal region, and China’s southwest provinces. He is the author of “Myanmar: Can the Generals Resist Change?”, New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2008. Recently, his research has been focused on developments in Myanmar and changing geopolitics of the Bay of Bengal.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s India office started in 1981 in continuation to the informal contacts initiated in the 1950s. In line with the Foundation’s commitment to the values of solidarity, peace and social justice FES cooperates closely with local partner organizations having a similar outlook. The various instruments employed to achieve our goals include: Dialogue and debate through workshops, seminars and exchange programs; Political and socio-economic research and analyses; Civic education and leadership trainings; Political consulting.

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