Geopolitics and the uncertain future of the Rohingya

Earlier, after the military coup in Myanmar, the evacuation of Rakhine (Arakan) and the repatriation of about 1.1 million Rohingyas who took refuge in Bangladesh was heard several times, but it is no longer heard; On the contrary, the opposite tone has been heard in the face of the junta government of Myanmar. Their spokesman recently said the Rohingya issue was not on their priority list. One of the reasons is the pressure from Rakhine nationalist leaders in Myanmar and the Rakhine region.

The controversy that erupted after the imposition of martial law by Myanmar’s military junta on the part of supporters and the people of the deposed NLD (National League for Democracy) was unimaginable. The junta government is still awaiting international recognition. The ASEAN countries are divided, and the Rohingya issue is not a big issue for them either. On the other hand, there is no opposition to the military junta among the ASEAN countries.

Not that there is no country behind the military junta. The government has the support of India and China, two of its biggest neighbors and two of Asia’s most powerful powers. Myanmar is very important to China in geopolitical considerations. Especially since the launch of China’s new global geo-strategic plan ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ or BRI in 2013, the Rakhine (Arakan) region of the Bay of Bengal in Myanmar has become one of the world’s strategic lands. From here, gas from the deep seaport, including the port of Kachiyapu and the island of Mar, is now connected to gas from the Soye gas field in Myanmar and from the large fuel oil terminal through the pipeline to Mandanam in central Myanmar to Kunming in China. Initially the process of execution has begun. At the same time, China is in the early stages of building a high-speed rail line, a branch of which will connect Myanmar’s largest city and main port, Yangon (Rangoon).

These plans, along with the Special Exclusive Economic Zone over a large area, were planned before 2015, but have been dynamic since Aung San Suu Kyi. At the time, Arakanese and their political parties, the ANP (Arakan National Party) and the armed groups Arakan Army (AA) and the ULA (United League of Arakan), were opposed to Suu Kyi and the military. At the same time, 60 percent of the local population, mainly Buddhists, 30 percent were Muslims and especially anti-Rohingya, and still are. The 80 percent of Rakhine’s majority is also opposed to the NLD, the military and Myanmar. But that has changed. Currently, power is shared with the junta at the local level with various groups in Rakhine, and the Arakan Army is given precedence. As a result, the junta maintains government control in Arakan.

The Arakan Army was opposed to India’s Kaladan project in the state of Arakan and the Special Economic Zone in Sittwe (Akiab). Attacks on citizens working on Indian projects, abductions, ransoms — these were routine issues. At present, the environment is much calmer due to India’s tacit support for the junta. However, China is not too worried about India’s presence in the northern Rakhine region and the increase in the strength of naval and air bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is because the Chinese observation post on the Coco Island in Myanmar, northwest of the Andamans in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, has been monitoring the Bay of Bengal for a long time.

Not only China-India but also Myanmar, the fifth largest investor in Myanmar, is entering Rakhine as a third power. Although not close to China’s geopolitical and strategic influence in Myanmar, Japan has invested heavily in Aung San Suu Kyi’s time, especially in the east. Japan also plans to invest heavily in the planned economic zone near Maungdaw, Rakhine. Although Japan does not support the junta government, it does not oppose it much. It may be recalled that Japan is one of the members of the anti-China alliance Quad in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. In that alliance of four countries (the rest are the United States, Australia and India) Japan is a huge economic power.

Rakhine, once Myanmar’s poorest region, is now regarded as one of the most geopolitical lands in the world, especially in Rakhine. The main reasons for this are the vast plains and the 1,200 miles of coastline in the Bay of Bengal.

According to Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s definition of the changing geopolitics of today’s world, “India must influence the Indian Ocean in order to influence Asia.” With that in mind, India has increased its naval power and is now a major force in US ocean policy. The Malabar military exercise is scheduled to take place this month in the Bay of Bengal, where, for the first time, the French navy is expected to join in addition to the quad members.

On the one hand, the strength of the anti-China alliance in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, on the other hand, the changing geo-strategic importance of Rakhine — these are the reasons why the ‘Rohingya’ displaced are now being used as a political ploy by international and Myanmar’s internal anti-junta.

The anti-junta coalition, the National Unity Government (NUG), is made up mainly of NLD MPs. There are some Kachin and Karen rebel group members. The NUG has created the People’s Defense Force (PDF) not just politically but for armed insurgency. They have not yet accumulated the strength to defeat or weaken Myanmar’s military. However, according to various sources, some low-ranking soldiers and some young officers of the military have joined the PDF. It is noteworthy that despite frequent reports of clashes between the Karen and Kachin armed rebels, their activities in the Rakhine region are almost non-existent. Source Bangla Diary

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