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Growing Differences in Myanmar – Bangladesh Relations

Published Nov 12, 2019
Updated Feb 06, 2020

While Bangladesh and Myanmar are going through a rough patch in relations with differences over return of the over one million Rohingya refugees who migrated from Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, the relations are likely to be impacted with the objections raised by Dhaka for Myanmar’s membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

As membership is by consensus of the existing members, consensus could not be reached with Bangladesh delegation expressing objection to Myanmar’s membership at the senior officials’ meet of the Association, mentioning that “the ground reality of Myanmar’s non-cooperation and lack of commitment to repatriate Rohingya refugees have not changed since the last meeting.” The 21st Council of Senior Officials was held at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on November 5-6.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association is an inter-governmental organisation which was established on 7 March 1997 based on the vision of the South African iconic leader Nelson Mandela.

The vision for IORA originated during a visit by late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to India in 1995.

As the third largest ocean woven together by trade routes, commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, the Indian Ocean remains an important lifeline to international trade and transport.

Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, Member States whose shores are washed by the ocean are rich in cultural diversity and richness in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines.

They vary considerably in terms of their areas, populations and levels of economic development. They may also be divided into a number of sub-regions (Australasia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Eastern & Southern Africa), each with their own regional groupings (such as ASEAN, SAARC, GCC and SADC, to name a few). Despite such diversity and differences, these countries are bound together by the Indian Ocean.

The standoff between the two countries which has led to failure to return of the over 1 million Rohingya refugees that have been lodged in Bangladesh even though Myanmar signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 appears to be the main reason for Dhaka’s resistance to the move.