After Hillary Clinton’s Visit, resourceful Myanmar has become a potential investment hub for South and East Asia which can go a long way in fostering relationship between the SAARC and the ASEAN.
By- Swadesh Roy | Date- December 31, 2011
Till some days ago, Myanmar was mostly an isolated country. For Bangladesh, it was a neighbor but was not much open to it and the relation was running mostly with some sorts of trading between the two countries. As Myanmar is also a neighbor of India, they had some trade with Indians as well. However, the people of India and Bangladesh were forgetting their historical relation with Myanmar or the then Burma.
We the people of Bangladesh, Myanmar and India, have a long cultural and historical bondage. We fought for our freedom against British and we wear same gems in the occasions. But we were going to forget it, and it is not for the people of these three countries, rather it is for the military ruler of Myanmar. The military ruler of Myanmar did isolate the country from the rest of the world. The people of Myanmar did not accept it through their mind besides they did a long struggle against the military ruler. The students, the Monks and the common people gave more blood for an open Myanmar, a democratic Myanmar. But it was true the people of Myanmar did not get a whole hearted support from its neighboring people or the people of democratic world; on the other hand the autocratic China used to help the Junta of Myanmar for their trade facilities.
All of it is now the history of past. The present Myanmar is a country which has started walking on the way to democracy. The political reconciliation of Myanmar is now being recognized by all over the world. Foreign minister of United State of America Ms. Hilary Clinton has visited Myanmar last month. Hilary’s visit was very much significant. Her visit gives recognition that Myanmar is walking on the way to democracy. On the other hand, her visit established that Myanmar is open to the world; that now it is not a country which is only a friend of China. It is proven immediately because after the visit of Hilary, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has visited Myanmar within a week. During the visit in Myanmar foreign minister of USA said that they are concerned about the oil, gas and the timber of Myanmar. The world knows that Myanmar is a resourceful country. Its main three resources are oil, gas and timber. Besides that, Myanmar is a huge rice producing country and they have another resource that is gems.
Myanmar has huge oil, gas and timer but the country is considered as an agricultural economic based country. Only ten percent of its population is working in the industrial sector, rest ninety percent is working in the agricultural sector. At the time of Hilary’s visit she had told that USA is concerned about the natural resource of Myanmar. It indicates that they want a proper use of the natural resource of Myanmar. So now, it could be thought that, World Bank and other monetary organization will think about investment in the natural resource of Myanmar; besides that world renowned company would be interested in Myanmar for investment.
We know that India has an arms trade relation with Myanmar. China is the number one arms exporter in Myanmar and India is second one. Besides that, India is trying to buy gas and oil through pipe line from Myanmar. They will do it now. The present government of Bangladesh is very much cautious about regional economical cooperation. This government of Bangladesh has another quality that, it responds quickly. Having taken power, this government has done many things promptly with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, The Maldives, and India is in favor of regional peace and economical cooperation. In fact Bangladesh responds promptly to build up an economical and peaceful relation with the new Myanmar.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has visited Myanmar from 5- 7 December. It was totally an economical and regional peace cooperation visit. There is a long unsettled issue with Bangladesh and Myanmar. A large number of minority citizen of Myanmar have taken shelter in Bangladesh more than decades. They complained that they are tortured by the military ruler. We know that any type of minority community is not safe in under any type of autocratic government. Only a liberal democratic government can give a confidence and a safe and secured life to the minority community. Myanmar has taken political reconciliation and so with a due respect and expressed happiness the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has discussed with the president of Myanmar about that issue and the president of Myanmar Mr. U Thein has given assurance also to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that they will cooperate with Bangladesh to resolve this issue. In the MoU the two countries said that, Both the Heads of Government noted that, Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to enter into a new phase in bilateral relations with pragmatic and practical approach based on sovereignty, equality, friendship, trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of their people and collective prosperity of the region.
Myanmar has huge oil and gas resources and on the other hand Bangladesh has deficiency of oil and gas; but Bangladesh needs a lot of energy for the future. The trend of economy is expressing that, within a very short time Bangladesh will be a hub of small industries. That is the way Bangladesh has a need for huge energy. Bangladesh is already going to make an agreement with Bhutan for hydroelectric power. On the other hand Bangladesh is trying to make same joint venture with north east India. Bangladesh is also seeking power from Nepal. So it is obvious that, Bangladesh will try to import oil and gas from its neighbor Myanmar.
President of Myanmar has also conceptually agreed that they will export oil and gas to Bangladesh in future. Besides that, Prime Minister of Bangladesh has given a vital proposal to Myanmar for setting up an Asian Clearing Union (ACU). If ACU is set up then Bangladesh and Myanmar will be able to establish direct banking arrangement and LCs can be opened between two countries directly. This system will be increased the trade between two countries hundred times. Besides oil and gas Bangladesh can import from Myanmar rice, onion, garlic and others agricultural product and different kinds of gems. There is a large Myanmar’s gems market in Bangladesh. On the other hand Bangladesh can export to Myanmar readymade garments, pharmaceutical products, Knitwear, jute and jute goods, ceramics etc.
Apart from the two countries relation, Bangladesh and Myanmar can play a vital role in this South and East Asia. Myanmar is the chairman of ASEAN now. On the other hands, between SAARC and ASEAN the geographical position of Bangladesh is very much strategically important. So Bangladesh and Myanmar can play a key role to make closer to ASEAN and SAARC and that will be great achievement for the future peace and economy of the Asia.
Swadesh Roy is the Executive editor of Daily Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected]