Neighbouring nations are most relevant in foreign policy, and all five neighbours of Myanmar have strategic, economic, cultural and religious significance for Myanmar. In fact, Myanmar does not just straddle the two superpowers – China and India – it is also the intersection between South Asia and Southeast Asia. This being so, Myanmar is said to be a gateway to South Asia and it also serves as a land bridge to ASEAN. It is true that Myanmar is strategically located with the result that her location brings not only the opportunities, but also a certain amount of vulnerabilities as well.
For example, her western neighbour India’s energy requirements can be fulfilled by Myanmar while India can, in return, contribute substantially towards Myanmar’s infrastructure development, communication, education, tourism industry, science and technology. However, the underdeveloped border region and inhospitable terrain between Myanmar and Bangladesh can, for example, provide an ideal platform for insurgents, non-state actors, drugs and weapons traffickers to operate and spread their network. In this regard, Myanmar is still in the process of making peace with all but
three ethnic groups, resulting in inability to have perfect control over the turbulent border areas.
Judging by the aforesaid circumstances, Myanmar is obviously in dire need of a strong border management mechanism to be able to prevent cross-border movement of criminals and/or undesirable destructive elements, to assist in removal of insecurities, to facilitate people-to-people contact and to enhance partnership between Myanmar and her five neighbours in economic, defence, security, social and cultural fields.
In this regard, it is needed for this border management mechanism to address such aspects as screening of people for their identity and background, ensuring validation of travel documents, monitoring return of people to their homes, ensuring respect for religious and cultural traditions, prevention of corruption at border check posts and setting up an early warning and alert system.
It is true that there is a crisis of space, but the space cannot be allowed to be misused or abused by non-state actors who wish to govern the territory without responsibility and accountability. In fact, only the constitutionally empowered institutions should control the territory and its subjects. If considered necessary, force must be used to bring order and reimpose the will of the state. If the non-state actors and/or extra-constitutional super-empowered individuals or organisations are allowed to continue their activities, they will become lethal and unmanageable at some point in time. This being so, the border management in such an environment has to be resilient and capable of dealing with any eventuality inclusive of use of force.