28.04.2024 Author: Taut Bataut

Towards Sustainable Peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Towards Sustainable Peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Chittagong (Chattagram) Hill Tracts (CHT) – a home to Jumma ethnicity, have been a source of perennial upheaval in Bangladesh for years. However, the Bangladesh military has successfully neutralized the separatist militant groups in the region through Operation Dabanal – which was later re-established under the name Operation Uttaron. This insurgency in the country has helped the Bangladesh Army garner immense experience in counter-terrorism operations.

Operation Uttaron was followed by a peace agreement between the two sides, led to widespread law and order and elevated the living standards of the residents of the CHT region. Another insurgent movement in the region seems impossible for decades after successful operations by the Bangladeshi government. However, following a multipronged strategy is imperative for the stability and peace of the region.

The Sino-Tibetan Bawm origin is home to the Kuki-China community. This community comprises people of the same community, albeit known by alternate names. These groups live in the bordering regions of India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Historically, they have been vying for cultural recognition and autonomy. However, their demands have always been denied by the governments of the three countries.

The government of Myanmar signed multiple agreements with them in the past, including the Panglong Conference Agreement of 1947, the Mizoram Peace Accord of 1986, and the Chin Hills Regulation of 1896. The rationale of these agreements was to recognize their right to autonomy and peculiar identity but these agreements never the light of day. The ZO Reunification Organization (ZORO)’s vehement support for the reunification of the Mizo and Kuki-Chin tribes portends the struggles of the displaced people across the borders of three countries.

The armed struggle of the Kuki-Chin community resulted in increasing the geopolitical intricacies of the CHT region. The rift between the governments of the three bordering countries is exploited by regional and global powers, especially the Western powers, in pursuit of their geostrategic ambitions. The mineral resources of the region are the main reason behind its significance. The United States is following a multifaceted strategy to manipulate and exploit the regional fractions. Apart from advocating the right of Arakan Muslims to an independent state, it is making demographic shifts in the region through Christian missionaries. It aims to convert the native populations to Christianity and seek the establishment of an independent state, following the strategy it adopted in Sudan previously.

China is also a significant regional player. Being a global competitor of the United States, China seeks to counter its influence in the region as well. The United States and China are actively engaging with the countries in the Indo-Pacific region. China’s soft power and the US hardline policies are undermining the latter’s influence in the region. China’s successful policies in the Middle Eastern region, especially its mediation between Iran and KSA, have sent a blow to the United States’ image. Moreover, the United States’ failure to protect Ukraine and its contribution to the persistent genocide in Gaza has also ruptured its image globally. The expansion of BRICS has further bolstered the positive image of China around the globe. Amidst all this, India is also following a prudent approach by not completely tilting towards the United States. The Kuki-Chin community is also a source of turbulence in India. Their demand for autonomy in Bangladesh and Myanmar also hints towards the role of particular external powers behind them.

Although the Bangladesh government holds international recognition for its peace-building efforts in the region under the auspices of the United Nations, following a multipronged strategy is imperative to gain long-term results in the region. The Bangladesh military possesses significant experience in countering insurgencies in the CHT region, but the government fails to recognize the Kuki-Chin threat as merely a political one. Despite Kuki-Chin’s elicited demand for mere autonomy, the Bangladesh government treats the group as a separatist entity. Military solutions can help the government to suppress this movement. However, historically, the military option has not been a permanent solution for countering such movements. The Bangladesh government needs to engage the Kuki-Chin people politically. Moreover, across the border, intelligence cooperation is also needed to eliminate the extremists in the community.

The Bangladesh government needs to integrate the Kuki-Chin people into mainstream politics. This can help in instilling a feeling of being heard. Furthermore, only the extremist factions within the community should be dealt with militarily, while the peaceful citizens must be provided employment opportunities. Development in the CHT region can also help in eliminating the grievances of the community. Local political leaders should also be engaged by the government so that they do not support the terrorists or extremists and exploit the communal fraction for political gain. Increasing educational ventures in the region can also contribute to ensuring long-term peace in the region. Therefore, following a multipronged approach, including political dialogue, military operations, and regional development, is mandatory for achieving long-term peace and stability in the CHT region.


Taut Bataut – is a researcher and writer that publishes on South Asian geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine  “New Eastern Outlook”. 

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