The Indian NSA, along with three senior security officials, visited Dhaka for a day and is said to have had crucial meetings with top Bangladesh Army officers over the evolving military situation in civil war-torn Rakhine State

Even as Myanmar's insurgent groups have a military upper hand across several provinces and regions, including the Rakhine State, in the strife-torn country, a one-day visit by Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and at least three other senior officials to Dhaka on February 3 has raised speculations about New Delhi’s security concerns in the region.

While the team is said to have met senior Bangladesh Army officers and discussed the evolving military situation in the Rakhine State, where the China-backed Arakan Army rebels have wrested some key towns and routed several Myanmar Army units since the second half of January 2024, the Indian officials were apprised of the situation in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

Interestingly enough, the Doval-led team was not put up in any hotel but stayed overnight in a Bangladesh Army facility in the Dhaka cantonment. Bangladesh officials were tightlipped about the identities of the army officers who met the Indian NSA.

Doval’s visit to Dhaka comes less than a month after the so-called elections in Bangladesh. The Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League returned to power for the fourth consecutive time following a questionable election (held on January 7) backed by New Delhi, China and Russia.

The United States, which had earlier insisted on free, fair and violence-free elections, subsequently relented and agreed to “work” with the newly-elected Sheikh Hasina regime which is faced with an economic crisis.

However, no sooner did it assume power, the Sheikh Hasina regime was confronted with the fallout of the civil war in Myanmar, especially the military junta forces’ reverses in the Rakhine State.

Over the past few days there have been reports of regular shelling near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border with several mortar shells landing in small border towns and villages in the CHT.

Videos shot by local residents and distributed across social media show fighting in close proximity of the border.

The Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) has also been suffering military setbacks in adjoining Chin State from where hundreds of soldiers have been fleeing to Mizoram in India.

Well-informed sources in at least one Myanmar insurgent group said that the China-backed Arakan Army now “controls” at least 75 percent of the territory in the Rakhine State.

The rebel outfit, the sources confirmed, “fully controls the key Kaladan port” over which India had interest in the recent past. While the Arakan Army has consistently maintained that it will protect Chinese interests, the fate of the Rohingya refugees based in Bangladesh in “now uncertain” even as some Myanmar insurgent groups suspect that the Rohingya are “being armed”.

China’s role in the Myanmar civil war has been dubious if not confusing. While Beijing backs the Myanmar military junta, it has not shied away from supporting some of the insurgent groups, including the members of the Three Brotherhood which is a partnership between the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The rebel Arakan Army has gained considerable ground in the Rakhine State with the beleaguered junta forces abandoning their camps and posts to cross over to adjoining areas in neighbouring Bangladesh, several sources in the two countries have confirmed.

While reports emanating from Bangladesh suggest that at least 165 Myanmar Border Guards Police (BGP) officials fled to a few areas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), including Bandarban, over the last four to five days, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged her country’s security forces to remain calm but alert even as the military situation across the border has turned fraught.

While the Arakan Army’s offensive continues unimpeded, the rebel group seized a key Myanmar Army military battalion base on January 30, “defeating” the latter’s Light Infantry Battalion 540 “after several days of fighting in historic Mrauk-U township” where other Tatmadaw bases have also been targeted.

The Arakan Army took “full control” of LIB 540 close to midnight on January 30 before setting sights on nearby LIB 377 and LIB 778.

Myanmar dissident media reports have said that Three Brotherhood Alliance has “allied with the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) and the powerful Kachin Independence Army.

The alliance halted its offensive in the second week of January after agreeing a China-brokered ceasefire deal with the military regime. However, the AA has been conducting a large-scale offensive across northern Rakhine and Paletwa in neighbouring Chin State since Nov. 13, as part of Operation 1027. It has also allied with People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to attack regime targets in Kachin State and upper Sagaing Region”.