‘Rohingya crisis can become India’s N-E security concern’
WARNING Bangladesh envoy reasserts New Delhi’s role in refugees’ return to Myanmar; says defranchising a segment of the population will not solve the problem but aggravate it
The mass exodus of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar has to be tackled urgently as it has the potential of becoming a “huge security concern” for the entire region, including India’s insurgency-affected northeastern states, the Bangladeshi envoy said on Thursday.
Bangladesh is looking to India, as a regional power, to play a larger role in persuading Myanmar to both halt the exodus of Rohingyas from Rakhine state and to ensure the repatriation of those who have fled to other countries, high commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali told Hindustan Times.
Some 400,000 Rohingyas had taken refuge in Bangladesh over the past two decades and their number has almost doubled since the Myanmar army launched a crackdown in Rakhine following militant attacks on police posts and an army base on August 25. Bangladesh believes India can play a key role in defusing the crisis as Myanmar has not responded to any of its proposals to tackle the issue.
“I am more concerned about my own region but the presence of Rohingya refugees elsewhere could be a security risk for everybody else. It could be used even in your northeast India,” Ali, a former foreign secretary, said.
The envoy evaded a direct response to a question on reports that groups such as the Jamaatul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba had established links with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, but said the Rohingya refugees could “fall victim to the various organisations who are trying to destabilise the region”.
“I’m sure you’re well aware of those destabilising factors (that) we have been working (on) overtime (to counter) during the past four decades, even in the context of northeast India,” he said.
Referring to the attacks in Rakhine on August 25, Ali said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had shown “zero tolerance” for
I am more concerned about my own region but the presence of Rohingya refugees...could be a security risk for everybody else...even in your northeast India
terrorism and had also offered to conduct joint patrols along the border with Myanmar “so that these terrorists cannot escape”.
He noted there were media reports that Indian and Bangladeshi security agencies had alerted Myanmar about possible attacks after it “intercepted certain suspicious telephone calls and movements” of terrorists.
Though Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as its citizens, Ali said New Delhi can play a role in persuading Naypyidaw to take back the refugees.
“Myanmar, Bangladesh and India are all BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) members, and India as a regional power should exercise its good offices to persuade Myanmar for the return of these Rohingya refugees.
“I’m still very optimistic that India would play a very positive role for the early return of these Rohingyas,” he said.
The solution, he said, will have to be found within the borders of Myanmar. “If we decide to resolve this issue, it will have to be resolved in Rakhine province itself. So defranchising a (segment) of the population will not solve your problem, it will only aggravate the problem.”
The advisory commission on Rakhine state headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, formed by the Myanmar government to make recommendations for lasting solutions to the problems in the violencewracked region, has outlined a detailed process for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees by Bangladesh and Myanmar and this should be quickly implemented, Ali said.
Ali said the new statement by India’s external affairs ministry “added several factors, because as far as I understand when the joint statement (with Myanmar during Modi’s visit earlier this month) was issued, maybe they were not fully aware about the latest situation on the ground”.
Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, cries as she holds the body of her 40dayold son, who died as a boat capsized in the shore of Shah Porir Dwip, in Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Thursday.