‘Once re­solved, the Teesta is­sue will help fur­ther Bangla ties with In­dia’

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

Syed Muazzem Ali, High Com­mis­sioner of Bangladesh to In­dia, talked to The Sun­day Guardian on Ro­hingya cri­sis and on In­dia-Bangladesh re­la­tions. Ex­cerpts: Q: How has the con­tin­u­ous in­flux of Ro­hingya refugees in Bangladesh af­fected the coun­try? A: Bangladesh does not have any bi­lat­eral prob­lems with Myan­mar. The only is­sue we had was de­mar­ca­tion of the mar­itime bound­ary and we re­solved it six years ago with the help of the United Na­tions. Our trade and com­merce with Myan­mar is smooth and we have nor­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions. The crux of the Ro­hingya is­sue is sim­ple; Myan­mar’s in­abil­ity to recog­nise a group of their peo­ple as cit­i­zens of their coun­try. Since 1962, this has been caus­ing trou­bles. The prob­lem orig­i­nated in Myan­mar and we will have to find its so­lu­tion within Myan­mar. Now, as far as Bangladesh is con­cerned, we have been fac­ing a huge cri­sis since 1971 when the Ro­hingya refugees started com­ing to Bangladesh. It is a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis that has trig­gered huge health and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. There are thou­sands of peo­ple living in camps with lim­ited re­sources and they are vul­ner­a­ble to dis­eases. They have lev­elled down hills, cut down trees, af­fect­ing the nat­u­ral habi­tat of the area. Find­ing em­ploy­ment for th­ese peo­ple is an­other ma­jor chal­lenge. Q: China has of­fered to act as a me­di­a­tor be­tween Myan­mar and Bangladesh. China has also been help­ing Bangladesh with hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. Is Bangladesh con­sid­er­ing ac­cept­ing China’s of­fer? A: We have a num­ber of dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing Bangladesh over the week­end. The Chi- nese for­eign min­is­ter was here, the Ja­panese for­eign min­is­ter and sev­eral Amer­i­can se­na­tors, too, were in Bangladesh this week. Ev­ery­body has ex­tended their sup­port and wants to re­solve the trou­ble. This prob­lem will be solved with in­ter­na­tional pres­sure; oth­er­wise, I am afraid the process will be fu­tile. So, it is not about China sup­port­ing us, ev­ery­body needs to come to­gether… It will be in the in­ter­est for all of us to re­solve this is­sue at hand. Oth­er­wise, 600,000 Ro­hingya refugees who have been forcibly dis­placed from their homes, might fall in wrong hands. They can fall vic­tim to rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion… Q: Where do the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh on Teesta wa­ter treaty stand? A: The two gov­ern­ments had al­ready signed MoUs in 2011. The is­sue is not be­tween the two coun­tries any­more. The is­sue now stands be­tween In­dia and its own states. There are three par­ties in­volved—the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, gov­ern­ment of West Ben­gal and the gov­ern­ment of Sikkim. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has said that he is work­ing on the dif­fer­ences and hopes to get back to us soon. Yes, Teesta has be­come a cru­cial elec­tion is­sue in Bangladesh be­cause wa­ter is a highly emo­tive sub­ject. Con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate dras­ti­cally in the lean sea­son, be­tween De­cem­berMarch, which is al­most here now. For nine months, our basins are full; so there is no short­age. Wa­ter short­age af­fects liveli­hood which af­fects the coun­try’s pol­i­tics. This is­sue also has a direct ef­fect on pro­mo­tion of our re­la­tions with our neigh­bours. Once re­solved, the Teesta is­sue will be a great ben­e­fit in fur­ther­ing our ties with In­dia. Q: Once re­vised, the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of Cit­i­zens, As­sam, might ren­der thou­sands of res­i­dents in As­sam home­less as it is likely to iden­tify “for­eign­ers” who came to In­dia after the cre­ation of Bangladesh and make them “non-cit­i­zens”. One pos­si­bil­ity is that then th­ese peo­ple will be de­ported to Bangladesh. How do you see this sit­u­a­tion? A: Not all Ben­galis are Bangladeshis. We have twothree states where peo­ple speak Ben­gali. There is an es­tab­lished prac­tice be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh re­gard­ing de­por­ta­tion of il­le­gals. Cur­rently, In­dia is un­der­go­ing in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions. Let th­ese con­clude. We will cross the bridge when we ar­rive.

Syed Muazzem Ali

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.