A GREAT deal of criticism had been made against the government of Bangladesh for shutting its doors to the Rohingyas fleeing their native Rakhine state of Myanmar adjoining Bangladesh to escape from the planned genocide. In the face of global and local outcry, Bangladesh has now opened its doors to the Rohingyas. A nation that had faced the same predicament the Rohingyas are facing today should not have closed its doors. And, the nation that had stood by the side of the people of Bangladesh, thus forever had tied its people to a bondage of gratitude, has done far worse. India has abandoned the victims of an active genocide now raging in the Myanmar’s Rakhine province to stand with the perpetrators.
The prime minister of India, the nation that had welcomed 10 million Bangladeshis in 1971 without any questions asked, has just completed an official visit to Myanmar when there is no doubt worldwide that the government of Myanmar is committing against the Rohingyas the same crime against humanity that the military government of Pakistan had committed in Bangladesh in 1971.
Mr Narendra Modi should have visited Bangladesh to stand with the Bangladesh government facing a mass exodus of the Rohingyas to encourage it to do what India had done in 1971. Instead, he went to Myanmar to stand with the perpetrators of the Rohingya Genocide. The joint statement of Narendra Modi’s visit, believe it or not, read as follows: ‘India condemned the recent terrorist attacks in northern Rakhine State, wherein several members of the Myanmar security forces lost their lives.’
Indian Express, a leading New Delhi newspaper, was aghast that the Indian prime minister could end his visit to Myanmar without even acknowledging the plight in which the Rohingyas are at present. It stated that the Indian prime minister’s denial over the Rohingya issue was nevertheless the fruition of a policy to appease the Myanmarese military for achieving its strategic and economic interests at any cost. Thus when four members of Myanmar’s security forces were killed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army fighting against the genocide directed against them, the Indian External Affairs had issued a statement on August 26 that read as follows: ‘India is seriously concerned about reports of renewed violence and attacks by terrorists in northern Rakhine State Myanmar. We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives among members of the Myanmar security forces….’
The MEA’s statement and the India-Myanmar Joint Declaration have taken the attack by a section of the Rohingyas that have decided to stand up and fight is to deny an active genocide! It is worse than appalling that the current prime minister of India, the country that had shown its leadership to the world in 1971 in Bangladesh, would publicly be concerned for the lives of a few security personnel by going into denial that those that were killed were part of the Myanmarese security that is carrying out openly the Myanmar government’s genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.
Myanmar, of course, has simply no credibility in international politics. The regime there is no better than the worst dictatorships in history in the way it treats its ethnic minorities. But the Indian prime minister by standing with the government of Myanmar in what the latter is doing in the Rakhine state has underlined how low it can stoop for its narrow self-interests. India wants the Myanmar government on its side by going into a total denial over the Rohingya genocide, because it needs Myanmar for fighting the secessionist movements that are active in the Seven Sisters. A great deal of encouragement for these secessionists, such as the ULFA, coming from states of Myanmar bordering some of these Seven Sisters where Myanmar is committing torture on its other ethnic minorities.
That, of course, is part of the problem but not the whole of it. The more important problem for India arises from the fact that they are fearful that China has been encouraging these active secessionist movements to break from New Delhi. China’s presence in Myanmar bilaterally is very deep, but of late its hand in glove relation with the repressive Myanmarese military is not as thick as it was before. India sees in that an opportunity. At a time when the Myanmar government has come into serious international attention over the Rohingya genocide, India feels that by supporting Myanmar on its policy against the Rohingyas, it would find enough leverage with Myanmar’s military to deal with the terrorists/secessionists jointly and corner China in the process.
Of course, New Delhi is wrong. By denying the Rohingya genocide to show sympathy for a few security forces that were on a killing spree, New Delhi has damaged its credibility beyond repair. And, if it thinks, it would be able to outwit China by getting the Myanmar military on its side, it would soon find what a major error it has committed. The Indian Express stated that Beijing had issued a statement immediately after the one by New Delhi that underlined Beijing’s better appreciation of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. The statement highlighted the predicament of the Rohingyas without openly criticising the Myanmar military by hoping that ‘Myanmar could maintain social stability, ethnic solidarity, and economic development.’
Of course, China’s response was also far short of what was required of a power on course to dominate the world with president Donald Trump doing everything to ensure it. It was also not what Bangladesh could have expected of a time tested friend that is doing roaring business in the country. Indian Express underlined New Delhi’s poor diplomacy and understanding of its role in regional politics in the article referred to here with the conclusion: ‘There is little to show for Narendra Modi’s much-hyped visit. Apart from the usual Bollywood kitsch song and dance routine passing off as a display of Indian culture overseas at a diaspora event and sightseeing, the main security formulations were dead on arrival.’
India’s credibility has gone down the drain with its prime minister’s visit to Myanmar. It is as abhorrent as it would have been if Indira Gandhi had visited Pakistan in 1971 and told General Yahya Khan that India supported Pakistan’s actions against the Bangladesh freedom fighters because they were terrorists, in denial of the Pakistani Genocide in Bangladesh! Indira Gandhi’s spirit must be thoroughly restless and disgusted because of what her successor was up to during his visit to Myanmar. Notwithstanding the Bangladesh government’s mistake to close its doors to the Rohingyas fleeing for their lives at first during the current influx that could perhaps be explained by its economic difficulties, India has shown that it is no friend of Bangladesh by not even mentioning a word about the plight into which the Bangladesh government has been placed with the Myanmar government’s policy of genocide against the Rohingyas.
India has undermined its position for leadership in regional and/or international politics by its prime minister’s visit to Myanmar when he should have visited Bangladesh instead to show which side his country stood on an extremely serious matter. The visit has underlined that in pursuance of narrow interests, India has chosen to back the perpetrators of an active genocide and ethnic cleansing.
M Serajul Islam is a retired career ambassador.
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