DHAKA keeps requesting strong political support from India, which is also a next-door neighbour, and China in resolving the crisis of the Rohingyas now sheltered in Bangladesh, but the ‘friendly’ countries have kept their efforts limited to extending ‘assurances’ of ‘continued support’, but for sending relief supplies, for the return of the Rohingyas to their native land of Rakhine State in Myanmar. About 1.2 million Rohingyas are now sheltered in Bangladesh after they had, in phases, fled violence and repression by Myanmar’s military forces in their native land since the late 1970s. In the latest spate of violence as part of ‘security operations’ by Myanmar’s military in Rakhine, about 700,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, have crossed the border to safety into Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape which the United Nations likened to ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, beginning on August 25, 2017. Both New Delhi and Beijing, expected to maintain a strategic partnership with Dhaka, however, appear to continue to be in a strategic gap in resolving the Rohingya crisis as they seem to rely on the ‘narratives of the military-controlled Myanmar’ in assessing the Rohingya situation from ‘development’ and ‘security’ aspects.
There has been no substantive shift in the statements and action that the two countries have made since the beginning of the latest 2017 August influx. In the latest incident, Dhaka took up the issue with New Delhi at meeting of the Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission in India in February but received a ‘routine response’ with ‘appreciation for the humanitarian gesture’ that Bangladesh has showed to the Rohingyas. New Delhi also assured Bangladesh of India’s ‘continued support’ for safe, speedy and sustainable return of the Rohingyas. Beijing hosted at least three meetings of Bangladesh and Myanmar’s foreign ministers and deployed a Chinese envoy, shuttling between Beijing, Dhaka and Naypyidaw, for breaking the ice in resolving the crisis of sending at the earliest the ‘first batch of Rohingyas to Rakhine’, which faltered on November 15, 2018 as the Rohingyas declined to get back to Rakhine without an environment conducive to their safe and dignified return with full rights and citizenship. Dhaka’s relationship with New Delhi, reported to have gone ‘far beyond a strategic partnership’ since April 2017, has failed to turn New Delhi’s ‘continued support’ into further action and attempts of China, which is Myanmar’s largest investor with a focus on Rakhine, are yet ‘to bring about any results’ in the repatriation of the Rohingyas.
While the efforts that the two ‘friendly’ countries have put in have failed to help Bangladesh, there have also not been any substantive support from ASEAN countries, which all are crucial in resolving the crisis by ensuring a safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas, sheltered in Bangladesh, to Myanmar. It is, in what has so far happened, imperative for Dhaka, which appears not to have been able to take a strong position with India and China on the issue, must now step up the ongoing negotiations and use other sources, regional and international, to mount pressure on Myanmar to create an environment in Rakhine conducive to the return of the Rohingyas.
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