THE coming together of Bangladesh, China and Myanmar, after a meeting of Dhaka with Beijing and Naypyidaw on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, to put in place a tripartite mechanism to oversee and assess preparations on the ground for the repatriation of the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh appears to sound a note of hopes. This so does after efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas, after their large-scale influx into Bangladesh from Rakhine State in Myanmar beginning on August 25, 2017 have faltered twice — in recent times on August 22, 2019 and earlier on November 15, 2018 — mostly because Myanmar has not only failed to create an environment conducive to their return but also kept creating a fearful situation for the Rohingyas in Rakhine State. More than 1.1 million of the Rohingyas — about 700,000 since August 2017 and the rest having lived here since the late 1970s — fled violence by Myanmar’s military in Rakhine State to Bangladesh. The Rohingyas were tortured, raped and killed and their movement was restricted and livelihood thwarted in a manner which United Nations then likened to ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.’
The earlier repatriation moves faltered as no one from the Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh after having gone through the horror at the hands of Myanmar’s military was willing for the repatriation, which must be safe, sustainable, dignified and voluntary. The Bangladesh foreign minister, after the meeting with his counterparts of China and Myanmar, says that the three countries, represented by China and Myanmar’s ambassadors in Dhaka and a director general of the Bangladesh foreign ministry, would jointly evaluate progress in the repatriation efforts and report to the respective foreign ministries. The committee is to meet for the first time in October. China is reported to have placed the proposal, which was initially an idea of Bangladesh, and Myanmar agreed although it initially opposed the move. But ‘friendly’ India was in complicity with Myanmar in driving out the Rohingyas into Bangladesh and India did not lift its finger to stop the Rohingya influx. India extended ‘assurances’ of ‘continued support’ to resolve the Rohingya crisis but Dhaka’s relationship with New Delhi, reported to have gone ‘far beyond a strategic partnership’ since April 2017, failed to turn New Delhi’s ‘continued support’ into reality. India is reported to have said that it would ‘dissociate’ itself from any UN attempts at sending any mission to investigate the repression on the Rohingyas in Myanmar. A UN independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar towards the end of August says that there would be no return of the Rohingyas and no long-term peace in Myanmar unless there is accountability for the ‘brutality’ of Myanmar’s military forces. India also abstained two times from voting on a UN resolution to condemn rights violation in Myanmar.
In view of the situation, Bangladesh should take a strong position with India on the issue and try to include India in the process at hand. Dhaka must take up the issue with Beijing and Naypyidaw and international forums, including the United Nations, so that India is included in the process for it to translate its assurances for support into effective actions to make a meaningful, dignified, voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas.
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