Three years ago on this day, the Rohingya people began to flee from the ethnic cleansing and atrocities of the Myanmar government, to take refuge in Bangladesh. Since then, it has not been possible to send the Rohingyas back to their homeland, despite several discussions and dates being fixed twice by the two countries for their repatriation.

China at one time came forward to mediate a solution, but to no avail. Now India has recently shown interest in joining talks regarding the repatriation issue.

According to diplomatic sources, the matter of Delhi’s stance regarding a resolution to the Rohingya crisis was discussed during the recent Dhaka visit of India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

Bangladesh had raised the issue of India playing a role in resolving the Rohingya problem, particularly as India will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from January.

In that context, India showed interest in talks with the two neighbours, Bangladesh and Myanmar, regarding safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla came to Dhaka on 18 August on a two-day visit and paid a courtesy call on the prime minister Sheikh Hasina. He also had a lunch meeting with foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen before his departure. The diplomatic sources did not verify at which meeting India’s interest in talks on the Rohingya issue was raised.

Faced with extreme brutality of the Myanmar army, the Rohingyas fled the Rakhine state and began to enter Bangladesh on 25 August 2017. About 740,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. Along with those who had previously crossed over, there are now over one million Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement in November 2017 regarding the repatriation of Rohingyas, but no progress has been made on the matter. Speaking at an online discussion organised by a university in Dhaka on Monday, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said, “Myanmar has utterly failed to demonstrate any political will to create a condition conducive in Rakhine. In the recent months, we rather notice growing reluctance on the Myanmar side to continue bilateral engagements with Bangladesh.”

Former foreign secretary and senior fellow at North South University, Shahidul Haque told Prothom Alo that according to the international community, it is still not safe for the Rohingyas to return. A safe zone needs to be created. There is no alternative other than the international community coming forward to establish a safe zone in the interest of human rights and the future of Rohingyas in Rakhine. The international community should realise, he said, that if the Rohingyas have to wait all their lives to return to their homes, this will not bode well for anyone.

According to analysts of diplomatic and international affairs, preparation should start this year, even if on a small scale. Security and all basic facilities must be ensured for this purpose, along with their citizenship. But nothing has been done about these three fundamental issues. That is why if a small group could be sent, then it could be determined just how conducive the circumstances are in Rakhine for normal living.

Director of Dhaka University’s Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), Imtiaz Ahmed, feels that international pressure must be stepped up for a resolution to the Rohingya crisis. Many are of the opinion that this is a bilateral issue, but it is actually a global problem. When Myanmar feels international pressure is increasing, it will be forced to take some sort of initiative.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said that in recent times there had been a positive change in the attitude of India and Japan regarding the Rohingya problem. This will make China realise that that no one other than itself is on Myanmar’s side. International pressure is essential in this regard.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir


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