The latest Rohingya refugee crisis sparked by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is a major security concern and India should take more initiatives to find a solution to this, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali said on Monday.
“Let us be very clear that the Rohingya issue is a major security concern in the region,” Ali said during an interaction with the media at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club here.
“It is a fire in our neighbourhood and before it engulfs all of us, we must put it out,” he said.
He said these people uprooted from their hearth and homes were vulnerable to all kinds of radicalisation, and citing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that children and women could also become victims of human trafficking.
Ali said that it was for the mutual advantage of both India and Bangladesh to work together to resolve this issue.
“India has borders with both Myanmar and Bangladesh and India, and as the prime mover of the Bimstec process, it should take more initiative so that these people are returned to their homes where they could live in safety and dignity,” he stated.
According to the latest figures issued by the UN office in Bangladesh, around 537,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmarese army launched a crackdown on the minority Rohingya community in view of a series of attacks on security personnel.
The Rohingyas do not enjoy citizenship status in Myanmar and are sparingly given refugee status in Bangladesh.
Ali also noted India’s categorical statements in the UN Human Rights Council and acknowledged New Delhi’s relief assistance for the refugees in Bangladesh.
Stating that the citizenship of the Rohingyas was taken away by the Myanmar regime in 1982, he said these people could not go to schools for 35 years and neither could they go to any hospital.
“We have no issue with Myanmar bilaterally. The only issue we had with Myanmar in the past was demarcation of the maritime boundary which we had also resolved through a UN arbitration,” the High Commissioner said.
“So it is for Myanmar to recognise their own citizens and settle the matter.”
Ali also referred to the five-point plan presented by Bangladesh Prime Sheikh Hasina in the UN General Assembly last month to resolve the issue:
1. Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state immediately and forever;
2. The UN Secretary General should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar;
3. All civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity must be protected in Myanmar and for that safe zones can be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision;
4. Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar; and
5. The recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission should be immediately implemented unconditionally.
The Bangladeshi envoy also said that the Rohingya issue would come up for discussion during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh later this month for the Joint Consultative Committee meeting.