Published:  12:58 AM, 13 September 2017

Taking the Rohingya issue to the UN

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the Jatiyo Sangsad on Monday that the government would take the Rohingya issue to the United Nations. Clearly, the Prime Minister intends to raise the issue during her visit to New York for the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly. One wishes the Myanmar leadership had not brought the situation to such a pass and that it had engaged in talks with Bangladesh to resolve the issue.

But that hope has been belied and, as Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali noted in his interaction the other day with foreign envoys based in Dhaka, the authorities in Naypitaw have not responded at all to Dhaka's overtures on the issue. Such an attitude flies in the face of diplomatic norms, especially when Myanmar remains aware of the grave crisis its military operations against the Rohingyas have been pushing Bangladesh into. As we write, as many as 370,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh. And there is no guarantee that more will not be coming in the next few days.

The need now is for intense diplomatic activity on Bangladesh's part, especially in relation to those countries which happen to be neighbours of Bangladesh and Myanmar. In light of the Prime Minister's statement, contacts in a concerted manner should be opened and maintained with Russia, China, India, Britain, the European Union, Canada and the United States on the issue.

It is particularly with Moscow, Beijing and Delhi that we need to re-engineer our diplomacy on the Rohingya crisis, given that these countries have so far made no statements that could compel Naypitaw into realizing the grave nature of the crisis it has caused. On top of that, the Myanmar leadership is reportedly busy trying to persuade Russia and China to block any move to censure it at the United Nations. It is a curious situation altogether. When even UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his concerns on the plight of the Rohingyas, Myanmar expects its friends to save it from embarrassment in the world body. China and Russia should not ignore the tragedy that has befallen the Rohingyas.

Sheikh Hasina, during her visit to New York, should meet as many global leaders as she can and focus on the damage the Rohingya issue is doing not only to Bangladesh's economy but to the security of the region as a whole. There are indeed elements which will try to derive advantages from the crisis, the advantages being opportunities for the Islamist militants the Bangladesh authorities have been waging war against for the past year.

Unless the Myanmar authorities call a halt to their operations against the Rohingyas, it may well face a condition where religious militancy will not only become a recurrent threat to it but also to Bangladesh. It is points such as these that the Bangladesh leader should be putting across to the global community at the United Nations.

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