Published:  12:52 AM, 05 November 2019

Rohingya crisis: Bangladesh's diplomatic debacle


Following the killing of 12 Myanmar security personnel by the Rohingya rebels on August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military launched the "cleansing operations" against the Rohingyas. Since then during this current influx, 700,000 Rohingyas have fled the violence in their home Rakhine, Myanmar. This is not a new phenomenon. Rohingyas have been fleeing violence in Myanmar since 1973. In the years of 1973, 1978, 1990, 1996, and 2012 many Rohingyas have fled the violence and riot and took shelter in Bangladesh.

After this current influx, a bilateral agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar Government to repatriate the Rohingya population in November 2017 but there has been no progress since today. There were three attempts to repatriate them but considering the current security situation in Rakhine and the citizenship status of the Rohingya population in Myanmar all the attempts were doomed to fail.

The United Nations have confessed that the international community and the international organizations have failed to put pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingya. It is a collective failure. It is a complicated crisis and the solution to this crisis lies in the hands of Myanmar.

Bangladesh is currently hosting 1.1 million Rohingya Refugees and if they cannot go back to their home country with safety and security then it has the potential to destabilize not only Bangladesh but also the region and beyond. Bangladesh has been urging the international community's to end the crisis.

September this year a resolution titled "Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar" was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). In this resolution, the international community expressed serious concern at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

It also clarified that the level of violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, forced labor, displacement of more than a million Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh, and sexual and gender-based violence against women and children. Now they urge Myanmar to take concrete steps towards the creation of an environment conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of the forcibly displaced Rohingya refugees residing in Bangladesh.

The resolution got 37 votes in favor, two against, and seven abstentions among the 47-member of the UNHCR and was finally adopted. Interestingly China and the Philippines voted against the resolution. And abstentions were India, Nepal, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, Angola, and Cameroon.

This is an interesting turn of events. Because China, India, and Japan are particularly involved in the process of Rohingya. Still, they don't support the resolution at the UNHCR. Dhaka has always claimed that these countries are always with Bangladesh at least on the Rohingya issue. And we want to say the lack of China, India, and Japan's support is alarming and now it is time to reconsider the diplomatic strategy of Dhaka towards Beijing, New Delhi, and Tokyo.

The relation among the leaders of Bangladesh and India goes beyond the strategic partnership. Since the current political party, the Awami League took power in 2009 the relationship between these two countries has never been better. There have been numerous engagements and a joint project between the two countries. However, in the case of Rohingya repatriation, Bangladesh has failed to secure the vote from India. Now it is safe to say that Dhaka should play its cards wisely to gain support from New Delhi on the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh has a strategic partnership with China. Then why did Bangladesh's diplomats have failed to secure the vote from China? We need to remember that, China is also loyal and committed in attitude ally of Myanmar is officially involved with the repatriation process of Rohingya Refugees. Now we think it is high time to use a strong strategic tool to obtain support from Beijing for the Rohingya cause.

Japan has provided a significant amount of development in Bangladesh. In addition, this country is the largest development partner and has a numerous deal of economic attentions in Bangladesh. Tokyo's relentless support to help Rohingya to go back to Myanmar is noticeable, but still, Dhaka has failed to secure a vote from Tokyo for Rohingyas. However, Japan's abstention on the resolution at UNHCR is not a good sign.

Now there can be two options we can think of, one is, 'ideally' those countries are verbally supporting the cause but in 'reality', they are not standing by the Rohingya crisis. Or the second option we can think of is, Bangladeshi diplomacy has not performed enough to gain the support of the strategic partners and the neighbors.

We think even if the first option is true still Bangladesh needs to think again about the diplomatic strategy they are using. But in any case, if we don't get the 'real' support from those countries then the crisis may linger and might bring devasting effects on Bangladesh and overall South Asia.


The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Comilla
University, Bangladesh

----Krishna Kumar Saha

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