The Rohingya issue seems to be throat thorns in Bangladesh's foreign policy. The direct impact of the devastated Rakhine in August 2017 fell on Bangladesh. The victims of the Rohingya people were floating in the Naf River to get into the Bangladesh border. Their innumerable boats began to anchor on the border of Bangladesh with the desire for life. The heat of those scorching nights in Rakhine shook the whole world. The Myanmar government set a new precedent of genocide in the modern world by invading village after village. The world leadership calls on the neighboring countries to stand by the oppressed in this tragic moment of humanity. With a mixture of sympathy and emotion, Bangladesh also became busy with rules to carry the 1 million people of the Muslim community on its shoulders. In the last 4 years, a lot of water has formed along the Naf river and mud has accumulated in the lower reaches of the river. However, the fate of the Rohingyas has not changed. Bangladesh has not been able to take any effective steps for the return of Rohingya. The world has not been able to do anything as expected for the Rohingyas, who are extremely persecuted, oppressed, upset, and displaced from their homeland. However, the Rohingyas have become refugees in Bangladesh and are humiliating Bangladesh in terms of conditions. Bangladesh also has to pay a price for determining its future through financial, natural and social degradation.
The problem is Rakhine. South and Southeast Asian countries are suffering the consequences of Myanmar's internal communal conflict. The Rohingya issue has become an arena of strength for the two hostile countries, India and China. But surprisingly, both countries are busy flattering Myanmar. To solve any international problem, every country wants to maintain a neutral position of regional and global leadership and determine justice. Bangladesh has been expecting the same. But Bangladesh has realized that global political dynamics are not determined by expectations. That is why even though the Rohingya issue has been raised by the UN, the Rohingya problem is not unraveling. Bangladesh's foreign policy, which is balanced in regional politics, has also faced big questions. The foreign minister says the country's foreign policy is moving in the right direction. But in the last 4 years, the country has not been able to reach a fruitful solution with the return of Rohingya. Experts say the post-2017 Rohingya issue was globally discussed and criticized. In this context, Myanmar was agreed to get returned Rohingyas step by step with a long process. Although it was plagued by various conditions, it highlighted the positive aspects of the country's foreign policy.
On February 1, 2021, the country's army captured Aung San Suu Kyi through a military coup. At the same time, they have held the throats of democracy before germinating. Tatmadaw chief Min Aung Hlaing sits at the top of power, who is carrying the stigma of killing the Rohingya. Political analysts believe that Min Aung Hlaing staged a military coup to escape his misdeeds. And if this is the case then Bangladesh will have to go through the pressure of understanding Rohingya for a long time. Although Myanmar's military-backed government has said its foreign policy will continue as before, there is little hope for neighboring countries. Myanmar's military government is now busy suppressing the internal insurgency. According to Myanmar, Myanmar's 1982 citizenship law allows for the return of those who are accepted among the displaced. But this law of 1982 is considered as a law to deprive the Rohingyas of their rights. Rohingyas have been talking about amending the law from the beginning. When Myanmar adopted Rohingyas under the 1982 Citizenship Act, the return of many Rohingyas became uncertain.
The situation in Rakhine is not good. The Arakan Army has declared rebellion against the leadership of the Myanmar army. The attitude of the Arakan Army towards the return of the Rohingya in this volatile situation is also noteworthy. However, no matter how heated domestic politics may be in Myanmar, the two biggest influencers in solving the Rohingya problem are China and India. Bangladesh has good relations with the two countries. But both countries are talking on behalf of Myanmar on the Rohingya issue. This is because of the regional and geographical location of Myanmar. But Bangladesh is also considered equally important. In this situation, the question has arisen, is Bangladesh lagging behind Myanmar in terms of diplomatic capacity?
When the Rohingya issue was presented to the UN in 2019, Bangladesh's ally India did not stand by but took a neutral stance. China has publicly responded in favor of Myanmar. This made Bangladesh's position in South Asian politics clear. Responding to the call of humanity, Bangladesh did not respond well to the test of the friendship of friendly countries. The huge business partnership of millions of dollars has grown bigger than the interests of friendship. Added to this is the competitive pressure of China and India to invest in infrastructure development. As a result, Myanmar's military coup of the army has got a kind of legitimacy.
Political analysts say the military coup in Myanmar and the current situation in Afghanistan are diverting the world's attention from the Rohingya issue. In the same way, the attention of the world will be affected in different ways in the future as well. In this situation, the foreign policy of Bangladesh has to pass a difficult test. Myanmar's delay in taking back the Rohingya must be addressed with global support. Bangladesh needs to understand that the genocide perpetrated by the junta of Myanmar in 2017 was a blueprint to wipe out a nation in a well-planned manner. Their political interests were behind this, as well as the goal of gaining cheap public support for the large anti-Rohingya population. Democrat leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi have also floated in that stream.
So we have no choice but to plan for the return of the Rohingya. It is also very important to take immediate action on the Rohingya issue to maintain internal peace and order in Bangladesh. The provision of such a large number of refugees with a populous country and a small size is certainly the best example of generosity and humanity. But we have to keep in mind that it does not destroy the internal order of the country. The sooner the Rohingyas return home safely, the better for the country.
Md Akij Mahmud is a Student of Department of history, University of Chittagong