Does Bangladesh enjoy Indian support in resolving Rohingya refugee crisis?

Dr. Abul Quashem Joarder

While Bangladesh is struggling with the 1.1 million Rohingya refugee crisis, its friendly neighbor India is looking for getting benefit from Myanmar’s energy sector. Sanket Sudhir Kulkarni, fellow at Observer Research Foundation’s Mumbai Center did not hide this fact in his research-oriented article where he wrote, “Myanmar is reportedly planning to open fresh bids for its oil and gas blocks to international companies. In the last few years, the Myanmar government has taken concrete steps to restructure its energy sector and has identified natural gas as an important component of its energy master plan.

“This is a welcome development for India, which has substantial experience of operating in Myanmar’s energy sector. Besides, both India and Myanmar are keen to expand the scope of cooperation in the realm of energy sector. Earlier, though India could not secure the deal to build a gas pipeline from Myanmar to India’s eastern region, India has continued to remain engaged with the energy sector of its eastern neighbour. For instance, India has positioned itself as a key stakeholder in the China-Myanmar gas pipeline.”

This particular information clearly proves, India will not feel inclined in exerting any pressure on Myanmar in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis. To them, economic interest or more precisely India’s national interest would be getting priority than to Bangladesh’s interests. Knowing full well that India will not get involved into Rohingya issue, prominent English daily in India, The Hindu published an op-ed titled ‘Myanmar-Bangladesh spat has China smiling’.

Detailing various aspects of Indo-Bangladesh relations and China’s role in the region, author of this op-ed, G Parthasarathy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan wrote, “Despite prolonged negotiations and promises of aid for refugee resettlement from India, China and Japan, there are just not adequate facilities for the displaced and traumatised refugees to return. Relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar have worsened, with Myanmar alleging that Rohingya refugees are being armed in Bangladesh, amidst angry denials by Bangladesh.

“These developments are occurring when China is blatantly interfering in Myanmar’s internal affairs, while ostensibly professing to promote contacts between the Myanmar government and armed insurgent groups, operating across the China-Myanmar border. There are today 25 armed insurgent groups in Myanmar, with 15 actively resorting to armed insurgency.

“The most powerful of these groups, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), operates from China, across the Shan State, in western Myanmar. India’s concerns, however, arise from the fact that the UWSA is now allied to a “Northern Alliance,” comprising armed groups linked to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA operates from the Kachin State, bordering Arunachal Pradesh. It has links with the Rohingya-dominated Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, bordering India.

“Moreover, members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), involved in armed insurgency in Manipur and Nagaland, also routinely move across the Myanmar-China border.

“Growing Chinese influence in Kachin State, which borders Arunachal Pradesh, undermines Myanmar’s sovereignty. It also adversely affects India’s security interests. The ‘United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia’ (UNLFW) is a front of armed Indian separatist groups, comprising the United Liberation Front of Assam, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. It operates out of Myanmar’s Kachin State.

“Its members and leaders like ULFA’s Paresh Barua reside near the border town of Ruili, in China’s Yunnan Province, with total freedom to enter and leave China’s Yunnan Province. The UNLFW was responsible for the ambush of 18 Indian soldiers in Manipur in one of the deadliest attacks against Indian security forces for decades. The UNFLW also operates out of Myanmar’s Sagaing Division bordering Manipur.”

Mr. Parthasarathy has suggested Indian intervention into the Rohingya refugee crisis in finding a solution to it. But at the same time, he has opined of Indo-Japanese initiatives “to persuade Aung San Suu Kyi and the military in Myanmar and Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh, to amicably settle the problem of repatriation and resettlement of refugees”.

While the former Indian diplomat has suggested India’s role in resolving the Rohingya crisis, instead of assisting Bangladesh, India itself has started pushing Rohingya refugees inside Bangladesh. On the other hand, why Mr. Parthasarathy advocates “pursuing” Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in “amicably” settling the problem? The entire world is aware of Sheikh Hasina’s sincere efforts in resolving Rohingya crisis. Myanmar has been repeatedly making false promises to Bangladesh, which now is evidently proved to be its part of deception tactics. Myanmar might not have exhibited such audacity unless it had support from China and India. Reality is, Bangladesh does not have an international ally in resolving the existing Rohingya crisis.

While China and India are in fact competing in getting economic gain from Myanmar by granting clemency to its notoriety on Rohingyas, there is no reason for Bangladesh to expect anything positive from either of them and even from Japan in putting pressure on Myanmar in immediate solution to the refugee crisis. Instead, Bangladesh needs to immediately approach the Western nations, more precisely the United States in convincing Washington in exerting pressure on Myanmar in immediately resolving the crisis and taking back all the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh without further delay.

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