Cosmos Dialogue: World must remain unflagging in its efforts to address Rohingya crisis

Courier Report
Thursday, October 19th, 2017


Dhaka now in offensive diplomacy, not defensive: FS


Though Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to form a working group to start repatriation process of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh there are some issues that require wider discussions. The root cause of the problem lies with Myanmar and the solution to the crisis also lies there.


It will be difficult to find a meaningful and lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis without involvement and monitoring by the international community especially without UN Security Council given the previous experience with Myanmar.


Cosmos Foundation arranged a dialogue titled ‘Domestic, Regional and International Dimensions of the Rohingya Issue: Dealing with a Man-made Crisis’ in a city hotel on Saturday that highlighted the issue and offer some solutions to the crisis.


We say the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who have fled their homeland must be put in place.


The Myanmar government must intensify efforts to ensure full, safe and unconditional access to Rakhine State for humanitarian assistance without delay.


The authorities in Myanmar need to take forward swiftly full implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission, including citizenship for the Rohingya population.

Those most closely involved – and the wider international community – must remain unflagging in their efforts to address this crisis and the human suffering it is inflicting.


Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the Rohingya crisis might become a security issue in the region and Bangladesh is now in offensive mood diplomatically engaging internationally to find a peaceful solution to the problem as early as possible.


“We’ll continue to build pressure (on Myanmar). We’re going everywhere. We’re going to all countries (you mentioned),” he stated at the dialogue on Rohingya issue mentioning that Bangladesh is no way in defensive mood diplomatically.


The Foreign Secretary said Bangladesh is doing whatever is possible to find a solution to the crisis which lies within Myanmar.


“We’ve a very articulated policy,” Foreign Secretary Haque said adding that they are intensifying diplomatic efforts through multilateral and international forums and international bodies.


The Foreign Secretary said the Rohingya issue is a multidimensional and multilayered one having over five dimensions.


Explaining how Rohingya issue might become a security issue, Haque said, “It was basically a humanitarian movement. Subsequently, it became a border issue and it might become a security issue.”


“We aren’t denying there’s no potential to become a security issue,” he emphasised.


The Foreign Secretary said Bangladesh is looking into all the options to find the solution but not through any military means. “We aren’t looking at that opinion. We think through diplomatic efforts we can find a long-term solution,” he said.


The Foreign Secretary said the future will do justice what they are doing today. “This is a critical issue we’re handling. Our efforts will lead to a peaceful solution when Rohingyas can go back to their home.”

Earlier, other speakers laid emphasis on intensifying diplomatic efforts through multilateral and international forums to end the crisis.


They sought steps to set up a separate desk at the Foreign Ministry to deal with Russia, China and India on Rohingya issue.


A foreign ministry official said Bangladesh is soon sending a special envoy to China and Russia to further discuss the Rohingya issue.


A panel of experts, including CR Abrar of Dhaka University, Major General (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, Shahedul Anam Khan of The Daily Star and former IOM official Asif Munier took part in the dialogue.


The workshop was chaired by Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, a former foreign affairs adviser to the caretaker government and principal research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in Singapore. Cosmos Foundation chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered welcome speech.


Smarter Dealing Needed


CR Abrar said, “We’ve to be really smart in dealing with it (Rohingya issue).”


Talking about international community’s role, he said the world has come a long way and “If we fail to act, it’s a shame on us. It’s a collective shame. Not for Bangladesh alone but a shame for entire world.”


The international affairs expert laid emphasis on thinking well about relocation plan of Rohingyas to an Island.


He laid emphasis on evaluating whether the island is habitable at all.

Munirurzzaman said Bangladesh has to be extremely smart to deal with matter and play better game as other players are smarter than us and better players.


He also highlighted security concerns that might emerge over the Rohingya issue, including regional and domestic concerns.


Iftekhar Chowdhury said Bangladesh must act for genuine change in Myanmar unitedly and resolutely.


“We must act,” he said citing Tagore’s poem – “If you wish to cross the sea it will not do if simply scared at waters.”


Iftekhar Chowdhury said Bangladesh should be prepared for any such eventuality knowing Myanmar’s mindset even Bangladesh does not seek out conflict with Myanmar.


Terming the current situation one of the greatest man-made human tragedies, he said, “Those who are still providing arms to Myanmar must know they’re doing great disservice to regional and global stability.”


Enayetullah Khan said Rohingyas must return to their homeland through an effective mechanism as soon as possible. “This is a crisis that needs to be resolved the soonest.”


Lt Gen (retd) ATM Zahirul Alam, former Ambassadors Prof Selina Mohsin and Abdul Momen Chowdhury, AK Khan Foundation Trustee Secretary Salahuddin Kasem Khan, and Prof Dr M Faizul Islam Chowdhury, among others, spoke at the dialogue attended by current and former diplomats, academicians and analysts.


The violence and human rights violations that have driven this exodus are not acceptable and must end immediately and the protection of all civilians without discrimination, as well as the full observation of human rights law, must be assured.

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