The need to remain engaged

AKM Moinuddin
Thursday, October 12th, 2017

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam explaining Bangladesh position over Rohingya issue


International peace and security, these days, is facing many new and multidimensional challenges. In addition to poverty and conflicts, other emerging global issues such as climate change and natural disasters, outbreaks of new diseases, discrimination and persecutions, displacements – all these are posing new threats to the humanity.


Like other parts of the world, Bangladesh is also facing some challenges. The country is currently facing a severe crisis due to influx of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. As August 25, over 520000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh to flee ethnic cleansing in their own country.


The international organizations are working with the Bangladesh authorities on a transit centre to prepare for a potential refugee influx in the coming days. More than 12,000 Rohingyas crossed by land into south-eastern Bangladesh through several points on October 9.


Despite our space and resource constraint, the government says, we have given them shelter solely on humanitarian consideration. In fact even before the current influx began, we had been hosting nearly 400,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar for three decades. The protracted presence of these forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in our country is creating multidimensional problem for us.


Bangladesh has proposed a joint verification instead of the unilateral one placed by Myanmar to determine the qualification of repatriation of Rohingyas in a credible manner.


“We’ve proposed a joint verification against Myanmar’s own verification proposal to determine qualification required for repatriation,” said Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali.


Bangladesh also proposed international engagement and involvement of UN agencies like IOM and UNHCR at all stages of repatriation process. Bangladesh has laid emphasis on the repatriation of all the Rohingyas taken shelter in Bangladesh since the beginning.


Earlier, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to form a joint working group to start the repatriation process the terms and reference of which will be set through discussions.


The proposal to take back Rohingyas partially might be a Myanmar’s strategy to lessen international concern and pressure on Myanmar.


Bangladesh Foreign Minister says Myanmar may downsize the number of valid Rohingyas for repatriation through its own verification process and delay the implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations through various excuses.


“Repatriation is a complex and long-term process. It’ll be difficult to convince Myanmar in long-term repatriation process with international monitoring and cooperation,” Minister Ali said.


We understand Bangladesh wants a peaceful solution to the crisis and it has been trying to resolve the issue through multilateral, regional and bilateral means. Bangladesh has international supports in its diplomatic efforts to that end.


Myanmar will have to address the root cause by returning Rohingyas’ citizenship and basic rights.


Our Foreign Minister, on October 10 said, it seems Myanmar won’t take initiatives to resolve the root cause of Rohingya crisis if the international community doesn’t put pressure on it.


Unrealistic Approach


Earlier, Bangladesh has differed with Myanmar over return of Myanmar nationals to their homeland from Bangladesh on the basis of 1992 Joint Statement saying the situation of 1992 and current situation is ‘entirely different’.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali conveyed it to diplomats stationed in Dhaka while briefing them at state guesthouse Padma on Monday afternoon.


He referred to the recent visit of Myanmar’s Union Minister at the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe to Dhaka on October 2 at his invitation.


The Union Minister has expressed Myanmar’s willingness to take back the ‘displaced residents’ of Myanmar and proposed to follow the principle and criteria agreed upon in the 1992 Joint Statement.


Bangladesh has welcomed the visit of Union Minister and his willingness to work together for return of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.


However, with regard to the principles and criteria of return under the 1992 Joint Statement, Minister Ali highlighted that the situation of 1992 and current situation is entirely different.


Around half of the Muslim villages in the Northern Rakhine State have been burned down and the burning is still going on. So, identification of Rohingyas based on their residences in Rakhine won’t be realistic.


Bangladesh, therefore, proposed and handed over a new arrangement to the visiting Minister outlining the principles and criteria for repatriation.


UNSC resolution not only solution


State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has said a resolution from the UN Security Council is not the only solution to the Rohingya crisis though Bangladesh does not want to say that there will be no resolution.


“Security Council is important but Security Council resolution is not the only solution,” he said while closing a discussion on Rohingya crisis in the city on October 10.


The State Minister said three major powers – the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) – which are strongly with Bangladesh will help the country find a solution to Rohingya crisis at the earliest.


It is true that the USA, the UK and the EU gave Myanmar a confidence during their transformation to democracy. These three parties are agreed with our position, and they understand and know well about the current perspective. This shift generates hopes.

3rd Country Settlement


Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque has said Bangladesh is almost sure there will be no third country settlement and the only solution is to send them back to Myanmar. The Foreign Ministry is working with 25 countries simultaneously to that end.


The Foreign Secretary criticised the civil society members saying they are not seen on the streets but only in TV talk shows.


He urged all not to be worried over the registration process of Rohingyas saying international organisations are engaged in the process, and there is no scope for Myanmar to deny that they are from Myanmar.


The Foreign Secretary said it is a multidimensional, multilayer and complex issue. “The entire government is working. This issue was discussed in the Cabinet twice.”


No Suicidal Step


Bangladesh has made it clear that it will not take any ‘suicidal’ decision like getting involved in any war with Myanmar as it wants a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis through diplomatic efforts.


“Why should we get involved in war? We won’t do that. Why should we destroy our development? We want peace,” said the Foreign Minister.


We understand Bangladesh is now a role model of development for many countries, including some developed ones, in the world.


We have seen the situation in Iraq, Syria and Yemen which witnessed massive destruction of societies, civilization, cultures and everything because of wars.


Pointing finger at critics, the Foreign Minister reiterated that they are not going to fight with Myanmar. “Why should we go to that direction? Why should we commit suicide? We won’t take any suicidal step.”


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made Bangladesh’s position clear while delivering her speech at the 72nd Session of the UNGA. She says, “I would like to say, we do not want war. We want peace. We want people’s wellbeing – not destruction of humanity. We want sustainable development. Let this be our collective goal.” We do not want to see any deviation from that position even Myanmar continues to provoke us. At the same time, we need to remain engaged internationally.

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