Millennium Post

Hasina proposes, Suu Kyi disposes

Hasina proposes, Suu Kyi disposes

While Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take a united stand to resolve the Rohingya crisis with her set of proposals, Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi argued that the world should recognise that Myanmar's nascent democracy should be given some leeway when events like the Rohingya refugee problem erupt. Criticising Myanmar for labelling Rohingya as 'illegal migrants' and 'Bengalis from Bangladesh' despite their long history of inhabitancies in Rakhine, Hasina emphasised on creating 'safe zones' in Myanmar for the protection of civilians and asked for an immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations made by the Kofi Annan Commission. But, the erstwhile champion of civil liberties Suu Kyi doesn't appear feared from any global scrutiny as she said that more than half of Rohingya villages were not affected by the violence and also invited the foreign observers to find the intensity of fraternity in those areas. Interestingly, both the leaders want to script the crisis in their own handwriting. While Hasina appears banking on the much-hyped doctrine of 'ethnic cleansing' given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein – who recently gave statement criticising Myanmar for its systemic persecution of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya, Kyi has to cater to her chauvinistic Burmese voters and the concerns of the country's military, still the most powerful force in Myanmar.

For this – while Dhaka has started accusing Naypyidaw of intentionally trapping Rahingyas in a cycle of abuse and derivation for decades, the Myanmar has defended the Myanmar security forces' treatment of the Rohingya, blaming the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for a huge iceberg of misinformation. It is really surprising that Hasina – who talks of the history of Rohingyas in Myanmar – forgets that Rohingyas are believed to be the descendants of Arab and Persian traders with ethnic and linguistic ties to Bengal are always regarded as illegal Bengali immigrants from Bangladesh. However, there is no doubt that under a law enacted in 1982, the Rohingya were denied citizenship and were the frequent targets of military crackdowns and ethnic-cleansing campaigns conducted by both Myanmar security forces and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups, with executions, torture, and detentions commonplace. And, without question, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner is in a difficult position given worries about Islamic terrorism, her limited ability to push back against the military, the fragile state of democracy in Myanmar and the current international outrage about the plight of the Rohingya. One must not forget that like any major conflict that involves ethnic, racial and religious factors and actors, the Rohingya issue is an age-old, deep-rooted and violence-prone problem that she cannot single-handedly and quickly resolve. Even the geopolitics appears compounding Myanmar's troubles as it is sandwiched between two Asian giants, China to its north and northeast and India to its west, while also sharing borders with Laos and Bangladesh.

For decades, China has enjoyed close economic, political and military relations with Myanmar, to such an extent that the Myanmar authorities became concerned that their country had become a client state of Beijing. This was one factor behind Myanmar's 2010-15 implementations of political reforms and decision to open to the world. Following up on this move, India, the US, Japan, the European Union and others have re-established ties and sought influence with Myanmar given its strategic geography and economic promise given its considerable natural resources and tourism potential. Time has come for all these nations to understand after spending considerable blood and treasure fighting Islamist terror over the past 16 years, they must not allow for the creation of a new Southeast Asian front in the 'war on terror. Continued neglect of the Rohingya Muslims may further encourage regional Islamist groups and ISIS to recruit from their families, establish cells and mobilise the cause of terror in Rakhine state. Myanmar's recent political and economic reforms present opportunities for its place on the world stage as well as challenges to its internal divisions. There is arguably no better time for India and other countries to use the bargaining chips of power, prestige and wealth to secure improvements to the condition of the Rohingya. Making good on this responsibility is a worthy venture coherent with Indian values in this region and India will continue to have vital prestige for generations to come.

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