Millennium Post

Rohingyas still displaced

Amid a worsening crisis involving Rohingyas in Myanmar's Rakhine province, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his ongoing three-day visit to Myanmar beginning Wednesday, expressed India's commitment towards progressing the long-running Indian infrastructure projects in the country. Although Myanmar's state counselor and foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi, is under immense international pressure to control the alleged human rights violations against the Muslim Rohingyas in the Buddhist dominated nation, India has expressed its firm stand against Rohingyas stating that they would be deported since they have been living illegally in the country. In August, the Ministry of Home Affairs had sent a letter to all state governments asking them to identify and deport all illegal immigrants, including the Rohingya refugees. The letter said that the refugees were a potential security threat and an additional burden on available resources. The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, claimed that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants and thus needed to be deported as per the law. "I want to tell the international organisations, without taking cognizance of the Rohingyas as registered, that whether they are registered under the United Nations Human Rights Commission or not, they are illegal immigrants in India," he said. On the other hand, the Supreme Court of India is expected to hear a plea on September 11, seeking a direction to the Central government against deporting about 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees back to Myanmar. The petition, filed by two Rohingya Muslims, said that they were facing persecution in Myanmar and sending them back would be an act in violation of various international conventions. On August 18, India's National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the Home Affairs Ministry over its decision. The Commission had said that as per the Constitution of India, the Right to Life and Personal Liberty applies to all – irrespective of their citizenship. A day earlier, the Human Rights Watch had urged New Delhi to 'abide by its international legal obligations' without forcibly deporting the Rohingyas. However, apart from where India would deport them — neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh wants them — India seems to have given a miss to the standing idea of 'nonrefoulement' – a jus cogens (peremptory norm) of international law – which forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on 'race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion'. Unlike political asylum, which applies to those who can prove a well-grounded fear of persecution based on a certain category of persons, nonrefoulement refers to the generic repatriation of people, including refugees into war zones and other disaster locales. Though the daily rate of refugees entering Bangladesh continues to rise as the satellite images still show Rohingya villages burning in flames, Modi is unlikely to be litigious in his appraisal of the crisis during this bilateral state visit – taking place after the ASEAN summit in 2014. India seeks to boost economic ties with resource-rich Myanmar, also sharing a 1,600-km border with India, to counter the dragon's influence there and step up crucial connectivity with a country considered to be the gateway to Southeast Asia. The Indo-Myanmar trade has grown to around 2.2 billion USD. And, the rise in violence following a military counter-offensive against insurgents killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of nearly 90,000 villagers to Bangladesh since August 25. This could be a very vexing and complex issue for the development of a transport corridor that begins in Rakhine with the Indian-built port of Sittwe. In such conditions, Modi has no option other than to pass the bucks on Myanmar as the Rakhine violence has regional implications, which also found mention in his address. Under the existing International Laws – India is once again all set to bear the burden of Rakhine's 'unwanted' war refugees – similar to what has been witnessed in the past with Bangladeshis and Afghans.

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