Seeking a solution to the Rohingya crisis, Bangladesh has called for solidarity and cooperation with each other to achieve peace and security in Asia, making it a harmonious region of lasting peace and common prosperity.
"We believe that peace and security in Asia can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation, where all states coexist peacefully and their people live in peace, freedom and prosperity," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Thursday.
Dr Momen made the call while delivering his statement at the Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). The Foreign Ministers of CICA Member States and Observer States took part in it.
He said the Asian countries should carry forward the solidarity and cooperative spirit of helping each other in difficult times, promote the CICA agenda, enhance political and security dialogues and cooperation, and strengthen mutual trust.
"In this confidence-building conference of CICA, you’ll agree with me that it’s time for Myanmar to interact with their displaced people for confidence-building measures for a meaningful and durable solution," Dr Momen said.
The Foreign Minister said Myanmar’s stability and economic growth could be negatively affected if Rohingya problem is not resolved. "This problem has been created by Myanmar and solution also lies with Myanmar."
Despite the threat to Bangladesh economy, ecology, and overall societal impact, the country gave shelter, on a humanitarian ground, to nearly 1.1 million persecuted people fleeing massacre in Myanmar, their homeland.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh is keen on solving the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit.
"Myanmar is our friendly country and, therefore, Bangladesh signed three instruments with Myanmar for repatriation. Myanmar agreed to take them back after verification," said the Foreign Minister.
Myanmar also agreed to create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation and they agreed to ensure safety and security of the displaced people.
"But, unfortunately till today, no one went back and instead of creating a conducive environment, fighting and shelling are going on in the Rakhine state," said Dr Momen.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh's fear is that, if this problem persists, it may lead to pockets of radicalism and since terrorists have no borders, no faith, there is a high possibility of creation of uncertainty in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region.
Dr Momen said not a single Rohingya went back to Myanmar for of lack of confidence building and trust deficit between the persecuted Rohingya and the Myanmar government.
"To improve confidence building, we suggested many options to Myanmar, for example, ’go and visit’, Myanmar would allow Rohingya leaders to visit Rakhine province or allowing non-military civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries like ASEAN+, or China, Russia or India or any country of their choice so that Rohingya feel assured of their safety and security," he said.
Alternately, Bangladesh requested Myanmar officials to come and talk to their displaced Rohingya for confidence building, unfortunately Myanmar is yet to respond to its suggestions.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh is one of only two Asian economies to register positive growth in 2020, despite a global recession that is shaping up to be historic in scale.
He said the economy faced tremendous challenges between April and June this year and the worst has passed them.
From a GDP growth perspective, the second quarter of the year was probably the worst for all countries.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forecast that the economy would grow between 1.6 percent and 3.8 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 for the pandemic.
Fortunately, Dr Momen said, Bangladesh’s economy grew 5.24 percent in the fiscal year that concluded on June 30.
The Foreign Minister said in Bangladesh, under the dynamic and determined leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, took full preventive measures from the very early stage of the pandemic.
She announced the largest ever financial and social safety assistance package in Bangladesh’s history covering our industrial workers, agriculture sector as well as frontline key workers including doctors, nurses, health professionals, law enforcement agencies and field-level people who are risking their lives to fight the pandemic.
"This is not only for maintaining our own macroeconomic stability but also that the global supply chain does not break down," Dr Momen said.
The Foreign Minister said the Year 2020 marks the Birth Centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bangali of all times.
"It’s a difficult year for all of us. But the entire humanity has come under the same umbrella in the fight against an invisible enemy Covid-19 that defies frontiers. The wave of Covid-19 has also affected Bangladesh like all other countries of the world," he said.
Dr Momen thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking timely actions. "We’ve successfully managed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 infection and the fatality rate," he said.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh was concerned that the Covid-19 might badly affect 1.1 million Rohingyas, the displaced people of Myanmar that live in a highly congested area inside Bangladesh. "Fortunately, minimal got affected due to multiple targeted initiatives."
The Foreign Minister said this pandemic proves that it is neither stockpiles of weapons nor building up of walls can save human life. “So, it’s time to direct resources to health and social sectors.”
The Covid-19 came with its multifaceted impacts on lives, including severe disruptions to societies and economies. "The crisis, however, has manifested devastating but differentiated impacts on segments of the population, as it would hit hardest the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups," he said.
The virtual meeting was chaired by Mukhtar Tleuberdi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The ministerial meeting was held mainly in order to proceed with the assumption of CICA Chairmanship by the Republic of Kazakhstan from the Republic of Tajikistan which assumed the responsibility of CICA Chairmanship on September 24, 2018 for the period of 2018-2020.
The Director General (Regional Organisations) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka facilitated the participation of the Foreign Minister in the meeting virtually hosted by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the current and new Chair of the CICA.