Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) President Maj Gen (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman has sought a more proactive role from India in resolving the Rohingya crisis.
“We need a more proactive role from India in solving the Rohingya crisis,” he said while speaking at a symposium titled ‘Bangladesh-India Relations: Prognosis for the Future’ which premiered on Facebook on Thursday night.
Renowned scholar-diplomat and adviser on foreign affairs to the last caretaker government Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury chaired the event hosted by the Cosmos Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group.
Chairman of the Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan delivered the opening remarks at the event.
In reply, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami, who delivered the keynote speech, said they fully support the idea of “safe, sustainable and expedited” return of the displaced people back to Myanmar. “I can’t see how it can be doubted in any way.”
He said the presence of Rohingyas is not in Bangladesh’s interest, not in the region's interest, and certainly it is not in India’s interest. “The point is that they need to go back.”
However, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty said India, which shares a border with Bangladesh and Myanmar, cannot fully support Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue due to its internal problem and national interests.
“On Myanmar, my point is that India’s ambivalence should be understood in the context of India’s national inserts. We can’t swing into absolute support and favour for Bangladesh,” he said.
Pinak said he will not get into details but the people who know will understand the situation. “We’ve an insurgency problem in the northeast and we’ve our own problems and difficulties in dealing with Myanmarees on the Rohingya issue,” he said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017. On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
Bangladesh says the Rohingyas do not trust their government, and Bangladesh gave a number of proposals to build trust among them.
Bangladesh is trying in multiple ways -- bilaterally, multilaterally, tri-laterally and through the judicial system -- to find a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh proposed deployment of nonmilitary civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries -- Japan, China, Russia, India and Asean countries.
During her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested India, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, to play a “strong role” in the early repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.
The two leaders reiterated the importance of safe, speedy and sustainable return of Rohingyas to their homeland for the greater security of the region.
Modi expressed appreciation at the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
On border killing, Doraiswami said he repeatedly said this is a complex phenomenon that requires a far greater effort, including by district governance on both sides and by border guards on both sides.
He said people do need to recognise that a fair number of the people who get killed on the border, most unfortunately, are also Indian people on the Indian side of the border.
Former High Commissioner Pinak said border killing is an issue of joint responsibility. “Alleging and pointing fingers at India all the time don’t help resolve the problem and don’t help create the public perception in India.”
He said the main reason behind the border killing is that a huge smuggling network and a huge mafia operating on both sides of the borders which should be addressed jointly.
Muniruzzaman said border killing is one of the major irritants in the bilateral relations between the two close neighbours. “It’s something which is not accepted by the people of Bangladesh.”
Muniruzzaman said the Teesta water-sharing is a problem that needs to be addressed as it has been lying without a solution for too long.
“It’s not only Teesta water sharing, we need agreements and water sharing mechanisms of all other 53 common rivers with India,” he said.
On March 27, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated Bangladesh’s long-pending request for concluding the interim agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta River for the fair share of the Teesta water to alleviate the sufferings of millions.
It is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta water, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both governments in January 2011 to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, she underscored.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts to conclude this agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Muniruzzaman said Bangladesh and India have been passing through the honeymoon period of bilateral relationship as it is now at its peak.
“But all the relationships need to be nurtured, and that’s a way we should follow. As we look at the future which is extremely difficult to predict, we’ll have to pave a way for a smooth relationship in the future. So, it’s necessary to analyse the current irritants in the relationship that can become obstacles as we move towards the future for bilateral relations,” he said.
Muniruzzaman said the vaccine nationalism that has been seen in India is a major irritant to the people of Bangladesh and India should resolve the problem over ensuring the vaccines to Bangladesh since the country paid money for it in advance. “That’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
The security expert also thinks there are India’s some internal political issues like Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens that can have an implication on the bilateral ties and these issues need to be addressed.
He said the relationship has to be built with the people of the two countries in a more holistic and comprehensive way.
Former Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tariq A Karim said Bangladesh and India can never dream of having an adverse or a hostile relationship with each other due to their geographical positions.