Former ambassadors and security analysts yesterday called upon the Bangladesh government to strengthen diplomatic efforts to earn China and India’s support for Rohingya repatriation, saying their roles are imperative to resolve the crisis.
As the countries are regional powers, Myanmar maintains good relationships with them while they (India and China) also have their own economic and geopolitical interests in the Southeast country, the ambassadors and analysts said at a roundtable discussion.
They said Bangladesh also needed to continue its diplomacy with the US and the United Nations to make them impose sanctions on Myanmar over “genocide” charges.
Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies (ICLDS) and Bangla daily Bhorer Kagoj jointly organised the roundtable on the “Necessity of Rohingya Repatriation in Regional and Global Contexts” at the capital’s Jatiya Press Club.
Former ambassador Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said the recent filing of a case against Myanmar over “genocide” with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) approval to conduct a probe against the Myanmar government were encouraging developments for Bangladesh.
However, China and Russia exercised their veto power in UN Security Council meeting over the Rohingya issue. There was no sign that they have changed minds, he said.
India also restrained itself from exercising a vote that would have gone in favour of Bangladesh, he added.
Shamsher said the government has to keep these in mind, suggesting it to take a diplomatic stance with “cautious optimism”.
He said China was racing to be a world power, while its role in a “multi-polarised new Asia” was also robust.
“We have to wait and see whether China will have any role in their [Rohingya] repatriation,” he added.
He said Bangladesh and India were enjoying a “golden era” of the bilateral relationship.
Yet, Bangladesh was not in a position to be “overwhelmingly optimistic”, he said, adding that Myanmar “played its game” over a repatriation process earlier that had failed.
Security analyst Brig Gen (Retd) M Sakhawat Hussain said that the failure in repatriation of the displaced Myanmar nationals will create “big trouble” for Bangladesh in a decade.
He said as Myanmar does not want to take Rohingyas back, engaging the UN in the process could be helpful for a solution.
On the ICC’s investigation, Sakhawat, a former election commissioner, said as Myanmar is not a party to the ICC, the investigation is most likely to take place in Bangladesh.
The government has to cooperate with them fully, he said, terming the recent developments at the ICC and the ICJ as Bangladesh’s “diplomatic victory”.
“However, pressure should be continued,” he said.
Sakhawat said China has been trying to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean and in such a context, Bangladesh needs to emphasise on its national interest by holding dialogues.
He urged the government to create “Rohingya voices” and take them to the international platform. Creating a taskforce to create opinions abroad over resolving the crisis was also required, he said.
Brig Gen (retd) Mahbubul Haque, a former defence attaché in Myanmar, said countries like the US, China and India have good relations with Myanmar and they are in competition with each other to further strengthen the relationship.
The reasons were the geographical location and geopolitical importance of Myanmar, as well as to balance China’s power in the region, he said.
Chairing the roundtable, former ambassador Mohammad Zamir said Canada has recently shown its willingness to be part of the justice process at the ICJ. It was an important development as well, he said.
Chief guest at the roundtable and State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said although Myanmar is not an ICC member state, creating pressure on it would be possible with cooperation from international communities if the court’s verdict goes against Myanmar.
He said as a UN state member and party to different international human rights instruments, Bangladesh will give all-out cooperation during the investigation.
The government is committed to continue its bilateral relationship with Myanmar, he said.
Bhorer Kagoj Editor Syamol Dutta moderated the roundtable.