China has concluded a large number of deals with Myanmar during the recent visit of President Xi Jinping to Myanmar, the first by a Chinese leader to that country in nearly two decades. Understandably, the 33 deals have to do with China’s Belt and Road Initiate and the CMEC project. While one cannot have reservations about the bilateral relationship and measures taken between two countries to enhance their economic progress, and China is a major development partner in the South Asian region, we in Bangladesh have to contextualise Myanmar’s association with China in the light of the geopolitical and security milieu in the region, and Bangladesh-Myanmar relations in particular.
A great deal of damage has been done to the security atmosphere in the region—and to Bangladesh-Myanmar relation in particular—because of the Rohingya policy pursued by the military rulers in Naypyidaw. Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingyas as a part of its policy to obliterate the ethnic minority has been termed as genocidal by no less an organisation than the UN. Myanmar is in the dock facing charges of genocide at the International Criminal Court. The country has disregarded global opinion and ridden roughshod over international sentiments with a feeling of abandon and impunity. All efforts of the international community to get Myanmar to conform to international order have floundered, particularly in the face of consistent opposition from China.
While one understands the strategic diktats that have motivated China in strengthening its ties with Myanmar, it has far-reaching consequences. We deem it necessary to point out to China, with whom we have a strong friendly tie, that Myanmar has been exploiting its relationship with China in crafting its Rohingya policy. It feels that China will underwrite its policies, whatever their character, because of its indispensability to China. We wonder how long China can continue to support Myanmar’s Rohingya policy without giving the impression to the rest of the world that by doing so it is, in a way, endorsing genocide, and thus smearing its image and credibility. We hope China will realise that economics should not always trump human rights.