India has said Myanmar must take back its nationals who have fled their homes to escape violence and taken refuge in Bangladesh.
"Myanmar must take back their nationals... this is a big burden for Bangladesh. How long will Bangladesh bear it? There should be a permanent solution to this crisis," visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was quoted as saying at a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Gono Bhaban yesterday.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting at 6:00pm.
About terrorist acts in Myanmar's Rakhine State, Swaraj said terrorists can be punished. "Why innocent people?" Ihsanul quoted the Indian minister as saying at the meeting.
Swaraj, who arrived in Dhaka yesterday afternoon on a 24-hour visit to attend a meeting of India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission (JCC), also urged the international community to contribute to the social and economic development of the Rakhine State.
The Indian minister lauded Bangladesh's stance and also the PM for showing humanitarian attitude to the forcibly displaced people of Myanmar.
Referring to Indian PM Narendra Modi's recent visit to Myanmar, she said Modi told Aung San Suu Kyi that she has a very bright international image and why she should destroy it, reports UNB.
Ihsanul said Hasina told Swaraj that Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds, and its home minister would visit Myanmar soon.
Swaraj said India attaches “utmost importance” to its relations with Bangladesh.
“Our relations are based on fraternal ties and are reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.”
She also expressed satisfaction over the current state of Indo-Bangla relations.
At the meeting, Swaraj presented Hasina with memorabilia of the 1971 Liberation War to be displayed at the Liberation War Museum.
The memorabilia include military equipment used by the joint forces of India and Bangladesh during the Liberation War as well as a large number of artefacts and documents, including historical photographs and archival audio and video.
At the Bangladesh National Museum's request, India has gifted one MI-4 helicopter, two PT-6 tanks and 25 types of arms.
New Delhi also presented Dhaka with colour copies of the original surrender certificate, original refugee relief postal stamps, refugee relief postal stationeries and original leaflets airdropped in Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali, and PM's Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury were present at the meeting from the Bangladesh side.
Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Joint Secretary (Bangladesh-Myanmar Division) Sripriya Ranganathan were present from the Indian side.
JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
Earlier in the afternoon, Swaraj and her Bangladesh counterpart Mahmood Ali joined the fourth meeting of the JCC at Sonargaon Hotel.
At a joint press conference after the meeting, Swaraj said India believes the solution to the Rakhine crisis lies in the return of the displaced people to their homes in Myanmar.
“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine State,” she said.
Voicing concern over the situation in Myanmar, Swaraj said, "India is deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. We have urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population.
"We have also supported the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan-led Special Advisory Commission report.”
The Indian minister's statement came as Mahmood urged New Delhi to put pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the Rakhine crisis.
Though Swaraj didn't use the word “Rohingya”, she mentioned that lakhs of displaced people have fled Rakhine and taken shelter in Cox's Bazar.
Swaraj's visit comes at a time when Bangladesh is struggling to deal with a large influx of Rohingyas since August 25.
The number of newly arrived Myanmar nationals reached 600,000 yesterday. Apart from them, more than 400,000 Rohingyas have been living in Bangladesh for decades.
Spelling out India's view on a permanent solution to the crisis, Swaraj said, “The only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the State.
“India, for its part, has committed to provide financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be undertaken in Rakhine State in conjunction with the local authorities.”
In his statement, Mahmood thanked India for the support, and said Bangladesh is “happy to be reassured that India would continue to support the humanitarian assistance”.
“India is our most important, trusted and friendly neighbour,” he said, adding that the relation is now at a “historic new height”.
Later in the day, Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia met Swaraj separately at her Sonargaon Hotel suite.
Swaraj, who led a seven-member delegation to Bangladesh, departs Dhaka today after attending programmes at the Indian High Commission where she would inaugurate the new Chancery Complex at 9:30am.
She would also launch 15 development projects in Bangladesh via video conference and deliver a speech. Mahmood would also be present there.