Writer : Prof. Dr. Abu Yousuf Mohammad Abdullah
These were the words of a true leader, who has put human lives on top of national interests. Rohingya repatriation issue has once again caught the attention of media after the recent visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to The Republic of China. Hasina treads on the right track to draw a conclusion to the long standing and unresolved Rohingya repatriation issue by obtaining China's assurance to stand by Bangladesh.
The Premier's farsightedness lies in her apprehension of treating China, one of the biggest trading partners to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, as a crucial stakeholder in resolving Rohingya crisis. Her urgency of swaying China's consent to play a key role in finding out an amicable solution to the crisis through friendly talks and bilateral negotiations without stepping into any kind of provocations from any corner reveals her competence in dealing with complicated bilateral and diplomatic issues. Her passionate but tactful and visionary diplomatic efforts in bringing all the stakeholders including, Myanmar, India and China and international bodies like the UNO, UNHCR, UNESCO and OIC to resolve the issue through discussion deserves appreciation.
Since late 2017, after genocide broke in Myanmar, Bangladesh observed huge influx from the persecuted Rohingya Minority through its borders with Myanmar. Despite being a small and developing nation, Bangladesh responded immediately, acting on the spirit of humanity. The country held its arms wide open for the aid of crying humanity. In a time, when larger nations like Malaysia, Indonesia or India had closed its doors on the refugees, Bangladesh and its people greeted them like brothers. At a time, when the Rohingyas were murdered, raped, looted and burnt at their own home, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's immediate response to accommodate millions of Rohingya Refugees saved countless innocent lives from the atrocities which befell upon them.
Bangladesh did not turn its back to the cries of humanity at the time of need.
While the philanthropic activities and leadership of Sheikh Hasina were applauded by the world, no considerable actions were undertaken by any other leaders of the world. While millions of Rohingyas were fleeing the devastation and atrocities from the Military Junta, everyone but Bangladesh watched in silence. Had the world taken meaningful actions, the crisis which has affected more than 1.5 million Rohingyas could have been easily avoided. The crisis in Myanmar has created imbalance in the natural harmony and balance in not just the country itself. It has also negatively affected the social balance of Bangladesh as well.
Bangladesh has always been a peaceful country aimed to develop friendship among the neighbours. "Friend to all and foe to none" has forever been Bangladesh's motto. The internal conflict between the Rohingyas and Myanmar forces made millions flee into Bangladesh. And with them, came major security threats for the first time in the history of this country.
Social disruptions including increased illegal penetration, arms and drug infiltration threatened the social welfare. For the last 2 years, the law and enforcement authority in the region have been working relentlessly to fight increased criminal activities primarily induced by the Rohingya refugees. The public health has been endangered due to epidemics of contagious diseases originating from the refugee camps. AIDS has increased in the country due to increased sex trade from the refugees. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh has made a wonderful example of leadership, crisis management and above all aid to humanity by their response to the crisis. The physical burden to accommodate the 1.5 million Rohingyas has increased manifolds in the last 2 years. It's not just a question of sheltering and feeding the refugees anymore, the weight of national security and social threats from the Rohingyas has already burdened the country and intensifies each day.
Bangladesh cannot and must not continue to live in such social threat forever. The hospitality of the country and its leader must not be met with apathy and indifference from the rest of the world. The world is already too late to find a peaceful solution and must act immediately to come to a mutual decision.
Being a member of world bodies especially the United Nations, it is regretful to observe any specific community denied of its basic rights of humanity and citizenship. Myanmar cannot deny its responsibilities in the atrocities. The first step towards a peaceful solution to the crisis is acknowledging the Rohingya community and effective repatriation for the communities. The global community and especially United Nations have to initiate an influence towards meaningful solution to such humanitarian crisis. The most effective solution could have been provided by world powers like China and India. As neighbouring countries and allies to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, they bear the responsibility of maintaining peace and social safety in the region.
The expectation of Bangladesh soars high up after the recent visit of Sheikh Hasina to China, the biggest partner to the business and development of Bangladesh. People expect that the apex leaders of two friendly countries would undertake fruitful initiatives in solving the Rohingya crisis well ahead before it escalates into a new height. People of Bangladesh wholeheartedly believe that China, as declared by Xi Jinping , the President of The People's Republic of China, would stand by Bangladesh in finding out an immediate solution to Rohingya crisis by convincing the Myanmar government initiating bilateral talks and negotiations.
The friendship between China and Bangladesh is historically tested and proven time and again. Now, the time has come to prove that China is a friend in true sense by exercising its influence on Myanmar government to draw an immediate solution to the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh by rehabilitating them in their own land with the assurance of meeting out the fundamental needs, security of life and properties. The leaders of China, if they do not want to see Bangladesh falling into a vulnerable position in maintaining her bilateral relations with international communities and forums, must come forward to press Myanmar government to take all the Rohingya refugees back to Arakan from Bangladesh based on the agreement it made with Bangladesh.
China may exert its influence on Myanmar to rehabilitate Rohingya people with full dignity and identity. Myanmar is to ensure and create a congenial political, cultural and social atmosphere for the Rohingyas so that they can fully participate in all kinds of social, cultural, commercial, educational, recreational and political activities in a multi-ethnic coalition government. Before ensuring the rehabilitation of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, every Rohingya individual should be entitled to exercise full citizenship rights like any other Myanmar citizen.
Under the able leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the valiant daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder father of the nation, Bangladesh would soon be free from yoking the "White Man's Burden" by carrying out a successful repatriation and rehabilitation program jointly with Myanmar government and the program should be inclusive with the involvement of international communities.
Bangladesh has patiently maintained a friendly bi-lateral relationship with Myanmar which should be honoured and assessed very positively. International bodies including China, India, Myanmar and the UNO must realize the dire situation both the Rohingya refugees and the people of Bangladesh are undergoing and must work together for the coordinated solution with Myanmar government. If the international community remains indifferent to the train of thoughts that echo in the minds of the people of Bangladesh and the outcry of the Rohingya refugees, it may lead to such a catastrophic explosion that might jeopardize the political and economical stability of not just Bangladesh, but the whole of South Asia.
Bangladesh has wilfully played its role in the times of desperation. It is imperative that the world bodies and superpower countries like China, India, US and above all Myanmar play their parts to solve this humanitarian crisis through successful dialogues and that too, at the shortest possible time.
The writer is a Professor, Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka &Vice Chancellor, Northern University of Business and Technology Khulna