Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Myanmar on a three-day State visit that will conclude on Thursday. The existential problem of the unwanted and stateless Rohingya Muslims is the apex concern and topic for discussion. And India, like always, is playing safe. He lacked conviction over a clear case of human rights violations at the hands of the Myanmar state.
Narendra Modi Myanmar Visit is quite ill-timed. The Government of Myanmar is under immense international pressure over the 125,000 Rohingya refugees that have poured across the Bangladeshi border in just two weeks after Myanmar’s military crackdown in the Rakhine state. Close to 500 civilians have already been killed.
The country’s mishandling of the situation and the military’s reported atrocities committed on the Rohingyas have been condemned by the international community. Maldives, Turkey and many more have severed formal relationship with Myanmar over the issue. Not India.
It was crucial for Modi to convey India’s stand on the acts of violence against the Rohingyas, but instead of cautioning Myanmar for its military’s brutal action against powerless humans, he appeared to keep it soft and quiet. His employees are echoing the same.
Indicating that Myanmar government must be given time and space to draw up plans for development, Sriprya Ranganathan, Joint Secretary in India’s External Affairs Ministry heading the Bangladesh-Myanmar desk, said that “I think that the (Myanmar) government (led by Suu Kyi) is a new government. It is obviously taking its own steps towards devising policies that it believes are correct for the country and people”
Modi, at a joint press statement with Aung San Suu Kyi, asserted that India stands by Myanmar amid the challenges the country is facing. He said the leadership in Myanmar’s peace process is commendable.
India is almost like Switzerland these days. We want to be friends with all – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Modi should be calling for the Muslims of Rakhine state to be given either nationality or legal status. He should be reminding Aung San Suu Kyi what she always stood for – human rights, something which is being trampled upon by her State’s powers that be. Modi shouldn’t always be looking to win popularity contest. As the bigger neighbour, India should be twisting Myanmar’s arms to ensure stability returns. It’s also in India’s interest.
New Delhi maintains that the infiltration of Rohingyas from Rakhine into India, besides being a burden on the limited resources of the country, aggravates security challenges. But India’s proposed move to send back Rohingyas marks a change in Indian policy and position on illegal immigrants.
India has, for decades, sheltered people fleeing conflict and disaster without being a signatory to any pacts obligating it to offer refuge. India didn’t sign the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The government decides asylum pleas on ad hoc and case-to-case basis.
Tibetans, the Chakmas of Bangladesh, Afghans and ethnic Tamil from Sri Lanka are among those given refuge in India. The horrific case of the persecuted Rohingyas qualifies for India’s attention much more than any other group has and the Government’s explanation for deciding to deport Rohingyas is quite lame.
It feels immigrants are susceptible to recruitment by terror groups. The Government believes they not only infringe on rights of Indian citizens, but also pose grave security challenges. According to them, the influx of migrants also leads to social, political and cultural problems.
But these fears are not exclusive to just the Rohingyas. The threat comes from the others just as much as it does from the Rohingyas. And there is no evidence of their involvement in any terrorist activity.
India has said it is talking with Bangladesh and Myanmar about deportation. Myanmarese laws have rendered Rohingyas stateless, so they have no ‘home’ to return to.
The Supreme Court has sought to know government’s stand on a plea challenging its plan to deport Rohingya refugees.