- Antonio Guterres, on his first official visit to India as the United Nations Secretary-General urged India to Support Bangladesh on Rohingya crisis.
- Antonio Guterres is on visit to India and his visit was timed with the beginning of the year-long celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019.
- He attended the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and held a bilateral discussion on the sidelines of the event held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to global peace and prosperity.
Highlights of the news
- He urged that India must support Bangladesh in dealing with the Rohingya crisis and put pressure on Myanmar for their return.
- Describing India as a ‘pillar of multilateralism’, he made a strong pitch for India to play a bigger role “according to its capacity” on the problems of nearly a million refugees who fled violence to live in camps in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.
- With respect to reform in the United Nations Security Council, he spoke of India’s role in leading a new “multilateral architecture” for the world, and its work in countering terrorism.
- However, he said the world was “still far” from taking up India’s appeal for a permanent seat.
- He also criticising the U.S. for backing out of its commitments in the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
- Today, he will attend the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance, as well as a conference of Energy Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries.
- The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority who practice a Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam.
- Before August 2017, the majority of the estimated one million Rohingya in Myanmar resided in Rakhine State, where they accounted for nearly a third of the population.
- They differ from Myanmar’s dominant Buddhist groups ethnically, linguistically, and religiously.
- The Rohingya trace their origins in the region to the fifteenth century, when thousands of Muslims came to the former Arakan Kingdom.
- Many others arrived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Rakhine was governed by colonial rule as part of British India.
- Since independence in 1948, successive governments in Burma, renamed Myanmar in 1989, have refuted the Rohingya’s historical claims and denied the group recognition as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups.
- The Rohingya are largely considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many trace their roots in Myanmar back centuries.
- Neither the central government nor Rakhine’s dominant ethnic Buddhist group, known as the Rakhine, recognize the label “Rohingya,” a self-identifying term that surfaced in the 1950s, which experts say provides the group with a collective political identity.
- Though the etymological root of the word is disputed, the most widely accepted theory is that Rohang derives from the word “Arakan” in the Rohingya dialect and ga or gya means “from.” By identifying as Rohingya, the ethnic Muslim group asserts its ties to land that was once under the control of the Arakan Kingdom.
About Rohingya crisis
- The Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and repression under successive Burmese governments.
- Effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, they are one of the largest stateless populations in the world.
- The Myanmar government has effectively institutionalized discrimination against the ethnic group through restrictions on marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement.
- Moreover, Rakhine State is Myanmar’s least developed state, with a poverty rate of 78 percent, compared to the 37.5 percent national average, according to World Bank estimates.
- Widespread poverty, poor infrastructure, and a lack of employment opportunities in Rakhine have exacerbated the cleavage between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.
- This tension is deepened by religious differences that have at times erupted into conflict.
- Clashes in Rakhine broke out in August 2017, after a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for attacks on police and army posts.
- The government declared ARSA a terrorist organization and the military mounted a brutal campaign that destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages and forced nearly seven hundred thousand Rohingya to leave Myanmar.
- At least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of attacks, between August 25 and September 24, according to the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders.
- Myanmar’s security forces also allegedly opened fire on fleeing civilians and planted land mines near border crossings used by Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
- Since late August 2017, more than 671,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine State to escape the military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing.
- Since the start of 2018, Myanmar authorities have reportedly cleared abandoned Rohingya villages and farmlands to build homes, security bases, and infrastructure.
- The government says this development is in preparation for the repatriation of refugees, but rights activists have expressed concern these moves could be intended to accommodate other populations in Rakhine State.
- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has described the violence as ethnic cleansing and the humanitarian situation as catastrophic.
- Most have crossed by land into Bangladesh, while others have taken to the sea to reach Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Migration to Bangladesh
- Most Rohingya have sought refuge in nearby Bangladesh, which has limited resources and land to host refugees.
- More than 950,000 people are refugees in the country, many unregistered, according to estimates from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
- The World Health Organization projects the birth of sixty thousand babies in Bangladesh’s crowded camps in 2018.
- Meanwhile, the risk of disease outbreak in camps is high, with health organizations warning of possible outbreaks of measles, tetanus, diphtheria, and acute jaundice syndrome.
- Moreover, more than 60 percent of the available water supply in refugee camps is contaminated, increasing the risk of spread of communicable and water-borne diseases.
- In November 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal for the possible repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees, though details remain vague; on the rights that would be granted to the Rohingya, locations for resettlement, and assurances that pogroms would not recur.
- The repatriation of Rohingya, first slated for January 2018, has been delayed.
Threats to India and the region
- Terror groups trying to recruit Rohingya refugees could threaten the region, including India.
- Fortunately, there aren’t many Rohingya who have been recruited, and we have been able to avoid the situation so far, but discrimination and unresolved problems facilitate [the aims of] terrorist groups.
- Vulnerable refugees have turned to smugglers, paying for transport out of Bangladesh and Myanmar and risking exploitation, including sexual enslavement, which could enhance infiltration or illegal migration in India.
Way forward for India
- First, India can support Bangladesh with the huge humanitarian problem it faces now.
- Second, India must put pressure on Myanmar, not just in reconstruction of Rohingya villages, but in creating the environment for these people to go back.
- Be an agent between Bangladesh and Myanmar and sort the challenges in implementing repatriation of Rohingyas.