International arbitration versus bilateral rapport with Myanmar
In the early 90s, a trivial write-up of mine was published in the daily Khaleej Times under the title "World leaders only pay lip services". It was about Aung San Suu Kyi who was then a captive by the Myanmar military junta. Today I remorse for my write-up as Myanmar's gruesome "ethnic cleansing" of fellow human beings Rohingya within the very conscious reach of Aung San Suu Kyi and her unrelenting adamant denial.
The worrisome of nearly over a million of Rohingya refugees during the rainy season will be amplified. Sheltering them in a frequently flood and cyclone-prone country will be stiffer than just feeding them. There is a "growing anxiety" at the advent of the monsoon season.
It would require relocation of millions of Rohingyas elsewhere to more improved drainage channels and strengthen shelters. The risk of outbreak diseases, infections and mudslides are always a looming prospect. The topography of the current camp settlement is very hilly.
An estimated over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived from Myanmar's Rakhine State to Bangladesh's south-eastern districts since August 2017 to join over the existing Four hundred Thousand Rohingyas already living in refugee camps and with local communities. Thus making the figure over a million.
The influx of Rohingya refugees still continues. The number yet to increase since eighty thousand Rohingya women are pregnant and yet to deliver their babies. A single newborn baby is an inducement to the existing embryonic; expected to increase every passing day due to the fecund custom of Rohingya women.
UN described it as the "world's fastest-growing refugee crisis". An era old ethnic and religious persecution by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist extremists sparked the exodus of nearly 1 million Rohingya since August 2017. The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and have been described as the world's most persecuted minority.
Bangladesh responded the crisis firsthand with benevolence, irrespective of her limited resources. Welcoming the refugees wholeheartedly at a timeline when many European nations sealed their borders to refugees while in Bangladesh, the surrounded locality in and around the refugee camps witness the worst traffic congestion with many of Bangladeshi Social, political, religious and private organization along with International agencies pouring with reliefs and numerous lifesaving items in overloading Lorries.
United Nations aid agencies continuously appealing for aid to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance this year for 1.3 million Rohingya refugees Bangladesh is hosting. In spite of efforts from a number of multilateral organizations and local NGOs; the commitment by International allies remained under-budgeted.
Bangladesh sustains an economic pressure due to undue Rohingya crisis. And, an economic strain is already noticeable in Cox's Bazar, where many of the refugee camps are located. The local population started complaining about rising costs and job shortages.
Lack of access to education in Myanmar from generation to generation, there is also the fear of radicalization of Rohingyas by capitalizing their ignorance and innocence of Islamic faith. Extremist groups in Bangladesh have tried to recruit Rohingya into their organizations in the past. Bangladesh is always in favor of carrying out hectic diplomatic efforts and bilateral communications with Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
Even though the world spoke about the sufferings of Rohingya Muslims, the lips-locked and blindfolded stances of Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) until recently remained speculations. However, at this junction, the international community is aligned alongside Bangladesh, echoing voices with Rohingya refugees. The time is suitable to force Myanmar through negotiations to take back its own people fled after facing inhuman atrocities else making diplomatically Myanmar an ostracized state once it had.
Temporarily, Bangladesh might have expanded its arms considering a humane manner but she cannot sustain a prolonged standoff in the long run. Bangladesh has been so far successful in showcasing the anguishes of Rohingyas. To this end, the Bangladeshi government should play a significant role in consultation with international stakeholders to ensure regional peace and statehood and homecoming of Rohingya refugees.
The recent admission of 250,000 Rohingyas went abroad with Bangladeshi passports by Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam may look dreadful to many but a known fact to Bangladeshi expatriates living aboard. The figure might be higher in reality.
The migrant of Rohingya to Muslim countries namely Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan are dated back in 1960s; many of whom already got citizenship in their respective country of residence. But the arrival of Rohingyas withholding Bangladeshi Passport started after Rohingya arrived into Bangladesh in early 1991-92.
Alternatively, A complex maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar was resolved by UN tribunal judgment, signaling that a willingness and space of arbitration still available at the brisk. The longstanding unsolved Rohingya issue should be on board of bilateral, trilateral, multilateral, and International intermediation for fostering the strained relations.
Bangladesh can smear an influenced prudence through Myanmar trusted giant neighbors China and India also are endearing friends of Bangladesh and have unwavering diplomatic influence over Myanmar. Given the geographical proximity, Bangladesh and Myanmar did not consider each other a potential trade partner in the past. Bangladesh always kept a blurred sightedness on Myanmar economic interests even though Myanmar opened its market following an end of its military rule in 2011.
Bangladesh and Myanmar can boost their ties in the field of drug trafficking, insurgency and climate change as two are the undoubted victims of those renditions. Bangladeshi businessmen should unearth the looming prospect of business opportunities in a country once called the pearl of Asia.
Bangladesh and Myanmar were never being into a close proximity from the inception whether they were ruled by a military or quasi-civilian government. Over the decades, being neighbors, their trade volumes were not realized to full potential despite having a lot of opportunities. The trade volumes remained relevantly poor when it is being compared with each nation's respective neighboring countries.
The relationship was never cherished by both nations in a way that it should have been with a next-door neighbor. Being a close door neighbor to Bangladesh it is too distant to travel to Myanmar. At the amplitude of the twenty-first century, it is prodigious to see that there are no air links, no road links and no coastal shipping connections between two neighbors once lived in a common colonial legacy, history, and ancient trade relations. It is unanticipated to see such a concealment in the age of globalization where countries across the continent have freely interconnected.
It is in the interest of Bangladesh to discard an era old mindset and look forward a long-term strategic relationship with natural and mineral resourceful neighbor Myanmar. Myanmar could become an economic passageway, if not a gateway; not only to Bangladesh-China-India- Myanmar corridor but it can link Bangladesh to other Southeast Asian countries till the ports of Vietnam besides opening an alternative land route to China and Southeast Asia.
Moreover, Bangladesh can take diplomatic initiative for the implementation of the proposed Trans-Asian Railway (TAR), a project of UNESCAP. If emerged, it will link Bangladesh, among others, with six East Asian Countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore as well as European Countries through Turkey. Myanmar could also be an access point to ASEAN entrance for Bangladesh. Focusing to enhance an economic tie with neighbor is far better than seeking someone else in the Caribbean.
Bangladesh must engage in dialogue with Myanmar, even if this means sleeping with an enemy but without acquittal of its national interests. As the Myanmar economy grows, Bangladesh should look to reap the benefits by setting Myanmar in her high priorities of foreign policy objectives. Persuading Myanmar to allow cross-border transit to China should also be an important part of Bangladesh's agenda.
Having saying so, resolving the Rohingya crisis is of paramount importance to achieve a favorable long-term relationship with Myanmar. At the same time the burning wave of trans-bordered skyward arrival of the deadly mad pill "Yaba" from Myanmar frontier, ruining the lives of millions of our youth should always be an antecedent issue in the agenda.
The writer is a computer engineer, columnist and social worker based in Qatar