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October 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       October 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:Sep' 2017


Unlike Muslim states, India must help them out

Rajeev Sharma

It doesn't happen very often when a temple of democracy like India, in fact the world's largest democracy, is singled out for a brutal criticism by the United Nations (UN). This has happened in the Modi regime. Among other things which are as India-specific as cow vigilantism and intolerance, the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), a UN body, found fault with India's stand on the Rohingyas issue as well.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described the situation of Myanmar's Rohingya minority as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and criticized both Yangon and New Delhi, the latter for seeking to deport Rohingyas who fled to India. Delivering a statement at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 12, UNHRC chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein asked the Myanmar Government to stop claiming the Rohingyas were "setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their villages."
This rebuke of India from a UN body was definitely a downer from the Narendra Modi government and despite whatever noises India made in rebutting the unusual criticism by the UNHRC, the harm was done. It put the Indian government under a spotlight for its alleged sins of omission and commission. It showed India in a poor light in the comity of nations, something which doesn't happen regularly.
However, the UNHRC's rare criticism of India and Myanmar, the latter for Its "ethnic cleansing" on the Rohingyas put the spotlight on the fast-depleting community of Rohingya Muslims in a Buddhist-majority country like Myanmar. The Rohingyas have been living in Myanmar for long as stateless citizens without any rights whatsoever. And the problem is that India, the temple of democracy and the self-proclaimed champion of human rights, has tied itself in knots over this issue.
Even as the Rohingyas' persecution was making international news headlines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Myanmar. But during his meetings with his Myanmarese inaterlocutors he never made a specific reference to the plight and sufferings of the Rohingyas. There are at least forty thousand of Rohingyas living as migrants, mostly in West Bengal but also in places like Delhi-NCR, Jammu, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan and Hyderabad. Since they have similar facial features as Bangladeshis and have picked up the Bangladeshi accent of speaking Bangla, they pass off as Bangladeshi migrants.
The Indian government's stand on the Rohingyas, articulated in Parliament and before the Supreme Court is that it wants to deport them to Bangladesh and Myanmar. New Delhi fears that the Rohingyas are illegal migrants who constitute a security threat to India because they can be easy prey for terrorist and insurgent outfits in view of their stateless profile and precarious economic condition. Minister of state for home Kiran Rijiju outlined the government stand on Rohingyas in Parliament. However, the Indian government also assured that it would not persecute or harass the Rohingyas. India's proposed plan of deporting the Rohingyas has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the apex court is already seized of the matter. But the problem is that India has no law on refugees as India is not a signatory to 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol.
But the real pity for the Rohingyas is that not just countries like India are unresponsive and insensitive but they are not getting support from even the Muslim nations. Their vociferous protests in the plight of Myanmar's miniscule minority of Rohingya Muslims notwithstanding, most Muslim nations are paying only a lip service to the cause of the Rohingyas while they are busily upgrading their strategic ties with Myanmar.
Take the example of Pakistan for example. Pakistan has been having an extremely close strategic partnership with Myanmar since the turn of this century. So much so that Pakistan covertly sent to Myanmar four of its nuclear scientists, who were under the international community's scanner in the wake of the AQ Khan episode. The Pakistani nuclear scientists lived for long in safehouses provided by the Myanmarese junta in Central parts of the country, away from Western intelligence agencies' prying eyes. Now Pakistan is in advanced negotiations with Myanmar for licensed production of the third generation fighter aircraft JF 17 which Pakistan is co-producing along with China. Two years ago, Myanmar had decided to make an off-the-shelf purchase of sixteen JF 17 aircraft from Pakistan.
Take the case of Saudi Arabia, a prominent leader of the Islamic world. Riyadh has made noises on the recent

Saudi Arabia has taken up the cause of the Rohingyas with Myanmar government time and again. But look at its own track record. It has thrown thousands of Rohingyas in its jails on charges of being illegal migrants.

persecution of the Rohingyas by Myanmar which has resulted in Rohingyas crossing over to Bangladesh after they paid off the thriving human smuggling syndicates from their meagre savings. The Rohingyas have been living like stateless citizens in Myanmar for years and being forced to flee the country over the years.
From a million-strong ethnic community once, they are now reduced to a little over half a million in a nation of 60-million population which has 135 ethnic communities.
Saudi Arabia has taken up the cause of the Rohingyas with Myanmar government time and again. But look at its own track record. It has thrown thousands of Rohingyas in its jails on charges of being illegal migrants.
The case of Gulf countries is no different. Most of them have cried foul on the Rohingyas' persecution and exerted diplomatic pressure on Myanmar. Yet they are keen on milking Myanmar's opportunities since 2011 when Myanmar started its outreach to the world. Kuwait has been paying fifty per cent salaries of Myanmar's diplomats stationed there in its newly opened embassy. Now take the case of Qatar. Some three years ago, Ooredoo, a Qatari company, was one of the two which were granted a telecoms license in Myanmar, one of the largest foreign investments in Myanmar as Ooredoo said it would invest up to $15 billion in two years to bring ninety percent of Myanmar's population on a 3G network. The Qatari license is valid for 15 years

The Gulf countries are eyeing newer countries for trade and investment opportunities given the highly combustible strategic environment in their region. Myanmar's burgeoning nowopen economy and the fact that Myanmar is Southeast Asia's second largest country offer a whale of opportunity to the Gulf countries. At a time when these Muslim countries are jostling for the political and strategic place in Myanmar, they seem to have decided to first consolidate their position rather than getting into sensitive issues like the Rohingyas' plight which can rub Naypyidaw in the wrong manner.

This is far more serious and is largely responsible for the undoing of the Rohingyas. India could have taken the lead in championing their cause but chose to get after them even though they are just forty thousand of them in India.
India has been living for decades with much larger numbers of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and there are at least twenty million of them. The ruling BJP, which as a party has made noises about the Bangladeshi illegal migrants, has not taken such a harsh stand about the handful of Bangladeshis as they have taken vis a vis the Rohingyas.
The Modi dispensation needs to make a course correction in this regard and treat the hapless Rohingyas as victims, not perpetrators of terror. But sadly, that's is not happening.