March 3, 2020
Visuals reaffirm that the minorities have been at the receiving end of Hindutva fury; yet no parallel need be drawn with the Myanmarese military crackdown on and the Buddhist persecution of Rohingya Muslims.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that the embarrassment, however unwitting, is India’s. This week’s successive visits by President Donald Trump and President Win Myint of Myanmar have coincided with the communal frenzy in the national Capital. Visuals reaffirm that the minorities have been at the receiving end of Hindutva fury; yet no parallel need be drawn with the Myanmarese military crackdown on and the Buddhist persecution of Rohingya Muslims.
However incidental, the community ~ is ‘faith’ the right expression? ~ can be an explosive factor in relations between nations. The chief import of President Win’s visit is that the two countries have signed a bevy of agreements to improve the socio-economic condition in Rakhine, Myanmar’s northern state from where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to bordering Bangladesh in the face of what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Persecuted in Myanmar and shunned by Bangladesh, the Rohingyas have been reduced to what they call “nowhere men”, buffeted from shore to shore in the quest for a roof over their heads. No less critically, they have refused to resettle in Myanmar in the absence of infrastructure that is central to resettlement. Nor for that matter has there been a change in the fundamental attitude of the junta, not the least Aung San Suu Kyi whose earlier concern for the refugees has turned out to be expressions of shambolism. The aversion is almost pathological.
It is profoundly significant, therefore, that four of the 10 agreements that were exchanged between President Win Myint and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday are aimed at ensuring the development of Rakhine state, eventually to improve conditions for the return of the Rohingyas, and lead to lessening of tensions between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Around 700,000 Rohingyas had fled Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country in 2017 after deadly riots.
The discourse on whether the Rohingyas are Myanmarese nationals or illegal migrants from Bangladesh, as Myanmar claims, can continue till the cows come home, exacerbating the plight of the refugees. Dhaka has consistently denied the claims just as it has refused to accommodate the Rohingyas. Both Bangladesh and Myanmar have sought India’s support. That support was lent in fairly tangible terms in Delhi on Thursday, albeit bereft of the grandstanding that is normally associated with the visits of Heads of State.
There may be hope yet for the Rohingyas as the vital agreements have now been documented. Regretfully, however, Delhi has never raised the reality of persecution with Naypidaw, fearing that it would almost inevitably rock the China boat… given its designs on Arunachal Pradesh. The agreements do signify a critical measure of forward movement, notably India’s pledge to construct 250 prefabricated houses and despatch relief material for the displaced in Rakhine. Growth and development must, at the end of the day, benefit the Rohingyas who remain mired in privation.