An international affairs expert has advised the government to study how Indira Gandhi tackled Pakistan in 1971 and deal with Myanmar accordingly to address the Rohingya crisis.
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, who is also the director of the Center for Genocide Studies in Dhaka University, says Bangladesh needs to change the “body language” when it deals with Myanmar on the Rohingya refugee issue.
“It would be easier to do it now than at any time before. We have had the election. We (the government) have a five-year mandate. So I think the government should be in a position….the body language ought to change,” he said, speaking at a seminar in Dhaka on Sunday.
The Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organised the seminar titled ‘Rohingya crisis: International Role for Tangible Solutions in Rakhine’ with its president Raheed Ejaz in chair.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam was present as chief guest while UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Steven Corliss spoke as a panelist. DCAB General Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib made welcome remarks.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, secretaries to the foreign ministry Md Khurshed Alam, Kamrul Ahsan, Mahbub Uz Zaman, and Khalilur Rahman were also present.
Prof Imtiaz said this body language change is “very important” in diplomacy.
“The body language must change with Myanmar when we are negotiating. They are the ones who committed genocide, not us,” he said. “Look at the body language of Indira Gandhi way back in 1971”.
Gandhi was a staunch supporter of Bangladesh against Pakistan’s genocide in 1971.
“I can give examples of an extraordinary number of people that I know back in India and back in 1971 and what was their body language.
“That body language ought to change particularly given the fact that this regime or part of the members was responsible for committing genocide,” he said, urging media to “keep a constant gaze” on Myanmar.
He said people would say that Myanmar is a “hard shell”. “But IR (international relations) says the harder the shell, the easier to crack. Always remember that….that’s part of the diplomacy.”
Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar built temporary residences on the Balukhali Hill in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhia. File Photo: Mostafigur Rahman Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar built temporary residences on the Balukhali Hill in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhia. File Photo: Mostafigur Rahman Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them have arrived here since August 25, 2017 after a military crackdown by Myanmar, termed “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN.
Prof Imtiaz also said media has a bigger role on this.
“What is required is a sustained publication of authoritative reports on Myanmar. It should be broadcast in Burmese and Rohingya languages. I don’t how you can do it. But it is important that whatever we are saying should get into the mind of Burmese people as well. This is something we have not been able to do.”
He said the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) should be geared up to the maximum, particularly by supporting them with evidence.
“This is going to put tremendous pressure on Myanmar, particularly when they will come to know that initiatives are in full swing.”
He also suggested that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visit China and India promoting solutions, stretching from repatriation to formation of safe zones inside Myanmar for Rohingyas. “It’s urgently required.”
Bangladesh is not the only country where Rohingya people are living; there are more than 19 countries where they live in.
He suggested holding an international conference on the Rohingya crisis inviting all 19 countries, including members of the media, human rights organisations, researchers, and other civil and political stakeholders.
“This should be done every six months — one in Bangladesh and one outside,” he said, suggesting internationalising the whole issue.
The UNHCR representative agreed with Prof Imtiaz on keeping the constant gaze on Myanmar and said “return is the solution that we see for Rohingya refugees”.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam speaking at a discussion organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Dhaka on Sunday. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin State Minister Shahriar said Bangladesh is continuously engaged with China to create more pressure on Myanmar for creating conducive atmosphere inside Rakhine for ensuring safe repatriation of Rohingyas.
He said Rohingya crisis is not only a humanitarian or repatriation issue, it is also a political one.
“At the UN security council we didn’t get China and Russia the way we want them to be on our side (regarding Rohingya issue). But we are bilaterally engaged with China and Russia to get their supports in this regard, ” he said.
“Our foreign minister had visited Beijing and held meeting with his Chinese counterpart where the Myanmar minister in charge of Rohingya-related issue was also invited.”
The state minister added that multiple visits had been made by Chinese politicians and bureaucrats to Myanmar for talks on the Rohingya issue.
“Because of our efforts, there are now wider, greater and deeper understandings by the Chinese side about the problem,” he said.
“I hope, with these (bilateral) efforts, we will be able to make some dent into their (China and Russia) current positions.”
“We will continue our efforts and I believe we are on the right track,” Shahriar said.