Bangladesh today pitched for a greater Indian role in containing the influx of Rohingya Muslims escaping violence in Myanmar, saying the issue may not be directly affecting India now, but it may have an impact in future.
Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali said the “fire in the neighbourhood” has the potential to engulf the entire region and it would be prudent for India to act in “mutual interest”.
“It is a fire in our neighbourhood and before it engulfs in the entire region it needs to be put out. They (the refugees) are vulnerable to all sorts of radicalisation and it is in our mutual advantage to work together,” Mr Ali told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in the national capital.
Responding to a question, he said New Delhi and Dhaka may not appear on the same page on the issue as Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the epicentre of the refugee exodus, does not have a common border with India.
“You are safe for now but how long will that be? It is in our common interest to act together. It may burn my house today, but it may surely have an impact in your house tomorrow,” he said, while applauding India’s role in sending relief for the refugees housed in a number of camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area.
He refused to comment on India’s proposal to deport around 40,000 Rohingya refugees who are settled in camps across the country, saying it was a “matter of your country”.
However, he reminded that “60 per cent” of the refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh were women, children and elderly and living in “unacceptable conditions”.
He called the Rakhine State a breeding ground of radicalisation owing to alleged atrocities on the Rohingya community and their festering anger.
He suggested that reports of bodies of Hindu Rohingya people found in mass graves were an attempt by the Myanmar administration to “intentionally” drive a wedge between communities.
“It is the inability of the Myanmarese authorities to recognise them (the Rohingya) as their own which is creating issues. The problem originated in Myanmar and needs to be resolved there,” he said.
Referring to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s upcoming visit to Dhaka, Mr Ali said water sharing is one of the very few areas of common interest between the two countries which remains contentious.
“The sooner we resolve the issue the better,” he said.
In an oblique reference to West Bengal’s position on the issue that during the lean season water availability in Teesta river was not enough to share, he said: “It is like a person calling himself orphan after killing his own parents.”