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With the Indian government being briefed by its envoy in Dhaka on the crisis in Bangladesh over the unending flow of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar Wednesday sanctioned supply of humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The first flight carrying a consignment of relief material could be despatched as early as Thursday. It will be sent to Chittagong where Indian diplomats will hand it over to the Bangladesh government for further distribution.
A top government source told The Indian Express that New Delhi took the “humanitarian view” after taking into consideration two crucial inputs — firstly, pleas from Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali last Saturday, and secondly, consultations with Indian envoy Harsh Vardhan Shringla who briefed them on the ground situation.
Shringla was called to New Delhi urgently Monday, and he briefed South Block and North Block officials over the last two days. He returned to Bangladesh Wednesday, after getting an assurance from the government about the relief assistance.
The Indian move comes after New Delhi nuanced its position on the Rohingyas. After the Bangladesh envoy met Jaishankar last Saturday, India urged Myanmar that the situation in Rakhine state be handled with “restraint and maturity”, with focus on the “welfare of the civilian population alongside those of the security forces”.
“It is imperative that violence is ended and normalcy in the state is restored expeditiously,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said.
Last Saturday, in an unusual move, Dhaka asked New Delhi to put pressure on the Myanmar government to take steps for peace and stability, and to stop the flow of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.
“We had explained our difficulties to the Indian government about the present crisis. The Rohingyas are coming in thousands to Bangladesh. They are a huge burden to us economically. We hardly have enough land to provide shelter to the refugees,” a top Bangladesh government source said.
Sources said Ali had explained to Jaishankar that Bangladesh was “under tremendous strain”. Their 40-minute meeting was part of Bangladesh’s outreach to the international community to “put pressure on Myanmar to do something to restore peace and stability” and “stop the flow of refugees”, sources said.
Two days ago, the UN’s top envoy on human rights criticised Indian government plans to deport Rohingya refugees. The Indian envoy in Geneva responded saying that New Delhi is “concerned” about “illegal migrants” who can pose security challenges, and that enforcement of law should not be mistaken for lack of compassion.