Emphasising the need for a “sustainable repatriation” of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, Bangladesh today expressed concern about their possible radicalisation, saying refugee camps all over the world are a “good breeding ground” for extremism.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali said unless the refugee problem is addressed, it will be difficult to make any significant progress on connectivity under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which involves Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
Bangladesh has nearly 11 lakh Rohingya refugees, while India has an estimated 40,000 scattered across various states.
“We would like that there is sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya people and they should be allowed to lead a normal life like many others because there are chances of radicalisation. As you know refugee camps all over the world is a good breeding ground for radicalisation and naturally for our own common security we want this to be controlled as soon as possible,” he said.
The high commissioner was speaking to reporters at an event organised at the Indian Women Press Corps in New Delhi. He said the BIMSTEC Summit is expected to be held in November.
“On the BIMSTEC, unless and until we resolve the refugee problem, we will not be able to make significant progress on the connectivity question. It is a common desire to build connectivity between India, Bangladesh with southeast Asian region and that would first require passing through Myanmar,” he said.
Connectivity between South Asia and Southeast Asia is a crucial aspect of BIMSTEC.
He said India has “significantly modified” its stand on the Rohingya issue and shown much greater importance to their repatriation.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her visit to Myanmar earlier this month, convoyed to the Myanmarese leadership that India is ready to help the Buddhist nation for “safe, speedy and sustainable” return of the displaced Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have reached a deal for the return of the Rohingya people that sidelined the UN refugee agency.
According to the agreement finalised in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Daw last year, a two-year deadline has been set for the repatriation of the Rohingya people.
Bangladesh also urged India to increase pressure on Myanmar on the issue.
“As a regional power, we want India to play a significant role. India is also the single-largest donor,” he said.
On the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, he said various options are being discussed to hold the next SAARC Summit.
The 2016 SAARC Summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to “prevailing circumstances” and stepped up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Nineteen Indian soldiers died in the attack.
The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the meet in Islamabad. The Maldives and Sri Lanka are the seventh and eighth members of the initiative.