Day 89 – Q 1.What is the Rohingya Muslims issue? How is it affecting India’s interests and relations with Myanmar? Examine.
1. What is the Rohingya Muslims issue? How is it affecting India’s interests and relations with Myanmar? Examine.
रोहिंग्या मुसलमानों का मुद्दा क्या है? यह भारत के हितों और म्यांमार के साथ संबंधों को कैसे प्रभावित कर रहा है? जांच करें।
The Rohingya refugee crisis refers to the mass migration of Rohingyas (Rohingya Muslim people) from Myanmar (Burma) to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, 1.1 million Rohingya people live in Myanmar. They live predominantly in Rakhine state, where they have co-existed uneasily alongside Buddhists for decades.
- Few years ago, religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists (who make up the majority of the population in Myanmar) escalated into widespread, deadly rioting. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. Since then, ongoing violent attacks have forced even more people to leave their homes.
- They were not granted full citizenship by Myanmar. They were classified as “resident foreigners or associate citizens”. They speak a dialect of Bengali and not Burmese. The Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law. Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight national indigenous races.
- India has been receiving Rohingya refugees and allowing them to settle in the different parts of the country over the years, especially after the communal violence in the state of Rakhine in 2012. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are approximately 40,000 Rohingyas living in India. They have reportedly reached India from Bangladesh through the land route over the years.
- However, India considers the refugee crisis as an internal affair of Myanmar. India took the side of the Myanmar government because it was concerned that raising the issue publicly might push Myanmar towards China as it was building relations with the then newly formed quasi-democratic government.
- India also has economic interests with its companies holding stakes in Shwe Gas field off the coast of Rakhine State. Along with energy interests and plans to build cross-border pipelines, India also has a connectivity interest to link its landlocked northeastern region with the Bay of Bengal through Rakhine State
- These include a joint project with Myanmar that includes development of port at Sittwe, inland-waterway in the Kaladan River, and road construction to connect it with India’s Northeast. Instability in the Rakhine State could have adverse effects on these interests.
- The crisis has also acquired a security dimension with concerns being raised over the infiltration of Islamic extremism amongst the Rohingyas, who have grown increasingly desperate over their plight. The massive refugee outflow has created a serious humanitarian crisis that carries implications on regional stability and security.
- In 2017, India launched “Operation Insaniyat” to provide relief assistance for the refugee camps in Bangladesh. India’s decision to extend help fits into its desire to de-incentivise Rohingya refugees entering into India. Further, India would maintain constructive engagement with both Myanmar and Bangladesh, and that the international community needs to handle the situation with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population.
- In 2012 December, India’s external affairs Minister visited Rakhine and donated 1 million dollars for relief. India signed a development programme for Rakhine State in Myanmar late last year which was designed to assist the Myanmar government in Rakhine State to build housing infrastructure for displaced persons.
- The Rohingya refugees, while under the jurisdiction of the national government, cannot be deprived of the right to life and personal liberty. The chapter on fundamental rights in the Constitution differentiates citizens from persons. While all rights are available to citizens, persons including foreign citizens are entitled to the right to equality and the right to life, among others.
The Indian approach towards the Rohingya crisis has been viewed as contradicting its traditional position on refugees. As the Rohingya crisis unfolds, there is still a lot that India can do to facilitate the finding of long-term solutions. These actions will be key in determining India’s regional and global standing as well as relations with Myanmar.