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Answered: Do you think that the Rohingya refugee crisis is because of geopolitical realities and strategic miscalculations? Critically comment. How can this issue affect the ongoing relationship between India and Myanmar?


Rohingyas are muslims that inhabit the Rakhine province of Myanmar.
They are officially “stateless”, because Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship act does not consider them citizens.
They are referred to as “Bengalis” in Myanmar, implying that they belong to Bangladesh and not to Myanmar.
They are also subjected to persecution by the majority Buddhist communities. This has resulted in their migration to neighbouring countries, including India.

Yes, the Rohingya crisis is a result of geopolitical realities and strategic miscalculations.

Geopolitical realities:
1. China dismisses the persecution and atrocities as Myanmar’s “internal matter” because it needs Naypidaw’s support to further its economic and strategic goals, namely infrastructure projects in Myanmar and ports at Sittwe and Kyaukphyu for string of pearls and as an outlet into the Bay of Bengal.
2. Bangladesh pays no heed to the situation since it does not want to burden its economy and social services with the refugees. Moreover, allowing them willingly would legitimize Myanmar’s stand that the Rohingyas are “Bengalis”.
3. India has accepted Rohingya refugees despite not being a signatory to the Refugee Convention. However, it chooses to remain silent in order not to aggravate Naypidaw and jeopardize bilateral relations.
4. Myanmar’s pro-democracy activist and now “State Counsellor” Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is silent on the issue since she doesn’t want to antagonize the majority Buddhist vote bank, some of them vociferously anti-Rohingya.
5. The West is too busy dealing with the Syrian war and the ensuing refugee influx that has also achieved crisis proportions. Moreover, Myanmar holds no strategic advantage for them at present.

Strategic miscalculations:
1. The pro-democracy West, by non-interference in this issue, is ceding space to Chinese influence.
2. India, by remaining silent and not demanding action against atrocities, may hope for some short term cooperation, but increasing unrest will foment radicalization amongst the Rohingyas in the future, and cause terrorism-related problems in its North East.
3. China, in the hope of achieving short-term economic and strategic goals, is gearing up for similar repercussions in its Xingjiang province, with separatist Uighur muslims deriving support and ideological stance from the radicalized Rohingyas.

This issue can affect Indo-Myanmar relationship as follows:
1. New Delhi’s vocal support for Rohingyas can antagonize Naypyidaw and jeopardize India’s anti-insurgency efforts in the North East, since Myanmar soil harbours most of the insurgents.
2. New Delhi’s silence on the issue diminishes its democratic credentials on the global stage and risks radicalization on its eastern front.
3. If not handled properly, the issue can also lead to an increase in Chinese influence in the region. As such, India’s neighbours (except Bhutan) are eager to play the China card for arm-twisting India.
4. Myanmar shares a border with five north-eastern states. It is the key to development of the neglected NE region via Act East policy. Initiatives like BCIM corridor, Kaladan multi-modal transport project and IMT trilateral highway are some of the projects in the pipeline. Rohingya issue, if mishandled, has the potential to jeopardize the development of India’s NE region.

India cannot simply brush the Rohingya issue under the carpet, especially when it can have far-flung repercussions and at a time when New Delhi is aspiring to occupy a greater position on the global stage. It must use tactful diplomacy to ensure justice for Rohingyas and a peaceful resolution to the conflict.


 

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