Myanmar should take back refugees: Sushma Swaraj on Rohingya crisis

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday reiterated India’s concerns over violence in Myanmar and said normalcy would only be restored with the return of the displaced people to Rakhine state.

Recalling India’s efforts to help Bangladesh deal with the situation resulting from the arrival of refugees from Myanmar, Swaraj said India was deeply concerned at the spate of violence.

“We have urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population,” Swaraj said in a press statement in Dhaka after the fourth round of the joint consultative commission meeting.

In India’s view, Swaraj said without naming the Rohingya, the only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine was rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities in the state.

In the evening, Swaraj called on PM Sheikh Hasina and discussed the Rohingya crisis. She was quoted by Bangladeshi media as having told Hasina that Myanmar must take its people back. “Myanmar must take back their nationals, they are a big burden for Bangladesh,” Swaraj reportedly said in the meeting.

“How long will Bangladesh bear it? There should be a permanent solution,” Hasina’s press secretary quoted Swaraj as saying, according to Bangladeshi media.

In her press statement, Swaraj said India was committed to providing financial and technical aid for projects in Rakhine. “We have also supported implementation of the recommendations in the Kofi Annan-led Special Advisory Commission report,” she said.

India and Bangladesh also discussed the challenge of terrorism. “We are both determined to protect our societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels,” she said.

India had launched ‘Operation Insaniyat’ in September to support Bangladesh in its efforts to provide shelter in Cox’s Bazaar to lakhs of displaced persons. “Through this, we have supplied essential requirements by way of parboiled rice, dal, salt, sugar, cooking oil, tea, milk powder, mosquito nets and soap to about 3,00,000 displaced persons,” she said.

Nearly 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August to escape violence in Rakhine where the army has launched a crackdown against militants. Myanmar doesn’t recognise Rohingyas as an ethnic group and insists they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country

“Three lines of credit amounting to $8 billion have been extended by India to Bangladesh so far… by far the largest… India has extended to any country,” she said.

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