The ethnic-cleansing of the Rohingya in the Rakhine state and how Bangladesh has responded to this atrocity have been top discussion topics across the globe -- primarily because of the gravity of the issue and how it affects, and in effect changes, the global order.
The geo-political significance of Myanmar, particularly being the physical divide of the East and Southeast Asia, gives it a huge advantage in bargaining terms and conditions as well as in acquiring support and assistance from superpowers in any course of action Myanmar chooses to pursue. On the face of a humanitarian crisis and terror, the most influential global actors still stand by Myanmar.
On the contrary, Bangladesh, already over-burdened with its own population, has opened its borders to the Rohingya community as of late August 2017.
Months into this crisis, and still support from certain superpowers expected to pour in has become a far-fetched idea. Every “superpower” in the region sharpened its diplomacy tools and responded to this humanitarian crisis as strategically as its diplomacy would allow. Ultimately, their response coerced Bangladesh to be a lone traveller in this crisis.
The rights to citizenship and basic needs of the Rohingya in Myanmar had always been denied by the Myanmar authority, even though ancestry of the Rohingya can be traced back to 800-1,000 years in Myanmar. The latest wave of attacks on the Rohingya (starting in August 2017) has evolved into the biggest humanitarian crisis for Bangladesh to take on its own shoulders.
We sought cooperation from the UN, and after months, the Security Council ended its discussion resulting in mere sanctions but no affirmative action against the Myanmar authority. Most of the countries paid little attention to the sufferings of the Rohingya and to the challenges Bangladesh undertook.
Russia, who had rendered its assistance during our Liberation War has taken a strong stance in favour of Myanmar authorities. China had already built ties with Myanmar over long walks of bilateral relations that reached great heights.
The US failed to take a bold stance against Myanmar, and India, the most proximate neighbour of Bangladesh and the most trusted “friend,” continues to foster a good relationship with Myanmar. Japan, the biggest investor in Myanmar’s infrastructure, maintains its silence till date.
As we stand witness to the latest bout of military stand-off and tension in no man’s land, there is no possibility to solve this aggravated crisis unless bold and immediate initiatives are taken by the world community
The military tie with Russia, trade relations with India, trade and military affiliation with China -- all of it gives Myanmar a huge diplomatic advantage. Furthermore, the natural resources of Myanmar have always been of interest to all superpowers in this region.
In light of the recent events, where no man’s land in between Bangladesh and Myanmar has become a place of contention, the question is: After months of Rohingya crisis pouring in our borders and spreading through our economy, does humanity mean nothing in the face of diplomacy and trade relationships?
Those countries which have always been vocal in upholding human rights, declaring “war” against inequality, against suppression of minority and discrimination -- what made them silent in this case, when humanity is at stake?
Interestingly, if one is to study the major conflicts plaguing the world currently, one is to find religion at the heart of almost all unrest across the globe. Ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state poses a question now: Are we standing witness to Samuel P Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
coming into fruition?
To support this, I can add something more. Thailand pushed all the boats back to the sea carrying Rohingya. On the other hand, Malaysia and Indonesia have been vocal against this ethnic cleansing.
A lonely road
Bangladesh has become a lonely traveller in this humanitarian crisis.
There might be a solution: Countries having vast land with small population can still offer refuge to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The global leaders have done little to resolve this crisis.
As we stand witness to the latest bout of military stand-off and tension in no man’s land, I believe, there is no possibility to solve this aggravated crisis unless bold and immediate initiatives are taken by the world community to impose pressure upon Myanmar and coerce the Myanmar authority to do the right thing.
A lonely traveller, indeed. But Bangladesh cannot sustain this humanitarian crisis on her own while all other key regional players shout “not my problem.” Something needs to be done and something needs to be done now.
Shiblee Noman is a lecturer of Political Science Department at Jagannath University and former lecturer of BRAC University; he is also a news anchor at Bangladesh Television (BTV).