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Rohingya crisis experts: Moral diplomacy to mount pressure on Myanmar

  • Published at 02:58 pm January 20th, 2019
Rohingya Refugee
File photo of Rohingya refugees Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Moral diplomacy, with a moral consciousness, can be a potentially effective approach to the conflict, experts said

Bangladesh should explore more ways to reach out to global powers that could potentially oblige Myanmar for ending the Rohingya crisis - with an emphasis on "moral diplomacy", a US professor has said. 

"States and global citizens must engage in putting pressure on Myanmar and its supporters," Prof Mohammad A Auwal of the Department of Communication Studies, California State University in USA, said in an interview with UNB.

Prof Auwal, also a senior research fellow of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), recently visited Rohingya camps in Bangladesh. Upon visiting, he laid emphasis on networking with, and supporting, local and international human rights agencies - as well as church groups - to end the Rohingya sufferings.

The professor also recommended organizing high-profile interfaith trips to Myanmar as a means to open opportunities for change through a dialogue focusing on moral diplomacy. 

"Moral diplomacy, with a moral consciousness, is a potentially effective approach to the conflict," he said.

Meanwhile, acting BEI President M Humayun Kabir said Bangladesh can work more towards approaching the Myanmar society and influence its people at a police level, but Myanmar's political structure makes the process difficult.

 “But we can work and can make a serious effort,” he said.

He added that Bangladesh can also reach out to India, China, Russia, Japan and even the US for exerting pressure on Myanmar.

Humayun, a former Bangladeshi ambassador to the US, said the Rohingya crisis has multiple dimensions, including humanitarian, rights and justice, and from Bangladesh's point of view, a geopolitical challenge.

"Our diplomatic skills are being tested through this issue," Kabir said. "We need to solve this problem. We also need to think of the courses of action to take if the issue does not get resolved."

Only pressure from international communities on Myanmar and its supporters remain as a viable option, Prof Auwal said.

"The big players have aligned their policies with that of Myanmar's out of political or economic interests," he said. "Given the geopolitical equations, the best or reasonable option for Bangladesh is to negotiate bilaterally."

"As I conceive it, moral diplomacy has three components - conventional diplomacy, public or citizen diplomacy and a diplomatic approach focusing on soft power and a non-violent approach," Prof Auwal said. "Everyone can be a moral diplomat."

He said everyone, including state officials and citizens who care about human rights, human dignity, liberty and justice, have a role to play in moral diplomacy. 

"In this age of globalization, we can reach out to almost everyone," Prof Auwal said, adding that the innate humanity inside everyone can help expose the characteristics of criminals or immoral powers. 

The recent shift in regional or even global geopolitics over the recent decades has made the Rohingya issue a thorny one, the professor said. He called on international powers to stop supporting the inhumane policies of Myanmar at the expense of their values and soft power.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the Rohingya issue will remain the number one priority for the Bangladeshi government. “I think this problem will not be solved easily. So, we have to overcome many hurdles.”

The minister said if stability prevails, development will take place, and everyone in the region will benefit from the stable condition.

"The international community has a big responsibility towards the Rohingyas' safe repatriation and rehabilitation," he said. "The interests of Myanmar, India,  China and Thailand will also be affected if the Rohingya crisis remains unresolved."

Momen said further analysis should be done on the economic, social and security impacts due to the Rohingya crisis on the society.

Momen briefed diplomats stationed in Dhaka recently and thanked the international community for their support.

He hoped that the international community would continue to play a constructive role in resolving the Rohingya crisis which can be only done in their safe, sustainable and dignified return to Myanmar.

The international community appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian welcome towards over one million Rohingyas from Myanmar, after they fled the Myanmar army's brutality last year. 

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to begin the first batch of Rohingya repatriation on November 15 last year but it was halted due to lack of a conducive environment in Rakhine State. 

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