Bangladesh, which follows a policy of peaceful settlement of disputes with neighbouring countries, needs to develop an effective negotiation framework through which it can engage all the stakeholders to ensure the return of the Rohingyas to their own land, experts and policymakers have told a webinar.
The international community should make concerted efforts to resolve the Rohingya crisis as the Myanmar authorities have not demonstrated genuine political will in the repatriation process, they said.
"The outcomes and experiences of our bilateral diplomatic efforts of working with Myanmar on the Rohingya issue clearly suggest that Bangladesh alone cannot solve the crisis," State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam told the webinar titled "The Rohingya Crisis: Response of the International Community and the Repatriation Process", which was organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies on Wednesday.
"Given the gravity of the crisis of over a million Rohingyas and the mindset of the Myanmar authorities, the international community must not shy away from their responsibility to resolve the crisis," he said.
Speaking as the chief guest at the event, he said no positive change in Myanmar's mindset, policy, and approach could be brought about despite intense bilateral diplomatic efforts from Bangladesh's side as well as repeated calls of the international community and scores of resolutions both at various United Nations (UN) bodies as well as other regional bodies like the European Union.
"To date, not a single Rohingya could return to Myanmar, though their repatriation was supposed to begin in January 2018 under the bilateral instruments we signed with Myanmar," he added.
"As of now, we have relocated over 18,500 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char in several phases and again we are managing their basic humanitarian needs from our own exchequer, given that the UN is yet to commence its operation on the island," the state minister further said.
Speaking about the role of India and China in the Rohingya repatriation process, Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, said, Bangladesh, including the international community, is favourable to the Rohingya cause and ought to undertake policies to convince India and Japan to decouple from Myanmar.
Once India and Japan are decoupled from Myanmar, international pressure on China can be intensified, indeed, to a point when China would see greater merit in putting pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue, he said.
But since Myanmar is the meeting place of the Belt and Road Initiative and Indo-Pacific Strategy, this ought to be handled with dexterity and out-of-the-box diplomatic manoeuvres, he added.
"However, India has a vibrant civil society. It is important to engage with India's civil society so that it could rise to the occasion and put pressure on its government to decouple India from Myanmar," Dr Imtiaz further said.
He commented that an international effort ought to be undertaken to shame the international investors in Myanmar.
Ambassador M Humayun Kabir, president of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, talked about the West and the Rohingya Crisis. He said the Western countries had been playing a positive role and greatly supporting Bangladesh in the Rohingya issue, especially in humanitarian support, but the geopolitical context is slightly complex.
"The US continues to focus on the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The democratisation of Myanmar could be a part of this strategy. In that case, the Rohingya issue could play a role and our diplomatic role is very important here," he added.
Brig Gen M Sakhawat Hossain (retd) said Bangladesh should not expect much from the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit or ASEAN countries in the Rohingya issues at this moment as they are more interested in the internal set-up of Myanmar than ASEAN.
He mentioned that concerted efforts have to be made to resolve the crisis with the partnership of the international community
Md Delwar Hossain, director general of Myanmar wing at the foreign ministry, said there might be a security risk for the entire region if Bangladesh fails to resolve the crisis.
Among others, Abu Salah Md Yosuf, senior research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, presented a paper titled "The Dilemmas of the US Sanctions against Myanmar."
Five papers were presented at the event chaired by Maj Gen Md Emdad Ul Bari, director general at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.