China and India’s diplomacy on Rohingya crisis
A military coup in Myanmar on February 1 could hamper the repatriation and resettlement of Myanmar's Rohingya population. The international community and world leaders are currently keeping a close eye on the situation in Myanmar and the Rohingya, but China and India, Myanmar's trusted allies, have a key role to play in this issue. But neither China nor India has yet commented on the Myanmar coup. What kind of impact the military coup in Myanmar could have on the Rohingya has given rise to a surprising question.
Many analysts believe that the mysterious role of China and India, Myanmar's two neighbours, will prolong the Rohingya crisis. In 2017, under the umbrella of the Myanmar administration in Rakhine, the army began indiscriminate genocide and persecution against the Rohingya. The United States, Europe and the United Nations have repeatedly expressed concern over the plight of Rohingyas seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been arrested following a coup on February 1. The allegation against Suu Kyi is that she failed to take any effective steps to prevent the 2017 genocide in Rakhine. Suu Kyi did not take any action to try Myanmar's military, despite the fact that tribunals set up under various international human rights organizations have proved Myanmar's involvement in the genocide.
Myanmar's military has denied any wrongdoing in the crackdown on the Rohingya, but has called it "genocide." Soon after, the Myanmar army came under new surveillance. Violence against the Rohingya by Buddhist monks has proved to be the direct patronage of the Myanmar army. The US administration and the European Union have already imposed a blockade on Myanmar's army, command in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, for allegedly torturing the Rohingya.
Following the military coup, the UN Security Council issued a statement on February 4 protesting the Myanmar army's reckless decision. The country's state councillor has demanded the immediate release of all civilian leaders, including Suu Kyi. The Rohingya issue was included in the Security Council statement. It said all members of the Security Council had called for an end to hostilities in Rakhine state. They demanded the immediate creation of a safe and stable environment so that the Rohingya could return to their homeland in peace.
In addition to China, Myanmar has close military ties with both Russia and India. China has a large investment in the country. China is investing in Myanmar under the Belt and Road Initiative project. Analysts have blamed China and India's patronage for the Myanmar army's relief after the coup.
In a response to the uprising in Myanmar, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China was a friendly neighbour of Myanmar. We hope that all parties in Myanmar will uphold their constitution by restraining their dissent and try to maintain the country's political and social stability through a legal frame work. No matter who is in power, Beijing wants to protect its business and economic interests by maintaining good relations with Naypyidaw.
After the genocide in 2017, when Myanmar was under pressure from Europe and America, no tough decision could be taken against Myanmar due to the veto of China and Russia. Even the Security Council could not approve the resolution. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly accused Myanmar of ethnic violence and genocide but, the Myanmar administration has denied the allegations.
The UN Security Council called for a resolution in December 2017 to stop the anti-Rohingya campaign in Myanmar but China and Russia objected. A year later, Beijing and Moscow withdrew from any talks on Rohingya refugees.
Like Russia and China, India maintains parallel relations with Myanmar. "We are monitoring the situation in Myanmar with concern," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement following the military coup. India has always supported Myanmar's journey towards democracy. We hope that the rule of law and democracy in Myanmar will continue in the future days. We are closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar.
The main reason behind this suspicious behaviour of India is that General Min Aung Hlaing has maintained good relations with Delhi for a long time. The Narendra Modi government has maintained good relations with Min Aung Hlaing as an alternative to Suu Kyi. Over the past six years, Myanmar's defense and security cooperation with India has also increased significantly in numbers. Analysts say the Buddhist majority country will not easily repatriate the Rohingya, no matter how much pressure the international community puts on them.
Due to increasing pressure in Cox's Bazar, the Bangladesh government has already built residential buildings for one lakh Rohingyas in Bhashan Char. How long a middle income based country like Bangladesh can carry such a large number of Rohingyas is a big question. Many think that if Myanmar agrees to return the Rohingyas, their number will not exceed up to 40,000. Those who return may have to stay in a captive area, depriving from their human rights. The movement will also shrink and they may have to spend the rest of their lives in a state of misery and horror.
Another major reason for the prolonged Rohingya problem is the fight between China and India over influence. India has always tried to provoke Myanmar against China. Myanmar also believes in these campaigns and some problematic incidents have taken place. The Myanmar authorities believe that China has provoked the Rohingya freedom fighters against the Myanmar military.
Many in Myanmar's military leadership believe that China has regularly provided financial support to the Arakan Army, an armed group of Rohingya people, and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army mainly called Arsa. The Myanmar administration has identified the two organizations as terrorist organizations. Last year, a pro-India security analyst said that 95% of the Arakan Army's financial activities came from China.
India further claims that China is also providing arms to these organizations. Thanks to Chinese assistance, the two Rohingya organizations now have 50 man-portable air defense systems and surface-to-air missiles in place. Due to the anti-Rohingya propaganda, Myanmar's policymakers are not interested in the return of the Rohingya people.
In June last year, Myanmar's military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, called for international co-operation in the fight against terrorism. He claimed that these terrorist organizations have survived because one of the superpowers is supporting them. Although he did not name any country, analysts are convinced that General Hlaing is referring to China.
The Rohingya rehabilitation and repatriation process is no longer successful because of the behavior and conflicting roles of global superpowers based on false propaganda. It is safe to say that the recent military coup will make the process more uncertain and unpredictable.
The writer is a student of