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No sign of radicalisation in Rohingya, says Bangladesh Foreign Secretary

A Rohingya Muslim Mohamed Rafiq hands a drink of water and biscuits to his wife Noora Khatum who lies exhausted on the ground as they reach Teknaf, Bangladesh. (Source: AP)

By Shubhajit Roy
The Indian Express
October 8, 2017

Describing the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state as “ethnic cleansing”, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said the international community has been made aware of how the country was “snatching the rights” of the Rohingya.

New Delhi -- Stressing that he has not seen any sign of radicalisation among Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque Friday said that he would not comment on India’s move to deport them but hoped that “in the end… humanitarian issues will get due consideration”.

Haque’s position runs contrary to New Delhi’s stance that Rohingya refugees in India pose a national security threat amid fears of radicalisation. Haque, who met Foreign secretary S Jaishankar in the Capital on Thursday evening, was also hopeful of India’s support to Bangladesh in the wake of the refugee crisis. This was the third meeting between the two foreign secretaries in the past month-and-a-half following sessions in Colombo and New York last month after the crisis escalated.

Asked about India’s plan to deport around 40,000 Rohingya refugees, Haque, “I will not comment on India’s decision….but I hope, in the end, humanitarian issues will get due consideration.” Haque is one of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s trusted lieutenants.

On whether there has been radicalisation among Rohingya in Bangladesh, Haque said he has been to refugee camps several times in the last few weeks but “there has not been any sign of radicalisation in these people”.

Haque, however, said there was always a possibility of radicalisation since radical elements would try to take advantage of the situation but it was the government’s responsibility to not allow that to happen. “It is not an alarming situation,” he told reporters at the Bangladesh High Commission.

Haque, who also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval Thursday, said they discussed all aspects of the issue, with the continuing influx of Rohingya refugees from Mynamar figuring “prominently”.

Describing the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state as “ethnic cleansing”, Haque said the international community has been made aware of how the country was “snatching the rights” of the Rohingya.

“It is not only a people’s movement but also a security issue, a border issue, which has the potential to destabilise the region, not just areas in Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he said.

On India’s position that Rohingya pose a security threat, Haque said, “Not that it always becomes (a security threat), depends on how you manage it. So far the government of Bangladesh has been able to contain that. It has not moved into a security area… The population continues to remain neutral. They all look forward to go back. It is the responsibility of the State not to allow it (radicalisation) to happen.”

The Bangladesh Foreign Secretary said there is a tendency to view such issues from the prism of radicalisation, but that obfuscates the fact that it is above all a humanitarian issue, involving women and children who “need support”.

“India has been with Bangladesh during difficult times like in 1971 or subsequently. They are our closest partner. We agreed this is a huge burden on Bangladesh and it has potential to destabilise the region. I think we were speaking in the same language,” he said.

On reports of mass graves of Hindus found in the violence-hit region, Haque said, “This is part of ethnic cleansing. Once there is ethnic cleansing I do not think people who commit ethnic cleansing make separation between Muslims and Hindus. They want to clear the whole area to set up a export processing zone I am told. It is the government’s responsibility to protect all its citizens.”

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