Friday, Dec 15, 2017 | Last Update : 09:20 PM IST
The announcement that all Rohingya refugees would be expelled from India had the flavour of India joining the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
What Europe faces today, in terms of terror threat, India will face if it leaves its doors open. UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called Myanmar operation against Rohingya ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
All said and done, the recent initiatives on the Rohingyas have dented India’s human rights record and its credibility as a fighter against terrorism and violence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar to declare solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi within days after her army had driven out 3.8 lakh people from Myanmar, seemed ill-timed. The world had begun to demand that the Nobel Prize she had won for peace should be withdrawn and Bangladesh was reeling under the flow of refugees. Perhaps, fresh from his visit to China, Mr Modi may have aimed at doing one better than China in cultivating Myanmar. Or he was privy to new information that terrorists had penetrated the Rohingya leadership and he had no time to lose. But today, as the international community unanimously has condemned Myanmar, we appear to have miscalculated on this issue. The announcement that all Rohingya refugees would be expelled from India had the flavour of India joining the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
It must be said to the credit of PM Modi that he quickly took remedial measures when Bangladesh and others pointed out the woes of the refugee receiving nations. India added the concern about refugee flows to its earlier statement on the legitimacy of security measures, made explicit the nature of the security threat to India, gave succour to the refugees in Bangladesh and put in a comprehensive plan of its own to deal with the Rohingya problem. These include assistance for the development of the Rakhine state, helping Bangladesh with humanitarian aid to benefit the refugees and urging the Myanmar government to find a political solution. India has heeded the voice of the international community, even though we hit the High Commissioner of human rights hard for his highly objectionable comments. Eminent commentators have come to the rescue of the government by arguing that Rohingyas are illegal migrants rather than refugees and, therefore, not entitled to the protection that refugees should enjoy and their expulsion is legitimate even if there is no specific security threat from them. The hypocrisy of the West in not allowing refugees from West Asia into their countries and preaching to India to take refugees has also been exposed.
We should be aware that there is a perception in the world that India’s strong position on terrorism is aimed at Pakistan and that India’s record on human rights is not impeccable. These suspicions have been deepened by the Rohingya episode, which resulted in the harsh criticism by the Human Rights Council.
As Karan Thapar has reminded us, Swami Vivekananda had said: “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.”
Instead of taking the path of legalistic debate, India should pursue the path of humanitarian consideration to help resolve the issue. No one can challenge security considerations, but it should not appear to be a smokescreen for escaping our traditional responsibilities. Those guilty of terrorism should be brought to book, but the others should be permitted to stay till they are able to get back home.
Exposed: The hypocrisy of the West in not allowing refugees from West Asia into their countries and preaching to India to take refugees has been exposed.
Tarnished: The suspicion that India’s record on human rights is not impeccable have been deepened by the Rohingya episode, which resulted in the harsh criticism by the Human Rights Council.
Helping hand: India took remedial measures when Bangladesh and others pointed out the woes of the refugee receiving nations.