Rohingya refugee crisis: India keeps off the Bali declaration
12:00 AM, September 09, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:34 PM, September 13, 2017

Violence in Rakhine: India keeps off the Bali declaration

India has declined to be a part of an international parliamentary conference's declaration that expressed concern over the ongoing violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

An Indian parliamentary delegation, led by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, distanced itself from the Bali Declaration adopted at “World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development” on Thursday in Nusa Dua, Indonesia.

India said the proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine state in the declaration was inappropriate.

The move came following the Indian government's recent decision to deport nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees from the country.

It is also in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the brutal persecution of the ethnic minority in Myanmar during his visit to Myanmar. Modi has been facing criticisms at home for both.

The Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) Secretariat on Thursday night defended its refusal to be a part of the Bali Declaration, reports our New Delhi Correspondent.

"This was in view of the fact that the declaration, which was to be adopted at the conclusion of the Forum, was not in line with the agreed global principles of sustainable development.

"Therefore, the proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine state in the declaration was considered as not consensus-based and inappropriate," the secretariat said in a press statement.

The part of the declaration, to which India objected, spoke of the forum expressing "deep concern on ongoing violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, amongst others..."

The  declaration went on to "call on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity, as well as facilitate and guarantee safe access for humanitarian assistance."

The Lok Sabha statement said, “The country-specific amendment to the draft declaration was proposed the eleventh hour by selective countries which referred to the violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar.”

The Indian delegation's decision came on the day Modi wrapped up his maiden three-day visit to Myanmar. He backed the government of the country.

Modi in a joint appearance before the media with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi urged all stakeholders to find a solution that respects the country's unity.

Around a month before Modi's visit there, the Indian home minister on August 9 told parliament that 40,000 Rohingyas staying in India would be deported.

This prompted the National Human Rights Commission to issue a notice to the home ministry on August 18 calling for a detailed report on the matter in four weeks.

In another development, the Indian Supreme Court on Monday sought to know the government's position on a petition challenging its decision to deport illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants back to Myanmar.

But on the next day, as Modi began his visit to Myanmar, Kiren Rijiju, state minister for home, announced that the government had set up a taskforce to identify Rohingyas, who had taken refuge in different states of the country, in order to begin the process of deportation.

CRITICISMS IN MEDIA

"New Delhi, in any case, is hardly in a position to give lectures on humanitarianism when it has rhetorically spoken of expelling Rohingya refugees and pass the matter to the Supreme Court," said the Hindustan Times in its editorial on Thursday. 

"New Delhi skirted the issue of Myanmar's horrific treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority but was able to persuade Naypyidaw to allow India to launch a large-scale aid programme in Rakhine province, the home of the Rohingya and the epicentre of the present violence," said the English daily.

In its editorial, The Tribune, another daily, yesterday said the sheen came off Modi's aspiration to be a global statesman when he meekly echoed Aung San Suu Kyi's rather lame and patently dishonest excuse for not taking up the cause of the Rohingyas and terming it a problem of terrorism.

"The reasons for Modi's silence in Myanmar are not hard to discern: first and foremost is that the march towards Hindutva will be diluted by accommodating largely Muslim Rohingyas. Second is geopolitical: India would not want to push the Myanmar regime into China's arms by a tough stance on the refugees," it asserted.   

Columnist Ashis Ray yesterday in an article in the National Herald also slammed Modi.

"As for Modi, he hasn't borne in mind that standing shoulder to shoulder with Suu Kyi is one thing, doing the same with the Myanmar military is another. He has, tragically for India, chosen the latter," he wrote.

“And in so doing, he has unwisely drawn a parallel between the Rohingya and Kashmir imbroglios in the eyes of the world. Besides, Bangladesh has been one of India's closet allies in recent years. It is unlikely to be best pleased by Modi's Rohingya policy,” Ashis commented.

Law professor Shiv Visvanathan in an article in the Hindu yesterday said, "If we abandon Rohingya, we abandon the idea of India as a home of refugees and hospitality. A country which offered a home to the Parsis, the Tibetans, the Afghans, and the Jews cannot turn a little minority of helpless people back."

Ravi Nair, executive director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, in a recent article in The Indian Express, lamented that the Indian government could not even make a gesture to Bangladesh of offering humanitarian assistance as faraway Turkey has done.

“The Indonesians and Malaysians in ASEAN are none too happy with the Indian position on the Rohingyas,” he wrote.

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