New Delhi: India Monday raised the issue of an “early repatriation” of the Rohingya refugees with Myanmar, as a “close friend, partner and neighbour” of that country as well as Bangladesh, ThePrint has learnt.
The issue was discussed in detail by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Army Chief Gen. M.M. Naravane during a two-day visit to Myanmar that concluded Monday. India had not sent such a high-powered delegation to Myanmar in the recent past.
During the visit, the foreign secretary and Army chief called on State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Repatriation of Rohingyas
Diplomatic sources said India has leveraged the issue of Rohingya refugees based on the fact that it continues to be a “close friend, partner, and neighbour” of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, and has a “deep and abiding interest to see an early stabilisation of the situation in the Rakhine State”.
India has informed Myanmar that New Delhi “fully understands the urgency of this situation” and, thus, it has committed to humanitarian efforts in both Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate “an early return of the displaced persons”, according to sources.
The Rohingyas are an ethnic minority group, who are predominantly Muslims, based in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Thousands of Rohingyas had to flee the state due to an ongoing decades-long conflict between the Myanmar Army and rebels from Arakan Army.
The repatriation of Rohingya refugees, about one million of whom presently reside in Bangladesh, was raised by Dhaka with New Delhi last month. Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen took it up on priority with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission meeting.
Sources also said India has provided five tranches of relief supplies to Bangladesh and is “willing to do more”.
India already runs a Rakhine State Development Project in order to help the Myanmar government to bring back the refugees and provide them a stable life there.
Talks on infrastructure projects, security in border areas
During the visit, the Army Chief Naravane separately met Vice Senior General Soe Win, deputy commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Services, while Foreign Secretary Shringla met U Soe Han, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Both sides also discussed progress of the ongoing Indian-assisted infrastructure projects such as the Trilateral Highway, and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project.
“The two sides discussed maintenance of security and stability in their border areas, and reiterated their mutual commitment not to allow their respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other. The Indian side expressed their appreciation to Myanmar for handing over of 22 cadres of Indian Insurgent Groups to India,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.
India also announced a grant of $2 million for the construction of a ‘border haat’ bridge at Byanyu-Sarsichauk in Chin State, that is expected to provide increased economic connectivity between Mizoram and Myanmar.