External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is on a two-day visit to Bangladesh, has spoken out about the influx of Rohingya muslims into Bangladesh from Myanmar. Swaraj is said to have extended her full support to Bangladesh’s stance that Myanmar must take back its nationals and must not punish innocent people while fighting terrorism.
“Myanmar may punish the terrorists, not innocent people,” Bangladesh prime minister’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told PTI, quoting Swaraj.
“It’s a big burden for Bangladesh, and how long will Bangladesh bear this?” Swaraj said referring to the exodus of the forcibly displaced people who fled the violence in Rakhine in Myanmar and escaped into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Swaraj also called for a permanent solution to the issue. She also praised Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for extending all humanitarian support to the displaced people.
Swaraj’s comments come after she met Hasina after joining the 4th Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission meeting with her counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.
“We have given them shelter upon the confidence that we would be able to feed the distressed Rohingyas on humanitarian ground,” Hasina told Swaraj.
Nearly 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where the Myanmarese army has launched a crackdown against militants.
Myanmar doesn’t recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.
Bangladesh also sought India’s “sustained pressures” on Myanmar for resolution of the crisis.
The foreign ministers of both India and Bangladesh also strengthened the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
India and Bangladesh also discussed the common challenge of terrorism and resolved to fight the scourge together.
“We are both determined to protect our societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels,” Swaraj said after the talks at the fourth Joint Consultative Commission (JCC).
“We discussed the common challenges that we are faced with today. One such challenge is that of terrorism, extremism and radicalisation and we will continue to fight this scourge together and along with other like-minded countries,” she added.
India has also been extending grant assistance for small socio-economic projects in Bangladesh.
“Totally, three lines of credit amounting to USD 8 billion have been extended by India to Bangladesh so far. This is by far the largest development assistance that India has extended to any country worldwide,” she said.
Several measures were announced to boost people-to-people contact and MoUs were signed to boost bilateral ties.
On the sidelines of the JCC meeting, India and Bangladesh also signed bilateral documents on capacity building in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), sale purchase agreement between Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and India’s Numaligarh Refinery.
Both the foreign ministers described their JCC talks as very fruitful with Ali calling India the “most important, trusted and friendly neighbour” while Swaraj said “Our partnership today touches upon virtually all areas of human endeavour”.
India also expressed hope that the upcoming election in Bangladesh would be fair.
(With inputs from agencies)