Nepal should play role in resolving Rohingya crisis

Now Bangladesh wants to repatriate them to Myanmar. Nepal should support Bangladesh at all international fora to repatriate them peacefully. Such a gesture will not go unnoticed in Dhaka.

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On the Rohingya issue (repatriation), Nepal and Bangladesh can work together. Nepal can play a role in resolving the Rohingya crisis. As a regional country, Nepal should play in resolving the regional crisis. The Rohingya refugee crisis is a regional problem for both South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Nepal and Bangladesh are two of South Asia’s closest friends and peace-loving neighbors, their ties made closer by recent high-level state visits. President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid visited Nepal in 2019. Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari likewise visited Bangladesh in 2021 as a guest on the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. So, they can work together in resolving common regional challenges.

For decades, Myanmar has gone through extreme cruelty to the Rohingya. Never cared about the law. The Rohingya problem is not new to Bangladesh. This problem, which started in 1978, became apparent in August 2017. More than 1 million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to save their lives when the Myanmar army launched a brutal operation against the Rohingya ethnic group. Bangladesh is seeking the intervention of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as well as the regional alliance ASEAN for a lasting and acceptable solution to the Rohingya problem.

According to data of Nepalese media outlets, there are approximately 300 Rohingya living in Kathmandu, specifically in the Kapan area; and reports state that around 600 more are scattered all over Nepal However, the exact number of these asylum seekers is not known. (The Rohingya in Nepal, Kathmandu Post, January 01, 2020) The Rohingyas entered Nepal in the 1990s and mainly in 2012.

According to Nepal Police, ‘some Stateless Rohingyas have been found entering Nepal via Kakarbhitta border in eastern Nepal for the past few days. The incident came to light after 14 Rohingya refugees, including some children, were found to have entered Nepal and got apprehended when they arrived in Kathmandu on September 12. According to the Metropolitan Police Circle Bouddha, they entered Nepal from the Rohingya refugee camp of Bangladesh via India through Kakarbhitta. After entering Nepal, they arrived at the Rohingya refugee camp, Baluwakhani in Kapan of Kathmandu. (Rohingya Refugees Continue To Enter Nepal Illegally, Rising Daily Nepal, September 17, 2021)

On the other hand, Bangladesh is now facing serious problems because of this artificial crisis committed by Myanmar.  Some socio-economic threats are rising in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingyas for humanitarian reasons. But because of this humanity, the country is now at risk. As a result, there is a danger of Rohingyas spreading all over the country, there are also many challenges

The forest is being uprooted, they are cutting down the mountains and destroying them. There are also long-term economic risks Socio-economic and political problems may also be evident, and security risks may increase. Illegal narcotics trade, human trafficking, prostitution, terrorism in Rohingya camps is increasing in camps.

So, it can be said that the Rohingya problem isn’t the problem only for Bangladesh but also Nepal. Nepal should understand this. It’s time for both Bangladesh and Nepal to work together to repatriate Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar within two years in 2017 and 2019 respectively. The Myanmar authorities did not take back the Rohingyas according to the agreement. It is true that they don’t want to repatriate Rohingyas in Myanmar. Bangladesh raised the issue in every international forum. Many countries have supported Bangladesh. But Myanmar has no respect for international law and norms. Some mighty powers may have been behind the scene.

Bangladesh Prime Minister raised the issue at UNGA on September 25, 2021, to draw attention in solving the Rohingya crisis. She has focused especially on the engagement of ASEAN leaders. It is ASEAN that can solve the Rohingya refugee problem easily.

As a South Asian country and a well-trusted friend of Bangladesh, Nepal can help Bangladesh to resolve it. Nepal can be a mediator in this regard. Nepal has very warm relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Various countries and international organizations have taken various measures to resolve the Rohingya problem. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized Myanmar authorities for being lax in repatriating displaced Rohingya. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern over the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Yang Lee, the UN special envoy for human rights in Myanmar, said all major countries in the world had a responsibility to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

In this regard, Nepal can and should play a very significant role to resolve the crisis such ways:

1)      Nepal can support Bangladesh at every international forum such as at UNGA, regional conferences. It can vote in favor of Bangladesh. It can raise the issue in BIMSTEC and SAARC platforms.

2)      Nepal can negotiate with Myanmar diplomatically and bilaterally. It has good bilateral relations with Myanmar.

3)      Nepal can engage with other regional states to solve the crisis.

4)      Nepal’s Buddhist society can play an effective role in this regard. 

The relations of Buddhists between Myanmar and Nepal are well established. Nepalese Buddhists can do it very easily. Buddhism is more related to the establishment of peace and non-violence. Sri Lankan Buddhists can play a significant role in this regard. They can exercise the path shown by the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. Buddhists will be recognized as the Avatar of human rights if the Buddhist community plays a role in solving the Rohingya crisis. It will ensure regional to some extent World peace and communal harmony. Nepal’s Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. It is a holy place for all Buddhists around the world. Myanmar Buddhists and the government may also have respect for Nepal for this holy place. Nepal can use this opportunity. Nepalese Buddhists, people and government should make the Burmese Buddhists understand in this connection. Then, the people of Myanmar can be motivated to pressurize the Myanmar government to repatriate Rohingyas to their land. Bangladesh is also contributing to establishing a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. ‘Bangladesh Finalizes Agreement to Build Buddhist Monastery in Lumbini, Nepal’ was the headline of Hong Kong-based Global Buddhist Door headline on October 11. Can anyone imagine a Muslim country building a Buddhist monastery in Nepal, a religiously Hindu country? All Buddhists around the world, especially Burmese and Nepalese Buddhist should realize this with special attention.

5)      Nepalese businessmen can engage themselves to some extent. Because stability in the region is very needed for promoting investment and trade.

Why should Nepal play a role to resolve the problem?

1)      This issue is a humanitarian issue. Rohingyas are the sons of Land in Rakhine in Myanmar. They have birthrights to reside in Myanmar.

2)      It is an issue of Justice. According to Luther King Junior "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Myanmar authorities committed genocide. The perpetrators should be under international legal jurisdiction.

3)      It is an issue of the region. The whole of South Asia and Southeast Asia may be volatile for this issue. As a South Asian state, Nepal has some responsibilities.

4)      Nepal has bitter experience in dealing with Bhutanese refugees. Nepal knows how the refugees can become a burden and threat to society to some extent. Bangladesh has been suffering from the same problem. As a well-wisher friend, Nepal could understand Bangladesh's sufferings in this regard. Thus, Nepal should do something as per its capabilities.

5)      Nepal has very good relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

6)      Enhancing bilateral relations could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and SAARC countries. This will create an opportunity to serve the greater regional interests.

7)      Re-establishing the Himalayan-South Asian connectivity can occur if political and diplomatic solutions of Bangladesh-Myanmar strained ties can be found.

8)      Normally, Bangladesh supports Nepal at every common international forum. Now it is time and duty for Nepal to stand by Bangladesh in her crisis moment.

However, Tourism, Covid-19, counter-terrorism, microfinance, exchange of training expertise and education are some sectors in which Bangladesh and Nepal can collaborate. Bangladesh faces a refugee problem after the massive influx of Rohingya refugees into the country in 2017. Now Bangladesh wants to repatriate them to Myanmar. Nepal should support Bangladesh at all international fora to repatriate them peacefully. Such a gesture will not go unnoticed in Dhaka.

Nepal should consider this. Nepal should do something in favor of Bangladesh regarding Rohingya refugee repatriation to Myanmar. Nepal can make Myanmar understand and agree in this regard.

Nepal can play a very significant role in this regard. Nepal can mediate to bolster the strained relations between Bangladesh-Myanmar. Nepal can repatriate the Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar. Nepal can easily solve the problem because it has very good relations with Myanmar.

However, as a well-wisher friend and partner in the development process and trade, Bangladesh can expect cooperation and support from Nepal regarding the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Bangladesh deserves it. So, Nepal should help, support Bangladesh and mediate in resolving the crisis as soon as possible.

Pathik Hasan

The author is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based activist, researcher, analyst and columnist.

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