Rohingya Refugee Crisis – Concerns of India

Rohingya Crisis UPSC IAS preparation

From Current Affairs Notes for UPSC » Editorials & In-depths » This topic

This topic of “Rohingya Refugee Crisis – Concerns of India” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Why in News?

  • Recently, the United Nations has called for charges against top military figures of Myanmar for perpetrating genocide against the Rohingya Minority.
  • It also accuses Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, of failing to use her “moral authority” to prevent violence against the Rohingyas.
  • UN report contradicts the Burmese army’s claims of merely responding to security challenges.

Who are Rohingyas?

  • Rohingyas are Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state whose origins are believed to be from Bangladesh.

What is the issue?

  • Rohingyas are not recognized by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group (mostly Buddhists) and are therefore denied citizenship.
  • Both institutionally discriminated and denied basic human rights, over a million Rohingyas have no land they call home.

What are the Reasons?

Geographical reasons

  • Rakhine is a province located in the north-western coast of Myanmar and is isolated from the rest of the country because of a mountain range in between. This created natural barrier = fewer interactions between two sides.

Historic reasons

  • After the region came under British rule in 1824, there was an increased movement of people.
  • As the region was fertile, there was rice cultivation on a large scale.
  • The British got workers from Chittagong to cultivate the rice fields.
  • Eventually, a lot of people settled down in Myanmar.
  • Mosques and pagodas existed side by side and there was a cordial relationship for centuries.
  • The world war II saw the first fissures emerge as the Muslims supported the British and the Buddhists supported the Japanese for their respective political aspirations.

Legal reasons

  • Rohingyas are not qualified to be citizens of Myanmar as per the 1982 Citizenship law, which was promulgated by the erstwhile military junta.
  • Only those people who trace their residence in the country to before 1823 (remember British engineered migration from 1823), or those belonging to the majority Burman, or Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan ethnic groups, qualify for full citizenship.
  • Thus Rohingyas couldn’t claim citizenship as the majority of them came to Myanmar only after 1823.

What are the issues faced by Rohingyas?

  • Lakhs of Rohingyas have been displaced, with three-fourths of them seeking refuge in Bangladesh and India.
  • They suffer “mass atrocities” perpetrated by security forces of Myanmar in the northern part of Rakhine state.
  • A large number of those escaping the brutal violence end up in the trafficking networks of the region who smuggle them out for huge amounts of money.
  • Some die en route, some make it to the borders of neighboring countries only to be turned away: hordes, including little children, often get stranded at sea.
  • What’s even more distressing is that all of this is now happening under the stewardship of Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous and inspiring “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.

What is the global response to this issue?

  • The western world is busy with the unfolding of events in the middle-east particularly Syria and the resultant refugee crisis. They neglected Rohingyas, whose plight has no direct bearing on the West’s interests.
  • By lifting the 20-year long sanctions against Myanmar in 2016, the U.S finds itself in no position to bargain or put pressure on the country.
  • The UN has also proven to be powerless on the Rohingyas question.
  • For China, its relationship with Myanmar’s Generals is important for gaining access to the country’s natural resources and recruiting Myanmar for China’s larger economic goals which include opening a land corridor to the Bay of Bengal.
  • Neighboring countries like Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia have raised the issue with Myanmar only when the refugees became economically burdensome.
  • In any case, the Rohingyas are of no strategic value to anyone. So there is no effective international pressure on Myanmar government.

What is India’s response?

  • India’s record of accommodating the Rohingyas is better than that of China, but this policy is changing.
  • Many Rohingyas are either turned away while trying to enter the country or sent to the jail for illegal entry.
  • Citizenship (amendment) bill, 2016, proposes that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians (note- No Muslims) entering India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan not be considered as “illegal immigrants”. Thus the proposed amendment is technically pro-minority but it certainly is anti-Muslim.

Why is India reluctant in helping Rohingyas?

  • In India, there are nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees = High economic costs.
  • Also, a lot of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have been reporting Rakhine as their origin to get refugee status in India.
  • There has been a problem of growing Islamic radicalization among the Rohingyas.
  • Efforts of radical Islamists to influence Rohingya youth, to capitalize on the situation and promote anti-India activities is possible.
  • The Indian intelligence has also discovered Pakistani Army & ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) connections with the ranks of “Arakhan Rohingya Army” which is currently involved in an insurgency against Myanmar.
  • Rohingyas are spread over several states in India and thus creating political tensions in those states.
  • India is also concerned about the security conditions in upper western Myanmar adjoining the Naga self-administered zone operated by NSCN (K) group.

What is the way forward?

  • The Rohingya crisis, if it remains unsettled, can become a path toward radicalization and pose a greater security threat for India.
  • Hence even if human rights considerations are the least of New Delhi’s worries, it is clearly in its interest to ensure that stability and peace return to the Rakhine state.
  • New Delhi should use creative diplomacy to persuade Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Related Posts

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Home Courses Plans Account