ISSN 2330-717X

Open Letter To Russian President Vladimir Putin: Russia Could Easily Solve Rohingya Refugee Crisis – OpEd

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His Excellency Mr. President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, please help us. Please help the Bangladeshi people. You and your country can easily solve the refugee crisis. Bangladesh is in trouble with Rohingyas, this time Dhaka is on the doorstep of Russia to return the refugees. Bangladesh seeks Russia’s help in deporting Rohingya refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have taken refuge in Bangladesh in the face of military operations in Myanmar. Dhaka has given shelter to Rohingyas who have fled Rakhine State for the sake of humanity. But this has put a strain on the country’s economy and law and order. Therefore, the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought Russia’s cooperation to send the Rohingyas back to Myanmar. Bangladesh has been urging Russia to mediate in Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingya issue has long been the focus of international politics. Several countries including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar are involved in this issue. Even the United Nations has been upset. In 2017, Myanmar signed an agreement with Bangladesh to take back the Rohingyas. However, the agreement has not been implemented today. Myanmar has repeatedly blocked the process of repatriating refugees, creating legal complications. On top of that, analysts say the fate of the Rohingya is uncertain as the country is ruled by the military. In such a situation, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh asked for Moscow’s cooperation. 

Newly appointed Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander Vikentevich Mantitasky paid a courtesy call on AK Abdul Momen. At that time the Rohingya issue came up in the discussion. During the meeting, Momen highlighted various aspects of the Dhaka-Moscow special relationship and said, “Russia has made a significant contribution to the war of independence in Bangladesh in 1971 and the reconstruction of the post-independence country.” He added, “After independence, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Russia in March 1972 at the invitation of the then President of the Soviet Union. He expressed special gratitude to the Russian government and people for their cooperation in the liberation war of Bangladesh. 

It is worth mentioning that in August 2017, the Myanmar Armed Forces launched an operation against the Rohingyas due to a terrorist attack in Rakhine State of Myanmar. Then 7 lakh 22 thousand Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh out of fear for their lives. In all, there are about 11 lakh Rohingyas in Bangladesh at the moment. Responding to Bangladesh’s call, various countries of the world put pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas. However, the process of repatriating the refugees has not started yet.

In 2020, the current military junta chief of Myanmar, who was then commander of the armed forces, was among the few senior dignitaries who attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Also, the general was in Moscow recently. People in the know said Russia has plans to sell fighter aircraft to Myanmar’s junta.

However, on the other hand, Russia enjoys goodwill with the ruling Awami League government for its role during the 1971 war of independence and backing India through Indo-Soviet Friedship.

Bangladesh wants Russia’s ‘active and fruitful’ role in Rohingya repatriation. Bangladesh wants Russia’s ‘active and fruitful’ role in Rohingya repatriation

Bangladesh has requested the Russian government to take active and fruitful initiatives for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen made the request during a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Tashkent on Friday.

A press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently said that the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh requested Russia’s active and fruitful cooperation for the repatriation of Rohingyas and their rehabilitation in their homeland.

“Russia will encourage Myanmar to engage in dialogue with Bangladesh on this issue,” the statement said, adding that the two foreign ministers had “agreed” to work together on the issue. The meeting took place on the sidelines of an international conference on “Central and South Asia: Regional Communication, Challenges and Prospects” in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The two Foreign Ministers expressed satisfaction over the existing bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has promised to complete the construction of two nuclear power projects in Bangladesh in 2023 and 2024.

Who have been forcibly displaced from Myanmar, have called for Russia and Germany’s cooperation in repatriating them, citing a huge problem for Bangladesh? 

The President sought the cooperation while presenting the credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador of Russia to Bangladesh Alexander Vikantievich Montiski and the newly appointed Ambassador of Germany Achim Trostar at Bangabhaban on August 12, 2021 evening.

Russia has very good relations with Bangladesh. This relationship is gradually expanding in various fields including trade and investment.

The President recalled with gratitude Russia’s cooperation in rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of the war-torn country after the liberation war and post-independence Bangladesh. Besides, President Abdul Hamid called upon the new ambassador to take initiative to exploit the immense potential of trade and investment between Bangladesh and Russia.

The President thanked the Russian government for its technical and financial assistance in various projects including the establishment of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh. During the meeting, the President mentioned that Russia  is one of the development partners of Bangladesh.

“I told Lavrov that we have tried a lot bilaterally with Myanmar and even tri-laterally involving China. But in the last four years, not a single Rohingya returned,” the Bangladesh foreign minister said. “So, I told him to help us. I told him that you can take a trilateral initiative as you have good relations with them (Myanmar) and they will listen, if you say.

In 2020, the current military junta chief of Myanmar, who was then commander of the armed forces, was among the few senior dignitaries who attended the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Also, the general was in Moscow recently. People in the know said Russia has plans to sell fighter aircraft to Myanmar’s junta. Russia has very good relations with Myanmar military. So, Russia can request Myanmar to tack back the Rohingyas. We hope that Myanmar Tatmadaw will here of Russia and keep the talks.

However, on the other hand, Russia enjoys goodwill with the ruling Awami League government for its role during the 1971 war of independence and backing India through Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty and in the UNSC.

Russia’s nuclear major Rosatom is constructing Bangladesh’s only nuclear power plant and has a trilateral with its Indian counterpart for providing assistance to the project.

Russia is emerging as a key negotiator in various conflict theatres in Asia, which includes Syria and Afghanistan. So, Russia can play a significant role to contribute in solving the crisis. It may bring international prestige for Russia. Russia will be recognized an ideal mediator and arbitrator in this regard. 

Since August 25, 2017, Bangladesh has hosted over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district, who arrived there after a military crackdown in Myanmar, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and other rights groups dubbed as “genocide”.

In the last nearly four years, not a single Rohingya has returned home, although Myanmar has agreed to take them back. The tripartite discussion between Bangladesh and Myanmar mediated by China was started in 2019, and following a series of meetings at ministerial, secretary and high official levels, Naypyidaw had hinted that it would start taking back Rohingyas from the second quarter of this year. But the tripartite discussion has been suspended since the coup. Now it is time for Russian’s engagement in the peace process, Russia should to start a great initiative in solving the crisis.

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Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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