Rabiul Haque: China has started again with Rohingya repatriation deal. As part of this, a tripartite meeting between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar was held in Kunming, China recently. It is said that Rohingya repatriation was discussed in the meeting. Earlier, a special envoy of China visited Dhaka. Foreign Secretary Masood bin Momen has visited Beijing again.
Those concerned mentioned that the Rohingya repatriation issue is gaining importance on the part of Bangladesh in these visits. Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs AK Abdul Momen told reporters on Tuesday that he gave importance to the Rohingya issue in the recent talks with China. The minister hopes that Rohingyas will definitely be taken back to Myanmar.
When asked about the recent meeting with China’s special envoy, Momen told reporters, “Yes, we had a courtesy meeting (with China’s special envoy). Of course, there was a discussion about Rohingya repatriation. We hope that they will return to their country with dignity. The foreign minister said, “Many are ready to help the Rohingyas’ repatriation.” I would say that China has taken a very good initiative. They are working towards this goal.
Secret exchange of visits
China has taken a new initiative to repatriate the Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the face of persecution. Bangladesh is also keen to start the repatriation process through China, known as Myanmar’s ally.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told, “After a Chinese ambassador visited Dhaka, one of our secretaries (Foreign Secretary) went to Beijing. The purpose of these visits is only one, that is to repatriate the Rohingya.”
However, Dhaka has been maintaining strict secrecy in this regard since the beginning. No official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is opening his mouth about China’s initiative.
The foreign minister said, “The repatriation issue is very important for us. We are not having any direct dialogue with Myanmar, that is why we are very serious about this issue, we want to resolve it,”
Two officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that China’s special envoy Deng Shijun visited Dhaka earlier this month. Those officials said that during the Chinese ambassador’s visit, the Chinese embassy in Dhaka had arranged a meeting with the foreign minister on an urgent basis, the matter of the meeting was kept secret at the request of the embassy. They said that after Shijun’s meeting, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen was sent to Beijing secretly from Dhaka.
Referring to the “same agenda of the foreign secretary and the Chinese envoy”, the foreign minister told, Bangladesh hoped the Rohingyas would “return to their country with dignity”. China’s initiative in this regard is commendable.”
Stating that many people are working to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingyas, he said that China has taken a very good initiative in this regard and they are working accordingly.
But when the repatriation could start, the minister said, “It is difficult to say until it is over. There have been two attempts in the past to initiate the repatriation of the Rohingyas, but those efforts have failed.”
Meanwhile, the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say that before the visit to Dhaka, the Chinese ambassador visited Myanmar. He held several meetings with various parties there. The Chinese envoy’s visit to Dhaka and Bangladesh’s foreign secretary’s visit to Beijing came a few weeks before a delegation from Myanmar arrived in Bangladesh to interview nearly 500 Rohingya refugees as part of a pilot repatriation.
Last month, Myanmar took diplomats from 11 countries, including the ambassador of Bangladesh, to Rakhine to see the progress of building various infrastructures for the Rohingya in Rakhine. The effort to repatriate hundreds of Rohingya refugees has been ongoing for the past two years, where more than 1.1 million Rohingyas live in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasanchar, Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman told that there has been no progress since the Myanmar delegation left Bangladesh.
Why is China active now?
China’s Special Envoy Deng Xijun visited Dhaka in early April. At that time, he also held a meeting with the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. There was no official briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on why the Chinese special envoy came to Dhaka. According to various media reports, one of the topics discussed during his visit was Rohingya repatriation.
This tripartite meeting is being held in Kunming. Officials of the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh and Myanmar participated there. Munshi Faiz Ahmed, the former ambassador of Bangladesh in China, says that it can’t be said that it started suddenly. It is not that China stopped all efforts. Due to Myanmar civil war, corona- etc. it was delayed.
China also played a role in the two-phase Rohingya repatriation that was discussed between Bangladesh and Myanmar earlier. Analysts say that there is only one reason behind China’s role, geo-politics or geo-political.
China has always had close relations with Myanmar. In the past, China has always vetoed the resolutions brought against the Myanmar military junta in the United Nations. Because China has always wanted a government friendly to China to be in power in Myanmar.
Brigadier (retired) M Sakhawat Hossain, senior research fellow of the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance, says, “China has a role in Myanmar, they have always stood by Myanmar in the United Nations.” As a result, China is also in a global question. This is the main reason why China has come forward like this.
China also has extensive economic and commercial interests in neighboring Myanmar. China also has interests in Myanmar’s Arakan region. Arakan region has been experiencing instability for a long time. M Sakhawat Hossain says, “The way the conflict situation has developed there, China wants a stable environment there.”
The international news agency Reuters reported that in the year after the military junta took power in Myanmar, the country has approved foreign investment of $3.8 billion. China will build a liquefied natural gas plant at a cost of $250 million.
Under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, there are plans to establish an energy corridor from Rakhine state’s oil and gas fields to China’s Yunnan province. Explaining the reasons for China’s position on Myanmar’s side, in an interview with BBC Bangla earlier, Dr. Syed Mahmud Ali,University of Malaya’s China Studies Institute researcher said that 80 to 85 percent of China’s trade is through the Straits of Malacca.
If the US or its regional allies close the route in the event of a war, China’s trade will be cut off.
For this reason, the two pipelines that China has built through land pipelines for oil and gas supply through Myanmar have fallen into the Bay of Bengal through Arakan. For this reason, China never wants Myanmar to lose control over Arakan or to continue unrest there. As a result, China has tried to play a role since the Rohingya crisis intensified.
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