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South Asia

Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh: UN to provide aid for up to 7, 00,000 refugees



The United Nations has drawn up a contingency plan to feed up to 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar after some 480,000 fled to Bangladesh over the past month and arrivals continue.

The hunger situation in camps in Bangladesh has improved as food aid from WFP and other agencies is now reaching the refugees. The plan also covers some 300,000 Rohingya who were already sheltering in southeast Bangladesh before the latest influx began, meaning it could cater for a million people in total. “No one would be left out from any humanitarian assistance. The WFP would need about $80 million for the massive aid.

Earlier, the UN made an emergency appeal for $78 million on 9 September, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said much more would be needed as the exodus grows.

Impoverished Bangladesh, which earned praise for opening up its border, has eased restrictions on aid groups working in refugee camps and sought $250 million from the World Bank to fund emergency relief.

The Rohingyas were placed in internment camps and today there are still more than 120,000 still housed there. For years the Rohingyas have faced discrimination and persecution, today they are still facing this problem and have started to flee to other countries for safe haven. In 2015 “more than 40 Rohingya were massacred in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan by local men, the U.N. confirmed. Among the findings were 10 severed heads in a water tank, including those of children” The Rohingya people have been facing persecution for their religion and as of today still have no rights or citizenship in their homeland.

A United Nations official last week said it would need $200 million over the next six months to handle the Rohingya crisis. Rohingya have been fleeing Rakhine state in north east Myanmar for decades. The new influx began on 25 August when deadly attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar police posts prompted a huge crackdown by the military.

Bangladesh is already host to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled previous outbreaks of violence in Rakhine. Existing refugee camps are full and the new arrivals are sleeping rough in whatever space they can find, reports say. 

The 2015 Rohingya refugee crisis refers to the mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Bangladesh in 2015, collectively dubbed “boat people” by international media. Nearly all who fled traveled to Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand by rickety boats via the waters of the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 25,000 people have been taken to boats from January to March in 2015 by human traffickers. There are claims that, while on their journey, around 100 people died in Indonesia, 200 in Malaysia, and 10 in Thailand, after the traffickers abandoned them at sea. 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited the overflowing camps last week and said Bangladesh needs “massive international assistance” to feed and shelter the Rohingya. Grandi said there had been an “incredible outpouring of local generosity” but that now needed to be “beefed up by massive international assistance, financial and material”.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants. The violence began on 25 August when the Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, killing 12 security personnel. Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar since then say the military responded with a brutal campaign, burning villages and attacking civilians in a bid to drive them out. Zeid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the current operation in Rakhine was “clearly disproportionate”.

A senior official from the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said they were now prepared to provide massive food and other emergency aid if the influx continues in coming weeks. “All the UN agencies together have now set a plan for a new influx of 700,000. We can cover if the new influx reaches 700, 000,” said the WFP’s deputy chief in Bangladesh, Dipayan Bhattacharyya.

The Muslim Rohingya has been fleeing from Myanmar (Burma) by the thousands. The Rohingya are a minority ethnic group located in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and are considered to be a variation of the Sunni religion. Since the Rohingya are considered to be illegal Bengali immigrants and were denied recognition as a religion by the government of Myanmar, the dominant group, the Rakhine, rejects the label “Rohingya” and have started to persecute the Rohingya. 

The people in Myanmar are also facing wide spread poverty, with more than 78 percent of the families living below the poverty line. With most of the families living below the poverty line, tensions between the Rohingya and the other religious groups have exploded into conflict. The violence and turmoil began in 2012, the first incident was when a group of Rohingya men were accused of raping and killing a Buddhist woman The Buddhist nationalists retaliated by killing and burning the Rohingya homes. People from all over the world started calling this crisis and bloodshed “campaign of ethnic cleansing.”

More than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted there late last month.  The UN human rights chief says the security operation targeting Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Zeid Raad Al Hussein urged Myanmar to end the “cruel military operation” in Rakhine state. The military says it is responding to attacks by Rohingya ‘militants’ and denies it is targeting civilians. He noted that the situation could not be fully assessed because Myanmar had refused access to human rights investigators, but said the UN had received “multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians”.

The 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship despite the people living there for generations. The Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar because of the restrictions and policies placed by the government. The restrictions include: “marriage, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement” and they are facing discrimination because of their ethnic heritage.

The Bangladeshi authorities have started to register the new arrivals. Previously only those in two official camps were being documented, but government teams are now collecting fingerprints and details from all newcomers, including those in makeshift shelters. BBC analysts say that, until now, the government has refused to register those outside camps for fear of legitimizing them. But the current move may help the government as it engages in a diplomatic battle about the Rohingyas’ future.

The emergence of Rohingya militant group was due to oppressive tactics of Burmese military and police. The defending was implicated  being behind the 25 August attacks,  declared a one-month unilateral ceasefire to allow aid agencies in, but the Myanmar government rejected it, saying it would not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Myanmar military and regime say that it is the militants who are burning Rohingya villages and targeting civilians, but a BBC correspondent on an official visit to Rakhine came across a Muslim village apparently burned by Rakhine Buddhists led by monks, contradicting the official narrative.

Obviously, the Rohingya are extremely unpopular among Buddhists inside Myanmar. On last Sunday, police fired rubber bullets to break up a mob attacking the home of a Muslim meat seller in Magway region in central Myanmar. One protester was quoted by AFP news agency saying it was a response to events in Rakhine. Myanmar is influenced heavily  by Hindutva politics in India where Muslims are targeted by the ruling regime.

In October 2015, researchers from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London released a report drawing on leaked government documents that reveals an increasing “ghettoisation, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement” on Rohingya peoples. The researchers suggest that the Myanmar government are in the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingya and have called upon the international community to redress the situation as such.

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority group residing in the Rakhine state, formerly known as Arakan. The Rohingya people are considered “stateless entities”, as the Myanmar government has been refusing to recognize them as one of the ethnic groups of the country. For this reason, the Rohingya people lack legal protection from the Government of Myanmar, are regarded as mere refugees from Bangladesh, and face strong hostility in the country—often described as one of the most persecuted people on earth. To escape the dire situation in Myanmar, the Rohingya try to illegally enter Southeast Asian states, begging for humanitarian support from potential host countries. 

On 1 May 2015, about 32 shallow graves were discovered on a remote and rugged mountain in Thailand, at a so-called “waiting area” for the illegal migrants before they were sneaked through the border into Malaysia. A Bangladeshi migrant was found alive in the grave and was later treated at a local hospital as told to Thai news agencies. On 22 May 2015, however, the Myanmar navy rescued 208 migrants at sea, and upon inspection, confirmed themselves as having come from Bangladesh.[20] Protests by nationalists erupted in the capital, calling for the international community to stop blaming Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis. 

On 24 May 2015, Malaysian police discovered 139 suspected graves in a series of abandoned camps used by human traffickers on the border with Thailand where Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma were believed to have been held.

The violence erupted in late August when the army retaliated against co-ordinated attacks by Rohingya militants. Since then just under half of Rakhine’s Rohingya population has poured into Bangladesh, where they now languish in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

A further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also been displaced — apparent targets of the 25 August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salavation Army (ARSA) militant group.

While desperate scenes of weary and hungry Rohingya civilians streaming into Bangladesh have dominated global headlines, there is little sympathy for the Muslim group among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

Many reject the existence of a Rohingya ethnicity and insist they are ‘Bengalis’ — illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. On Monday several hundred people gathered in downtown Yangon to rail against the UN, international NGOs and foreign media, as a siege mentality grows inside Myanmar. “I want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for the ethnic people of Myanmar and to remove the pressure from the international community by giving the speech tomorrow,” demonstrator Khin Khin Myint said.

Tensions over the status of the Rohingya have been brewing for years in Myanmar, with bouts of anti-Muslim violence erupting around the country as Buddhist hardliners fan fears of an Islamic takeover.

The knotty a military still looms large in the fragile democracy. Although the army stepped down from junta rule in 2011, it kept control of security policy and key levers of government. In fact, the  military rules Myanmar on behalf of the elected Aung San Suu Kyi.  Any overt break from the army’s policy in Rakhine could enrage the generals and derail Suu Kyi’s efforts to prevent a rollback on recent democratic gains.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has been decried overseas for failing to condemn the generals, with whom she is in a delicate power-sharing arrangement.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and defender of genocides of Muslims in Myanmar, is facing mounting criticism for failing to protect the Rohingya, but the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama cannot tolerate crimes against the humanity in Myanmar and added his voice, urging her “to reach out to all sections of society to try to restore friendly relations”.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is poised to break her near-silence on communal violence scorching through Rakhine state, in a televised speech on Rohingya refugee crisis that has shocked the world and prompted the UN to accuse the country’s army of ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi’s refusal so far to defend the Rohingya over nearly a month of violence has baffled and enraged an international community that once feted her as the champion of Myanmar’s democracy struggle. But inside Myanmar, supporters say the 72-year-old lacks authority to reign in the army, which stands accused of waging a campaign of murder and arson that has driven more than 410,000 Rohingya from their homes.

With global pressure cranked high, Suu Kyi skipped the UN General Assembly in New York to manage the crisis at home and deliver her televised address — the biggest yet of her time in office. “She is going to tell the world the real truth,” her spokesman Zaw Htay told reporters ahead of the speech.   Analysts say she faces the treacherous task of walking the line between global outrage and Islamophobic anti-Rohingya views at home, where there is broad support for the army’s campaign. 

As such, there is almost no possibility, given the political climate in Myanmar, for balancing the expectations of most of the country and the expectations of the international community.

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South Asia

India’s Military Spending and South Asian Security



Over the past several years, unprecedented military modernization in Pakistan’s immediate neighbour, India, has worsened South Asia’s security environment. India’s heavy military spending and its unstoppable quest for the acquisition of sophisticated weapons have threatened regional stability. Indian desire to acquire global power status through military means has further been intensified as a result of US assistance particularly in former’s defence sector. Within quick span of time, defence trade between India and the US has shot from $1 billion to over $15 billion leaving other regional powers in the state of security consciousness.

India’s obsession with its military build-up doesn’t end here. According to the Stockholm International peace Research Institute (SIPRI) a prestigious international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament, India, once again tops the list as world’s largest weapons importer. This is not a new development as previously, India also topped the list for the same reason.

As per SIPRI estimates, Russia remains top arms supplier to India. However, surprisingly arms deliveries from the US increased more than six-fold in the five-year period to the India. This trend in long run will definitely reduce market space for Russian arms and ammunition to India.

Despite the fact that, India’s unbridled military modernization is the primary impetus behind South Asian instability, global power’s economic expediencies in South Asia also undermines delicate conventional parity between India and Pakistan. For instance, Indo-US strategic partnership, which apparently touted as US’ China containment policy, seems more of a Pakistan containment policy. Much of the US provided weapon-tech to India is more useful against Pakistan in a conventional warfare. Almost 70% of Indian military troops and weapon system are deployed against Line of Control, (LOC). Interestingly, peaceful settlement of Docklam issue between China and India as well as sky-rocketing bilateral trade between both countries, which has reached to $84.44 billion last year, makes prospects of conflict almost impossible.

However, in contrast to aforementioned facts, the influx of massive military hardware from western capitals to India continues and in certain cases the flow of arms has gained momentum. There are two primary motives behind India’s overwhelming spending in defence industry.

First, India aspires for greater role in global environment and in certain ways it has been demonstrating its will and capability to influence global dynamics. India’s successful test of Agni-5, a long-range ballistic missile, capable of carrying nuclear weapons with a strike range of more than 3,000 miles, is a practical demonstration of its military capabilities to influence other powers around the globe. For hawkish policy makers in New Delhi, a strong military power can extend India’s global influence.

Secondly, India is following a policy of coercion at regional level primarily, against Pakistan which shares history of hostility and violence due to longstanding territorial disputes such as Kashmir. There is growing perception in New Delhi that militarily strong India can dictate South Asian affairs. That’s why India has been consistently opposing diplomacy and dialogue for peaceful resolution of disputes. Therefore, to meet its foreign policy goals, which are based on coercion and usage of hard power, India spends massive in military build-up.

Ironically, South Asia is called as nuclear flashpoint due to history of animosity and violent conflicts between India and Pakistan. With its mighty military power, India has emerged as the most potent threat for not just Pakistan but also a security challenge for other powers in the region.

Given the advantage it has in terms of nuclear missiles, military hardware and submarine fleet, India has been trying to create an environment conducive to wage limited war against Pakistan. For that, India has not just developed its military doctrine, Cold Start Doctrine, but also initiated and sponsored sub conventional war in Pakistan’s chaotic province, Balochistan.

In such circumstances, Pakistan needs to maintain delicate conventional military balance vis-à-vis India. Despite the fact, Pakistan has been facing number of issues at national, regional and international levels which include on-going military operation in tribal areas to hostile border skirmishes; a robust military modernization plan has become inevitable. A militarily strong Pakistan will be able to maintain its territorial integrity against aggressive yet militarily mighty India.

It’s an open fact that Pakistan has consistently called for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes and it has offered to resume diplomacy and dialogue over Kashmir dispute. Unfortunately, India’s cold response has not only restricted Pakistan’s peaceful overtures but also refused to accept third-party mediation in peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue. This clearly shows that, current ruling regime in India is not serious for peaceful settlement, rather more inclined to use of force and coercion. Under such circumstances, Pakistan needs to strengthen its force posture to pre-empt any kind of misadventure from its adversary. However, Pakistan, as it has done in past, must embrace peaceful overtures to bring stability in the region.

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South Asia

US Call for a New Relationship



U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad

‘Trust, but verify’ an Old Russian proverb that President Reagan liked to repeat often. Trump is neither the first President nor he is going to be the last to criticize Pakistan of deceit and threaten to cut off American assistance. Notwithstanding, the last six decades of the US support, the US has failed completely in cultivating an ally in Pakistan nor has it meaningfully changed the nature of its relationship with Pakistan, which can be best described as ‘transactional’. A quid-pro-quo relationship between the two has never been established with regards to the assistance they both offered to each other. In truth, United States has never really trusted Pakistan.

President Trump avowed in his New Afghan Strategy that the US has been paying Pakistan ‘billions of billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting for’ but the mantra should be put to a halt. Likewise, the US must be conveyed boldly to stop continuing its false claims that Pakistan shelters the ‘agents of chaos’ and be reminded that friends don’t put each other on notices.

Similarly, statements and avowals that India now is a strongest ally to the US, disturbs Pakistan, chiefly because of the irony at Trump administration’s part which only sees the glittering Indian market but pay no heed to the growing Indian cease fire violations across the LoC and the atrocities India commits against the unarmed civilians of the Indian held Kashmir.

The recent visits and statements however by the senior US officials and Trump’s aides reflect the US call for a new relationship between the US and Pakistan, which once used to be close allies in the US led ‘Global War on Terror’.

Pakistan’s foreign policy makers at this point in time must be mindful of the fact that the US is a major trading partner and should adhere to a relationship more than ‘transactional’. Moreover, the risks and fears at the US part of ‘rampant destabilization and civil war in Afghanistan’ increments further the region already devoid of trust. For, nobody actually knows whether the US will stay or eventually leave Afghanistan.

The Afghan war has now become a war of logistics, in words of Sun Tzu ‘the line between order and disorder lies in logistics’, Pakistani supply lines thus provide Islamabad with a leverage in absence of shorter, cheaper and acceptable alternative routes. Given these circumstances, Pakistan should make best use of the US call towards a more robust bilateral relationship.

The move for a ‘new relationship’ and improved ties began last week with senior Trump aide’s visit to Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani leaders.  Earlier also the impressions that Pakistan and the US were on a collision course were dispelled by a top US general. Likewise, US department’s acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells asserted that the US was not thinking of cutting its ties rather assured that the US still cogitate Pakistan indispensable to the resolve in Afghanistan.

The aforesaid developments clearly indicate that the strained US-Pakistan relations would improve soon and that the suspension in the military aid is also not permanent.

To conclude, achieving long term stability and defeating the insurgency in the region will be difficult without Pakistan’s support and assistance.

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South Asia

Special Economic Zones and CPEC



Economic Expansion, high prices and inflation are the issues on which one can talk for hours. The scarcity of resources, energy crises and lack of industrial modernization are the challenges which Pakistan has been facing for past many decades. Despite the advantages of geographical setting, the country could not sufficiently expand its economy until 20thcentury. However, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has brought with it various infrastructural, energy, and industrial projects that show smooth progress in these sectors. One of the most significant developments is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC.SEZ is a physically protected area with definite geographic boundaries under which the investors and the developers enjoy duty free benefits and streamlined procedures, set up by the government.  After the successful completion of the Early Harvest Program (EHP), the governments of China and Pakistan aspire to complete the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC. As a key route to success, the LTP has been divided into three phases and the work on the first phase has already started. SEZs are on the first priority list of the first Phase of LTP. While utilizing the strategic location of Pakistan and the rich resources, the SEZ will contribute a framework for Pakistan’s domestic industries, and local economy.

The government has planned to establish nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in all the four provinces, federal areas and Gilgit-Baltistan under the framework of CPEC, which would be completed in a period of three years. Pakistan has conducted feasibilities of 5 SEZs which focuses only on the infrastructure. The three prioritized SEZs to be completed in the first phase of LTP are M3 Industrial City in Faisalabad, Punjab, Chinese SEZ Dhabeji, Sindh and Hattar SEZ in KP province. While the remaining six sites include Rashakai Economic Zone, M-1 Noshera, Bostan Industrial Zone District Pishin, AllamaIqbal Industrial City, Moqpondass SEZ in Gilgit-Baltistan, ICT Model Industrial Zone Islamabad, Development of Industrial Park on Pakistan Steel Mills Land at port Qasim near Karachi, Special Economic Zone at Mirpur AJK, Mohmand Marble city.

Although, there are general misunderstandings regarding the industrial ramifications of the SEZ’s under CPEC due to large number of Chinese firms and the exemption in the tax rates offered to them. However, the LTP of CPEC shows that these SEZ’s will offer the country with a great opportunity to accelerate industrialization because they are beneficial for all the international and domestic investors. So far in the history, SEZs have been the reason of economic boost in countries around the globe. Now this is a matter of concern that either these SEZs will make Pakistan a center of economic modernization and trade ventures or not. The economist and financial experts are optimistic about Pakistan’s emergence as one of the fast growing and promising global economy.

While stepping towards the era of industrialization, Pakistan faces a number of issues that have so far refrain the industries to understand their growth potential. Some of the chief hindrances to investment in Pakistan include poor security; non-availability of infrastructure and power crises, rent-seeking regulators, and cumbersome tax administration, etc. among many others.

Likewise the entrepreneurs in Pakistan have certain reservation with the incentives proposed by the government and SEZs for the investors and enterprises including ten-year exemption from all taxes on imported capital goods and exemption from tax on income accruable from development and operations in SEZs for a period of ten years. Although these incentives will be beneficial for the foreign investors at large but at the same time it will provide Pakistani enterprises with the opportunity to collaborate with the Chinese firms and launch joint ventures of mutual interests and benefits. This will be further beneficial for the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of Pakistan. Moreover it will bring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country thus generating the foreign revenue.

Subsequently it is significant to keep in mind that in Pakistan there are certain security and political factors due to which the SEZ’s may face challenges. Hence forth to conquer these challenges provincial harmony among all the provinces and mutual consensus between the public sector and private sector is needed. SEZs under CPEC will be a life-time opportunity for Pakistani companies to work together with Chinese companies for the development of export-oriented manufacturing industries. Therefore, Pakistan should increase its products in the Chinese market and raise the ratio of its export while decreasing the trade deficit by lowering the imports.

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