The story of Japan long pervasive in Bangladesh even across the world consists of two distinct aspects. One is the horrific nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and other is the Japanese people’s modesty, magnanimity and their national standing for the cause of humanity. Disproportionate response to Japan’s pre-war action with nuclear weapons and subsequent death of millions mostly civilian are still recalled with awful astonishment. Even as a testimony of suffering by the millions of ‘Hibakusha’, the post-war irradiated victims, the heart wrenching story of Sadako Sasaki and her arduous efforts to survive still haunts the people across the world. Similarly victimized for varied reasons, Bangali and Bangladeshi people always stood in solidarity with Japan. The legendary Bangali Jurist Radhabinod Pal and his prudential standing in ‘Tokyo Trial’ to defend Japan from wholesale allegation of committing war crime symbolize that solidarity. And Bangladesh is among the forefront countries to set up peace stone in Okinawa Peace Memorial Park.
The story of Japanese people’s modesty, charity and national standing for the just cause of humanity especially at the time of our independence struggle and post-war reconstruction effort is quite prevalent in Bangladesh. Japan was the first country to send delegation to newly independent Bangladesh in a bid to aid economic and infrastructural reconstruction. The name like ‘Shapla Neer’, a well renowned Japanese NGO, or JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency, resonates Japanese largesse and support to Bangladesh. Half of a century old Bilateral relation between Bangladesh and Japan is characterized with reciprocity and the reverence of Bangladeshi people to Japan. And this relational reverence to Japan is more to do with Japan’s long-standing stance for just and humanitarian cause than its formidable economic position.
But given the Japan’s inertia, in some cases defiance, in response to the one of the greatest injustices in 21st century- Rohingya refugee crisis, it seems that Japan has substantially drifted away over the time from its position of long-held soft power strength- reputation of being benign to humanitarian cause. In the name of policy of non-interference, Japan has constantly defied the brutality unleashed by Myanmar military junta. Even as a blow to the very cause of humanity, in many cases they had cozied up to perpetrators. Let alone rendering any support to global initiatives to the cause, Japan stood in defiance to the collective steps of targeted sanctions or bringing perpetrators to the justice for parochial geopolitical and economical interests. Japan’s parochialism in Myanmar policy regarding Rohingya crisis has brought her to the same footing of It’s geopolitical rival, China. Both countries have been upholding their geostrategic interests above the greater humanitarian conviction even the crisis took the genocidal turn in August, 2017. Constantly blurring policy line between China and Japan questions the very strength of distinct Japanese way to the world.
Japan’s policy of non-interference regarding Rohingya crisis stands on the naive notion that over the time, through the economic development, Myanmar would go through the continuous democratic evolution and eventually embrace the inclusive governance values. But blow to this very notion, the recent coup at nascent stage of democracy has made it clear that the Myanmar military machine is impossible to be extricated from state mechanism. And state-sponsored apartheid policies against the Rohingya minority will surely follow the past precedents if not halted with harsh responses.
Again Japan’s Rohingya policy doesn’t reflect very standing of its own people. Officially Japan never recognise Rohingya people as separate ethnic minority native for long in Myanmar. They use ‘Muslim’, ‘Rakhine Muslim’ even ‘Bangali’, a derogatory term used in Myanmar to indicate Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, in their Official statements. But clear contrast to the official line, Japanese media and civil societies use the term ‘Rohingya’ to denote the ethnic entity. This contrasting line, given the high degree of reflection and integration between Japanese media and people, demonstrates the dearth of democratic principle in Japan’s foreign policy position.
Another deviation in Japan’s foreign policy orientation toward Rohingya crisis is its conspicuous apathy to mobilise its position of strength, economic one in Myanmar and political in global platforms like United Nations, to contribute to the resolution of crisis. Historically Japan has considerable economic footings in Myanmar, given its position of being 6th largest foreign direct investor, 3rd largest importer and 7th largest exporter to Myanmar. But rather than mechanizing the economic might to tame Myanmar’s policy line toward the resolution of crisis, it has been showing clear apathy to that end and has continuously been toeing the line demarcated with geopolitical and geo-economical colour.
Over 1 million Rohingya in Bangladesh along with hundreds of thousands across the world have been lingering to return to their birth land and loitering for Justice to the brutality unleashed to them. Bangladesh with limited resources stood by the them and has been voicing for their justice in international platforms. But if that voice from tiny country like Bangladesh for broader cause of humanity is not heard and responded by powerful ones like Japan, Justice will continue to cry in seclusion. As famous maxim tells us,” Justice delayed is Justice denied”, how much delay does it necessitate to awaken the world to stand for Rohingya cause?