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Recent Visits of Ambassadors to Bhasan Char: Outcomes and Implications



photo © UNHCR/Amos Halder

As a recent development, a team of ambassadors hailing from Japan, China, France, and Indonesia, presently stationed in Bangladesh, undertook a visit to Bhasan Char located in Hatia, Noakhali, with the intent of examining the prevailing living conditions of the Rohingya there. This excursion, which occurred on the seventeenth of February, Friday, was arranged by the Bangladeshi administration and entailed deliberations with the refugees regarding their standard of living, the amenities available to them, and other pertinent matters. The delegation, led by Bangladeshi officials, expended several hours on the island to gauge the general situation. Markedly, the Chinese Ambassador Yao Wen, the French Ambassador Marie Masdupuy, the Indonesian Ambassador Heru Hartanto Subolo, and the Japanese Ambassador Iwama Kiminori were present. All the four countries have extensively supported Bangladesh in different forums with different tools to resolve the Rohingya crisis. This visit is the continuation of those arrangements. With this Bangladesh got the baton to raise her voice in different international forums for the safe, sustainable, and dignified repatriation of the Rohingya community.

However, commencing in December 2020, the government of Bangladesh has overseen the transfer of almost thirty thousand Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a secluded silt island situated in the Bay of Bengal, from Ukhia and Teknaf. Besides, in 2022, a cohort of ten diplomats graced the island of Hatiya, Noakhali with their presence, among them, being the Ambassador of the European Union to Bangladesh, and the South Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh. The aforementioned individuals were accompanied by the Canadian High Commissioner, the German Ambassador, the Swedish envoy, the Norwegian Ambassador, the Danish Ambassador and the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy. Moreover, in the month of February in 2023, the Belgian queen, Mathilde Marie Christine Ghislaine, graced the Rohingya camp-3 in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar with her august presence. In 2021, the UNHCR Assistant High Commissioners for Protection and Operations, also paid a visit to the camp. Also, the location has hosted high-ranking UN representatives on various occasions. In addition, to the aforementioned delegation of ambassadors, the visit to Bhasan Char in Hatia, Noakhali, Bangladesh, featured the attendance of key representatives from the United Nations- the United Nations resident coordinator, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the officer in charge of the World Food Program. Their presence was consequential insofar as they played a pivotal role in the analysis and evaluation of the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees who have taken refuge on the island. The recent visit is a continuation of the approach by the international community.

The visit, by a delegation of ambassadors and United Nations representatives, occurs against the backdrop of mounting apprehension regarding the living circumstances of Rohingya refugees on the island. The delegation’s feedback is expected to hold significant weight as ongoing deliberations about the matter persist. This will bring some more facilities for Bangladesh since all the four countries have significance in different forums.

The visit can help to strengthen the flow of funds to support the Rohingya refugees. The crisis has received significant funding from international organizations and donor countries, but more needs to be done to provide the necessary support. On November 24, 2022, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) of the United Nations announced the release of USD 9 million to assist the over 943,000 Rohingya refugees residing in camps in the Cox’s Bazar district and on the island of Bhasan Char, as well as the over 17,800 locals in Ukhiya and Teknaf who are hosting them. With this money going to six UN organizations—the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Women—refugees will be able to receive life-saving aid and help create an environment that is supportive of their rights and well-being. Foreign delegates can work with these organizations and countries to ensure that the funding is being used effectively and efficiently. They can also push for increased funding to support the refugees and the host communities in Bangladesh.

The Bhasanchar project for the Rohingya community in Bangladesh is a significant effort on the part of the government to provide for the basic needs of the refugees and treat them with dignity. The project is designed to relocate Rohingya refugees from camps in Cox’s Bazar to a new island called Bhasan Char, which has been specifically developed to withstand natural disasters and provide a safe and sustainable living environment for the community. The government has already begun a process of voluntary relocation of the Rohingya community to Bhasan Char. The process involves providing information and education about the island to refugees, as well as transportation and support during the relocation process. The government has stated that relocation is entirely voluntary, and refugees who choose to remain in Cox’s Bazar will continue to receive support from the government. This message will be further exemplified by the visit.

The island has been equipped with essential facilities such as housing, schools, hospitals, and community centers. The government has also developed an extensive agricultural program on the island, with the goal of making it self-sufficient in terms of food production. The visit will support international donors with the four countries to participate in the process since they are economically viable to go for funding.

In addition to providing for the basic needs of the Rohingya community, the government has also made efforts to ensure their social and cultural well-being. The island has a mosque and madrasa for religious education, as well as community centers for social gatherings and events. The government has also facilitated cultural events and celebrations on the island, such as the Eid al-Fitr festival. Indonesia, being a Muslim majority state may convey this message to other OIC member states which will give clarity to Bangladesh’s efforts. Besides, in the ICJ proceedings Bangladesh can facilitate in a robust way to gain a positive outcome of Gambia.

The government of Bangladesh has also worked with international organizations and aid agencies to support the needs of the Rohingya community. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the government to provide training and livelihood support to the community, with the goal of enabling them to become self-sufficient and economically independent. Japan in this particular domain can be a handy friend since it has a fair share in international organizations in terms of financing.

Foreign delegates visiting Rohingya camps can play a crucial role in addressing the crisis. Their visit can draw international attention to the issue and put pressure on governments and international organizations to take action. It can also help to identify areas where improvements can be made and push for solutions that will improve the lives of the refugees and support their repatriation to Myanmar.

One of the most significant benefits of foreign delegates visiting Rohingya camps is the international attention it brings to the crisis. The Rohingya crisis has received widespread media coverage, but the visit of high-profile foreign delegates can bring the issue to a broader audience. It can also put pressure on governments and international organizations to take action and provide support to the refugees and the host communities.

The delegates visit will be used to influence respective parties for the repatriation of the Rohingya to their homeland in Myanmar. The repatriation process has been slow and fraught with challenges, but the visit of foreign delegates can push for progress. They can engage with local and national governments and international organizations to push for a solution to the crisis. They can also raise awareness of the conditions in Myanmar and the need for a safe and dignified return for the Rohingya.

The visit of the four ambassadors to Rohingya camps can play a critical role in addressing the Rohingya crisis. Their visit can draw international attention to the issue, advocate for the repatriation of the Rohingya, improve living conditions, strengthen the flow of funds, and address the root causes of the conflict. The crisis is complex and requires a multifaceted approach, but the visit of foreign delegates is a crucial step in the right direction. It is essential to continue to push for progress, support the refugees and the host communities, and work towards a sustainable solution. The influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh has created a significant burden on the country’s resources, infrastructure, and economy. The Bangladesh government has provided shelter, food, and other assistance to the refugees, but the scale of the crisis is enormous, and more needs to be done to support the refugees and the host communities.

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South Asia

Is Bangladesh-US ties bogged down in strategic quicksand?



The bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the United States had thrived in the past few years on the heels of frequent and vigorous Track-1 diplomacy between Bangladesh and the United States. The newfound salience of Bangladesh in the US’s regional strategic playbook originates from a reassessment of the US’s foreign policy in favor of Asia. In the context of intensifying great power standoff at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, the regional power calculation has transformed, turning the strategy backwater to the “front and center” of the US’s global geopolitics. Earlier, South Asia didn’t feature prominently in the US’s strategic calculus, and strategic wisdom bounded South Asia within the nuclear-powered rivals e.g. India and Pakistan. Bangladesh has only aroused pity for its abysmal economic outlook and for being buffeted by frequent disasters. 

Strategic realities have profoundly altered in the past few years, as under the framework of the US’s Indo-Pacific policy, Bangladesh has gained significant bandwidth as the lynchpin of Indo-Pacific geopolitical theatre. The newfound geostrategic significance of Bangladesh had triggered a geopolitical maelstrom surrounding Bangladesh–as Bangladesh was squeezed by the competing demands of three powers–the United States, China, and India.

“Strategic Ties ” Ascendant

Donald Lu– an influential US diplomat– had visited Dhaka recently. There has been much speculation surrounding Lu’s visit, partly owing to Lu’s notoriety as being “coercive” in the region. Although human rights issues, defense, and core security issues, perhaps the glaring omission of Lu’s visit is the trade and economic issues. Earlier, trade, investment, and economic issues overrode bilateral ties, however, bilateral interactions have increasingly become fixated on security issues often at a disservice to economic issues. 

However, the strident pitch of strategic ties jars with the dismal state of relationships. As thing stands, it is safe to say that bilateral ties between Bangladesh and US are held hostage to mutual misperceptions. Harping on the strategic ties, without anchoring on economic fundamentals, is bound to fail. Strategic ties hinge on “entanglements”, which stem from sustained bilateral cooperation.

Decoding Chinese Inroads in Bangladesh

The lever that China exerts in Bangladesh stems from the vigorous economic and development partnership. The sustained development partnership had elevated Bangladesh-China ties to a strategic dimension. Development cooperation is the centerpiece of Bangladesh-China bilateral cooperation. The inflow of Chinese investment toward Bangladesh has surged exponentially. The Total Direct Investment (FDI) was multiplied at a steady rate between 2011 to 2019, resulting in a tenfold rise in the gross FDI inflow to Bangladesh from China.

The energy sector has featured prominently in the bilateral development cooperation. China had implemented a series of projects in the power sector. The infrastructure sector of Bangladesh had also drawn investment from China. China has floated an offer to Bangladesh in building embankments along the Teesta River, adjacent to the Indian border, in a bid to mitigate Bangladesh’s chronic scarcity of water-a bone of contention in Bangladesh-India ties.  Chinese firms also stepped in to coordinate the construction and operation of the Dhaka-Chittagong High-Speed Rail project. Padma Bridge Rail Link- a flagship project aimed at connecting the Southwestern region of the country through a rail link-is underway with China funding 85% of an estimated cost of US $3.3 billion.

As such, while the US deplores the inroads that China made in Bangladesh, and often engage in browbeating tactics to decouple Bangladesh from the Chinese axis — however, Chinese leverage in Bangladesh runs deep. The sustained economic and development partnership between Bangladesh and China had mutated into a strategic partnership. The concessions from the Chinese side had injected a sense of equity and mutual stakes in bilateral relations. China has extended 99 percent of its tariff lines to Bangladesh, which is slated to further boost the bilateral trade ties. Earlier, China conferred duty-free facilities to 97 percent of Bangladesh’s products.

Emulating the Chinese Playbook

An uptick in diplomatic engagement attests to the renewed strategic importance that the US attaches to Bangladesh. The “strategic” dimension had inordinately come to the fore, and economic and development partnerships had been eclipsed by high-security and defense issues.

Notwithstanding, as the Chinese playbook amply demonstrates, anchoring solely on the strategic dimension of bilateral ties is counterproductive. The sustained economic interactions translated to strategic dividends in terms of China, while the mutual goodwill had given an impetus to deepening bilateral linkages. A sense of shared partnership had been injected into bilateral ties. Conversely, the moral high ground that the US commands, as evident from the US’s criticism of domestic political issues, undermines the goodwill of the bilateral ties. Such blatant interventionist tendencies vitiate bilateral ties.

While the term “strategic partnership” has gained currency, the trappings of strategic partnership are woefully lacking in bilateral ties. The discourse of bilateral ties shows the US doesn’t consider Bangladesh as a partner with commensurate capabilities. Despite the repeated pronouncement of strategic ties, however, the concession to Bangladesh from the US is not forthcoming. The economic and trade issues had been pushed to the back burner, in an avowed attempt to raise the stakes of bilateral ties.

As the Chinese exemplar shows, the ties in the arena of low-political issues yield strategic dividends. The sustained engagement steeped in mutual goodwill and equity accrues strategic gains. The US fares abysmally in leveraging the economy and trade to lure Bangladesh. In contrast, US’s ill-advised browbeating tactics will further estrange Bangladesh. As the bilateral ties elevate to a new era and become more prominent, the US ought to reassess the calculus of the bilateral ties.

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South Asia

Pakistan’s Priority Ranking of SDGs

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Sustainable development goals are also known as Global or Universal goals that are meant to guide developing and underdeveloped nation-states to a sustainable and peaceful future. Development is a combination of innovation and improvement over a consistent time. It requires the collaboration of several social, cultural, economic, legal, and political sectors. All such sectors are interdependent and function sustainably when allied towards the same goal. 

What are SDGs? 

Developmental goals outline the priorities of a state in terms of its international progress. They are meant to track and counter non-traditional security threats. Such threats are somewhat intangible and have a deeper, more impactful presence. If not countered through structured programs, infrastructure, and policymaking; they will only become a visible reality once the issue is nearly impossible to resolve.

Origin and purpose

These were born from the United Nations Conference that was hosted in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 2012. Global issues of all sorts were raised which revolved around aspects such as the environment, clean energy, sanitation, education, health, and security. 

Goals and Commitments

The year 2015 decided that within the upcoming 15 years, there will be an active and hopefully successful attempt at ushering in a future of dignity and peace also known as the 2030 Agenda. 

For each nation, there is a different ranking of the goals following their level of need and priority. Following is the ranking for Pakistan.

Priority I

Goal 2 Zero Hunger

The second goal defines eradicating global hunger and reaching food security for all. This involves the production, processing, and distribution of food and sustainable agriculture. This goal is at the top of Pakistan’s priority list due to its status as an Agrarian State. Due to the recent inflation in the state, the food crisis has become a reality for a sizable portion of the Pakistani population.  

Goal 3 Good Health and Well Being

Places focus on the overall health of all people. The focus is on preventative strategies for all ages. This goal covers the improvement of life expectancy in all developing and underdeveloped nations. It also includes immunization coverage, epidemics such as malaria and dengue, the Covid-19 pandemic, and emergency aid going out to all in times of global distress and disaster. 

Goal 4 Quality Education

Good quality education that is inclusive and available to all is a cornerstone of a prosperous and peaceful society. This includes not only various education sustainability initiatives but also caters to accessible and high-caliber school and university infrastructure. This goal works for a bright future for not only the global youth but for the global economy as well.

Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation

Universal access to clean water and a hygienic living environment makes up Goal 6. This will help counter water pollution and reduce the spread of diseases like cholera, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Clean water and sanitation will ultimately lead to water efficiency and its use as a renewable energy source. 

Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy 

Clean Energy is the key to having a future landscape that this generation can pass on to the next. This goal works for the distribution of electricity across the globe, in poverty-stricken and hard-to-access areas. Renewable energy sources (windmills, hydro-electricity, solar power) are being focused on so that there can be a time when weaning off of non-renewable and quickly depleting fuels such as coal, gas, and oil is not harmful to both society and the economy. 

Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Economic growth is a necessary factor to keep states progressing and afloat. Goal 8 emphasizes the importance of productive and decent employment. It promotes a greener economy, sustainable tourism, and social protection for all. 

Goal 16 Peace, Justice, and Security

Accountable and Just national institutions and law enforcement is the path to peace, justice, and security. There is an active need for local participation at the grassroots level. Peace can only ever be delivered from the bottom up. Pakistan has always had a conflict simmering at some level. Be it a population overflow at the borders or a politico-religious conflict. Effectively working on prevention and counter operations can foster peace and security for all. 

Priority II

Goal 1 No Poverty

The first goal is to end poverty globally. The poverty line has been decided over various factors and definitions in the past few years. Once it was declared that any person who consumed less than 2400 kcal over twenty-four hours was under the poverty line. Currently, it is set for members of society who live under Rs. 3000 monthly, in Pakistan.

Goal 5 Gender Equality

It is common knowledge that we live in a majorly patriarchal society that is disadvantageous to women and girls all over the world. Goal 5 aims to fix that by focusing on the elimination of gender-based violence and empowering more women to step into professional and operational roles by reducing in-house gender discrimination. There is also special care taken to recognize and reduce the unpaid labor and double standards which women face daily.

Goal 9 Industry. Innovation, and Infrastructure

A resilient and good quality infrastructure is a must to keep a state of more than 220 million people functioning properly. The innovation of the tech industry is the spearhead for Pakistan’s entry into a competitive future. There is still a need for better infrastructure including highways and high-rise buildings with proper sewage piping as well. Inclusive industrialization will bring about better credit, a more stable economy, and reduced unemployment.

Goal 10 Reduced Inequalities

The focus lies on reducing international inequalities and reducing the massive chasm existing between different classes of society. Income equality is directly tied to gendered equity, improved industrialization, and economic growth. Apart from reducing financial disparity, this also focuses on socio-political, cultural, and religious inclusion. Pakistan is a multicultural and diverse state with citizens belonging to various religious sects, castes, and ethnicities. However, this has often led to intersectional conflicts. This goal aims to counter that through various representative policies and global cooperation.

Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

These are such areas that practice, promote, and support sustainability in every aspect – energy, water, economy, infrastructure, and environment. This goal aims to ensure that due to the massive population migrations from rural to urban, there is no concentration of poverty due to the economic shift. Cities are to be safe havens for their constituents with public transport, parks, recreational spaces, and economic opportunities. 

Goal 17 Partnerships for Goals

No system of such a scale can work in isolation therefore, to bring sustainability to Pakistan, there needs to be a joint effort by international powers and national institutions. Global platforms such as the UN, WTO, SAARC, ASEAN, and IMF are all contributing their part be it through funding, medical aid, or economic policing. Pakistan also partakes in multiple confidence-building measures and FTAs to live up to this goal. 

Priority III

Goal 12 Responsible consumption and Production

Focuses on management and usage of natural resources to not run out before other renewable sources are in place. This goal actively works to reduce the negative impact of state consumption on the environment – be it through chemical dumping, food waste, or wasteful consumption. 

Goal 13 Climate Action

The recent floods in Pakistan and the searing temperatures in June and July point to the absolute necessity of taking climate action. Extreme temperatures, droughts, and flooding are all contributing to the deterioration of human and environmental health. Being a primarily agrarian exporter, Pakistan needs to be vigilant regarding any threat to its agricultural economy and counter it through planning, policies, and preventive strategies. 

Goal 14 Life below Water and Goal 15 Life on Land

The sustainable Development goals have provided guidelines to ensure a hospitable future. This includes protection and conservation of the living habitat aka Oceans and Land. Due to the rapid rate of globalization, modernism, and human development, ecosystems both above and below have suffered. Many species have gone extinct as well, due to unregulated hunting and fishing throughout the year. Ocean acidification and pollution are major concerns due to it being a major food source for the global population. Similarly, deforestation, desertification, and poaching need to be eliminated on land. Pakistan has participated in such initiatives to conserve and protect forests through artificial reforestation – the Changa Manga Forest.

Pakistan is constantly making progress in seeing the SDGs through. Consistency is key to success and in this case, sustainability. 

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South Asia

Breaking Diplomatic Norms: Indian Response to OIC & Turkish Support for Kashmir Issue




Recently, the Indian government has been facing backlash for its highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support to the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Indian government has also criticized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for its statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

India’s long-standing hostility towards Pakistan has been a subject of much criticism in international diplomatic circles. While the two countries have a history of conflicts and disputes, India’s approach towards Pakistan has often been seen as unconstructive and counterproductive. The Indian government’s hardline stance on Pakistan has resulted in a deepening of the mistrust between the two countries, which has had serious implications for regional stability and security.

India’s rhetoric towards Pakistan has often been marked by derogatory and aggressive remarks, particularly in the context of the Kashmir issue. In recent years, India has sought to internationalize the issue of Kashmir and has baselessly accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in the region. This has resulted in a hardening of positions on both sides and has made any meaningful dialogue between the two countries almost impossible.

India’s recent criticism of Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC and its condemnation of the OIC’s statement on Indian human rights abuses in IIOJK is another example of its obsession with Pakistan. The Indian government’s response to these developments has been highly un-democratic and derogatory, with Indian officials using aggressive language and personal attacks to discredit Turkey and the OIC.

India’s preoccupation with Pakistan has also had implications for its relationship with other countries in the region. India’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and its strategic partnership with the US have raised concerns among its neighbors, who fear that India’s pursuit of its own interests could undermine regional stability and security. India’s aggressive stance towards China and its border disputes have also added to regional tensions and have led to a deterioration in its relationship with Beijing.Bottom of Form

It is important to note that Turkey has always been a strong supporter of the Kashmir issue, and has been vocal about the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the region. In September 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir during his speech at the UN General Assembly, stating that the “Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue.”

In response to Turkey’s support of the Kashmir issue, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement condemning Turkey’s stance, claiming that it was “completely unacceptable” and that Turkey had no right to interfere in India’s internal affairs. India’s statement also accused Turkey of using the Kashmir issue as a “distraction” from its own internal problems.

This reaction from the Indian government is highly undemocratic and uncalled for. It is the right of any nation to express its views on global issues, and India’s attempt to suppress Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a clear violation of this right. The Kashmir issue has been a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan, and the international community has a responsibility to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a step in the right direction towards achieving this goal.

Furthermore, the Indian government’s criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK is also highly inappropriate. The OIC, a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, has expressed concern over the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in IIOJK, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The OIC’s statement is a reflection of the international community’s concerns over the situation in IIOJK, and it is the right of the OIC to express its views on this matter.

India’s response to the OIC’s statement has been highly critical, with the Indian government accusing the OIC of interfering in India’s internal affairs. This response is yet another attempt by the Indian government to suppress international criticism of its human rights abuses in IIOJK. The Indian government’s stance on this issue is highly hypocritical, as it has repeatedly called for international support in its own disputes with other nations, including Pakistan.

Indian government’s highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC, as well as its criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK, are reflective of its lack of respect for international law and global human rights standards. The Kashmir issue is a longstanding dispute that requires a peaceful and just resolution, and the international community has a responsibility to support this goal. The Indian government must recognize this and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, rather than resorting to undemocratic and inflammatory rhetoric.

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