Myanmar must take back refugees who are a ‘big burden’ on Bangladesh: Sushma tells Hasina


Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (R) meets with Sushma Swaraj(L) India's Minister of External Affairs, during their meeting at the presidential house in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 22 August 2016. Photo: Hein Htet/EPA

Myanmar must take back the millions of Rohingya people who have been coming to Bangladesh to escape violence, India’s external affairs minister has said.  

“Myanmar must take back their nationals, they are a big burden for Bangladesh,” Sushma Swaraj said during her meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday.    

“How long will Bangladesh bear it? There should be a permanent solution,” the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim quoted Swaraj as saying.

Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a violent army crackdown in Rakhine since it began on Aug 25.

Bangladesh has been struggling to provide shelter and aid to the masses who have been living in squalid sheds on cleared forest land at Cox’s Bazar.

The Indian minister, without pronouncing the word Rohingya, praised the Hasina government’s efforts to provide shelter to the Myanmar nationals.

She spoke of their repatriation, but also sought punishment for “terrorists” responsible for the attacks on Myanmar security posts that prompted the army’s counterassault in Rakhine.

Swaraj said the huge number of refugees was a ‘big burden’ on Bangladesh. “The international community should contribute to social and economic development of Rakhine,” she said. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Naypyidaw soon after the Myanmar army began its ‘clearance operations’ in Rakhine.

He reminded Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi of her image, Swaraj told Hasina.

“Narendra Modi told Suu Kyi that she enjoys a good image globally and should not risk ruining it,” Press Secretary Karim told reporters.

Prime Minister Hasina talked about her government’s efforts to provide the Rohingyas with help.

If Bangladesh can provide for 160 million of its citizens, it can do the same for people who have fled Myanmar, she said.

She remembered the time when millions of Bengalis were made refugees in India during the 1971 War of Independence against Pakistan.

Hasina said she and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana were also given shelter by India.

Swaraj spoke of her successful meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali. “The Indian external minister said the work being conducted under her country’s line of credit are experiencing delays,” said Karim.

Her meeting with Hasina began with the exchange of military weapons used by freedom fighters and Indian army officers during the Liberation War.

India has presented Bangladesh with MI helicopters, two tanks and 25 weapons. Sushma Swaraj handed a .38-calibre revolver to Hasina before the meeting at the Ganabhaban.

Courtesy bdnews24.com, edited for style

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