New Delhi (Sputnik) — After intense deliberations, Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed on the safe return of Rohingya refugees to their homeland in the Arakan state of Myanmar.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Myanmar State Counsellor and Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar U Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyidaw — the capital of Myanmar on Thursday. It lays down modalities for the safe repatriation of Rohingya refugees who had fled Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangladesh following a military crackdown on the community.
Though details of the pact are still awaited, experts have voiced skepticism.
"The most pressing concern is that the deal is devoid of any third party involvement … the absence of any multinational body that will ensure the implementation of the MoU," said retired Major General Abdur Rashid, a security expert and director of the Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies.
"It can surely be called a diplomatic victory for Bangladesh for having inked a bilateral treaty, which it has been pursuing. But the details of the pact are yet to be known and the success of the objective will depend on the finer details," he added.
Experts also feel that the pact, which merely addresses the return of the refugees to their homeland, will not be adequate. The involvement of a third party like India would be very crucial in ensuring the proper rehabilitation of the refugees in their homeland in terms of infrastructure building and socioeconomic thrust.
"India is of the view that the only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine is rapid socioeconomic growth and infrastructure development that will have a positive impact on all the communities in the state. India has also committed to provide financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be undertaken in Rakhine State. We have also supported the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan-led Special Advisory Commission report. The important part of any deal involving Rohingyas is to ensure they don't face persecution when they go back to Myanmar. And the situation may not change much as they are regarded as illegal Bengali immigrants in Myanmar," Smruti Pattanaik of the Delhi-based Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses told Sputnik.
Meanwhile, Myanmar has said that it would be taking the Rohingyas back as soon as possible.
"We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us," said Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar's ministry of labor, immigration and population, referring to the registration forms that must be completed by the Rohingya before repatriation.
Independent estimates put the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to be around one million.