GUWAHATI: Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen on Saturday said repatriation of displaced Myanmar nationals sheltering in his country is necessary for security and stability in Southeast Asia.
Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” (of Rohingya ethnicity) in Cox’s Bazar and they want to return to their country, the minister said in his address at the inaugural session of the Natural Allies in Development and Interdependence (NADI) conclave in Assam’s Guwahati.
“Since repatriation has not started, the displaced persons are frustrated. Many may get involved in criminal activities such as drug and human trafficking, violence and these areas may become pockets of extremism and radicalism, leading to uncertainty and instability in the whole region,” Momen said.
“Their repatriation must be done at the earliest and I solicit the help of our neighbouring countries to work together to maintain security and stability in the region,” he added.
Bangladesh is providing them with food and shelter on humanitarian grounds but this is a temporary measure and most of the displaced persons want to return to their country, he added.
“This has posed a threat to the on-going development trajectory in Bangladesh … for a stable region, all countries should act responsibly so that regional stability is not hampered,” Momen said.
Countries in the region should come forward in resolving this issue, keeping in mind that development of any region is interdependent, he added.
Referring to Indo-Bangla relations, Momen said that both the countries have a “rock-solid relation” and are linked by history, culture, language and shared sacrifice, just as much they are connected by shared waters, the fifth-longest border in the world and kinship.
“Over the years, the relationship has seen transformative changes reaching new heights and the existing friendship between the people are a mark of trust and mutual respect. The emotional bonds stemming from the invaluable contribution of the government and the people of India in the Liberation War of Bangladesh remain a ‘dominant factor’ in the relationship between the two countries”, he said.
Later on the sidelines of the conclave, the foreign minister, in reply to questions on Bangladesh’s relations with Beijing, said “we are not moving towards China”.
“We are constructing the longest bridge over Padma with our money and the contractors are from China. We hired them after floating tenders but a section of the media made a noise. China is not funding the project”, he said.
China, however, is “our development partner and as the largest emerging economy, we buy a lot of things from them”, Maomen added.
Asked about the arrest of 16 members of Ansar ul Bangla, a terrorist outfit with links to Al Qaeda based out of Bangladesh, in Assam recently, the minister said, ”Good that they have been put inside. There is no place for terrorism in the region”.
Referring to Bangladesh’s relations with India’s North Eastern states, Momen said it is widely accepted that there are huge prospects and potentials for promoting trade and investment and economic activities between Bangladesh and North East India.
He said that there are intractable challenges like, climate change, lack of consensus on principles of fair distribution of river water between upper and lower riparian states, geopolitical tensions caused by the absence of such consensus, socio-environmental impact of big dams and hydroelectric power projects of upper riparian countries, river pollution and so on but experts will surely pave the way for effective collaboration beyond politics and boundaries.
Bangladesh has been bestowed by a favourable geographical location to serve as a connectivity link between the seven north-eastern states of India as well as with the land-locked Bhutan and Nepal, he said.
“We are thriving to develop useful multi-modal connectivity with our neighbours and also with the other nations of the region. A number of mega projects are being implemented and on completion, we expect to enter into a new horizon of socio-economic development of the country”, Momen said.