Cosmos Foundation chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered the opening remarks at the symposium titled “Bangladesh-China Relations: Prognosis for the Future” which premiered on its Facebook page on Thursday evening.

Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and adviser on foreign affairs to a former caretaker government, chaired the session.

Citing the crisis in the Rakhine state as a complex and historic one, Rashed Titumir said China has defended the Myanmar government

Ambassador (retd) Tariq A. Karim, CPD Distinguished Fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya, former foreign secretary Shamsher M. Chowdhury, assistant researcher of the Institute for International Studies at Yunnan University Zou Yingmeng, assistant research fellow at China Institute of International Studies Ning Shengnan, former ambassador Serajul Islam and Dhaka University professor Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir comprised the panel of discussants.

Tariq A. Karim said, “I would request China to support us in our efforts to augment regional and sub-regional cooperation on a number of issues which will have consequences with China, particularly in resolving the Rohingya issue, not just in Bangladesh, but particularly in its point of origin where China has the capacity to help us resolve it.”

Metaphorically speaking about the current volatile situation in Myanmar, he said he sees flame in the centre and it is at the point of imploding, and imploding Myanmar will lead to an explosion that will not leave any country, including China, Bangladesh, India and any of the ASEAN countries, untouched.

“So, I would urge them to look afresh at this and use their influence and make sure that this flame is put out quickly so that their looking west aspirations and our looking east aspirations can actually start moving towards each other,” Tariq Karim said.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury questioned whether the Rohingyas are the victims of regional geopolitics and geostrategic interests

Referring to Ambassador Li‘s remarks about the Rohingya issue, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said Bangladesh had got many promises and assurances of the satisfactory resolution of this issue.

“It’s a humanitarian issue which has a potential of becoming a security issue if it’s not resolved satisfactorily keeping in mind the dignity, and honour of this community of people who are facing the UN described the textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” he said.

The former diplomat thinks the countries that have the leverage to play the right kind of role in finding a solution should step up and look to finding a peaceful resolution without any further delay.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury questioned whether the Rohingyas are the victims of regional geopolitics and geostrategic interests. “I think this is the question Bangladesh needs to ask the major players in the region very frankly and candidly... It’s a much more humanitarian issue and I think it has to be faced effectively and timely.”

He said Bangladesh has a sizable military that is professional and has developed a global character and it is widely respected for its disaster management capabilities and for keeping peace under the United Nations in far off lands.

More recently, he said, Bangladesh has earned universal accolades for readily providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution at their own home.

He also said Bangladesh has earned recognition as a responsible neighbour and a regional player by hosting Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Citing the crisis in the Rakhine state as a complex and historic one, Rashed Titumir said China has defended the Myanmar government.

The analyst said India is also competing for influence in Myanmar and is critical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China.

Bangladesh has long been exploring ways with the international community to begin repatriation of the Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine state.

The repatriation, however, could not be commenced in the last four years with two "failed attempts" amid "lack of confidence" among Rohingyas and "lack of conducive environment" in Rakhine State.

Discussions with Myanmar remains halted for a long time amid Covid situation and subsequent military coup in Myanmar.

Bangladesh remains hopeful about the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar despite the military government being in place considering the repatriation that took place in 1978 and 1992 (under military government).

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen had a bilateral meeting with Christine S. Burgener, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Myanmar at the Bangladesh Permanent Mission in New York recently. During the meeting, he sought a clear roadmap from the United Nations for repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

The foreign minister referred to the negative impacts of the prolonged presence of the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar, particularly for the host community, and stated that if repatriation does not commence soon, it would only deteriorate the overall situation there and create instability in the region and beyond.

Bangladesh had handed over a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification but the verification process by the Myanmar side was very slow, Dhaka says.

Bangladesh is currently hosting in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char over 1.1 million Rohingyas most of who have entered Bangladesh following the military crackdown in 2017.

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