Deporting Rohingyas to Myanmar: More than nationalist, it's a realist move by India
New Delhi, Oct 4: The social media saw a huge uproar on Thursday, October 4, over the news that the Indian government was set to deport seven Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar where the ethnic community has seen a serious suppression. The social media was also happy that the Supreme Court refused to "interfere" in the issue and stop deportation of the Rohingya refugees. The United Nations criticized India for taking such a step, saying it was a violation of international law.
The issue here is not something about the black and white as many people with nationalist fervour are seeing it as. India has taken this move specifically to please the neighbouring Myanmar government to serve its own interests in the long run.
Making a more realist turn in its external affairs out of compulsion, India decided to shed the 'sympathy baggage' and push back the Rohingyas taking shelter on its soil. This stance is the outcome of the complications that Myanmar's internal politics has seen in the recent past, forcing India to make amends to its own position.
India had a dilemma vis-à-vis Myanmar when the military junta was in power there. Though, ideologically it was with Aung San Suu Kyi, who stood as democracy's flickering hope in that country, India looked for a more pragmatic engagement with the junta to secure its own interests - security, energy, economic and geostrategic. In 2015, when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power, New Delhi thought it would be now easier to engage with an elected government of Myanmar. But all the vision was messed up in August 2017 when the Myanmar State took on the Rohingyas following a deadly coordinated attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
India had a dilemma the moment Suu Kyi govt came under accusations
India's task became difficult when crackdowns started under the eyes of a democratic government because now it could not take a clear black-and-white stand. Supporting in -power Suu Kyi now became synonymous with supporting human rights violation. So while the entire world flayed the Myanmar regime over the Rohingya suppression and even a tiny state like Bangladesh came forward to give shelter to the refugees who fled the country, India remained tight-lipped because it was a in a great deal of confusion.
India's dilemma was heightened by the growing shadow of China in its vicinity. China has become far more active in the neighbourhood and loses no time whenever it perceives an opportunity to influence another country's affairs because it wants to grow its stature.
Annoying Myanmar would help China
This put India under even a bigger compulsion to not embrace the Rohingyas. For if India chose to go by the ideological line in this crisis, then there was ample possibility of annoying the Myanmar government and the ultimate beneficiary of which would be China. It was not without a reason that Prime Minister Narendra Modi avoided making any reference to the alleged atrocities against the Rohingyas during his official trip to Myanmar in September last year and praised the Myanmar government instead for its show in countering violence.
India needs Myanmar's cooperation not only to counter the Chinese in Myanmar and more specifically, the economically viable Rakhine state which Beijing is eyeing for its gains, but also to secure its own north-east where cross-border terrorism has often plagued India's security forces. India was also under the fear that the presence of the Rohingyas in India could bolster the insurgent groups and that could destabilize India's eastern borders.
"In Rakhine State, Chinese and Indian interests are part of the broader China-India relations. These interests revolve principally around the construction of infrastructure and pipelines in the region. Such projects claim to guarantee employment, transit fees, and oil and gas revenues for the whole of Myanmar," said an article in Quartz India.
India was deeply criticized when it virtually found itself with no policy to counter the growing Chinese influence in Myanmar in the wake of the atrocities being committed on the Rohingyas. China even came with a three-stage plan for the Suu Kyi regime to end the crisis. Beijing also offered to play the role of a mediator between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
India, on the other hand, adopted 'no policy' as its policy. Now, the Modi government's decision to deport seven Rohingyas is being seen as a major diplomatic win but in effect, it is more a catching-up game that India is playing to secure its interests across the eastern border and keep the line of its access to Southeast Asia fine.
It's quite a realism out of compulsion. For the nationalist supporters, though, the symbolism is more than enough and they are happy celebrating the leadership of Modi.