Rohingya repatriation, IPS to dominate agenda during US official’s visit

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Dhaka, Oct 12: Bangladesh will raise the Rohingya issue during a US high official’s Dhaka visit and seek stronger global support, especially from the United States, for the quick repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.

“Our key focus is on repatriation. It’s a global responsibility. Rohingyas must go back,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters on Monday.

He said Rohingya is not a lone responsibility of Bangladesh but a global responsibility and Bangladesh will raise it.

Dr Momen said Bangladesh is not interested in humanitarian assistance. “It’s one part but not the main part. Rohingyas must go back to Myanmar. That’s the main part for us.”

Responding to a question on a meeting planned by the European Union, the UK, the USA and Japan, Dr Momen said Bangladesh is the victim of the Rohingya crisis and wants key players to be there in the talks.

He disagreed with the plan of long-term support saying Rohingya repatriation is the key focus for Bangladesh.

Referring to incidents in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps, the Foreign Minister said they have to take control of the camps and decided to go for fencing.

The Foreign Minister recently said Rohingyas will “jeopardise regional and international security” if the 1.1 million Rohingya people are left unattended and not given the opportunity to return to their homeland.

Bangladesh sought a pro-active role from both ASEAN and Thailand on the repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State.

Repatriation attempts were failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas’ “lack of trust” on the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.

On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

IPS & Bangladesh

Dr Momen said the US side will talk about Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) and Bangladesh does not have any problem.

Bangladesh will also seek investment in infrastructure development and visa issues during the visit, he said.

Bangladeshi students are not getting the US visa whereas India is giving. “This is discriminatory,” Dr Momen said.

“We’ll tell them that they should come forward with investment in infrastructure development if they want the effectiveness of the initiative,” said the Foreign Minister adding that only talks will not work.

If they really want to help Bangladesh, Dr Momen said, they can help Bangladesh RMG sector by withdrawing tariffs for three years.

On defence aspects of the IPS, the Foreign Minister said they want to sell equipment but Bangladesh will be very reluctant about that end as Bangladesh is a friendly country.

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun arrives here on Wednesday afternoon from India wrapping up his ongoing visit there.

He will leave Bangladesh on October 16 after meeting with senior government officials, including Minister Dr Momen and State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.

The US will reaffirm the Bangladesh-US partnership during the visit.

The Deputy Secretary’s engagements in Bangladesh will focus on advancing the common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all, according to the Office of the Spokesperson at the US Department of State.

Both sides will also discuss Bangladesh-US cooperation on Covid-19 response and recovery efforts; and sustainable economic development.

The Deputy Secretary is visiting New Delhi, India where he will meet senior government officials and deliver keynote remarks at the India-US Forum.

Building on Secretary Pompeo’s October 6 meeting with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar and ahead of the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year, Deputy Secretary Biegun’s engagements in India will focus on advancing the United States-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and how the United States and India can work together to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.