Bali action puts India on other side of the Rohingya debate

India’s decision to reject a joint statement by the World Parliamentary Forum in Indonesia, that included references to human rights in Myanmar in its ‘Bali declaration’, was a major show of support for the Suu Kyi government just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended his bilateral visit there. The move, however, has put India on the other side of the Rohingya refugee debate from Myanmar’s other neighbours and countries in the region.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were all among countries that joined the Bali declaration at Nusa Dua on Thursday, that India disassociated from, according to Indonesian officials.

In their explanation, the Indian delegation headed by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said the reference to Myanmar had been “proposed at the eleventh hour” and was unjustified as the Parliamentary forum was meant to focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and not a particular country.

“At the drafting committee India raised its objections, especially after Turkey inserted clauses specific to one country (Myanmar), which Bangladesh supported. But the host country went ahead and adopted the declaration despite our objections,” an MEA official telephone from Indonesia.

In two separate paragraphs, the Bali Declaration that was eventually made by 49 countries, expressed concern about the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the UN says at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed, and 2,70,000 have fled, mainly to Bangladesh, in the past two weeks.

The statement “called on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity,” as “there can be no sustainable development without peace”.

India’s statement followed PM Modi’s visit to Naypyitaw where he expressed his support for the NLD government’s crackdown on terror groups in the Rakhine.

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