Once snubbed by Myanmar, which expressed reservations over establishing economic ties with the Dragon country, China still continued its efforts to get close to the Junta-ruled South Asian country.
Rohingya issue provided an opportunity for China to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar which agreed on Tuesday to take back the forcibly displaced Rohingya people to Rakhine state.
Myanmar, however, emphasised that the returnees should abide by the laws of the country and avoid engaging in ‘divisive activities’ upon their return.
Notably, China proposed that the process of repatriation should be kept limited to a bilateral mechanism developed by Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Bangladesh, which shelters lakhs of Rohingyas, sought engagements of international partners in Rakhine to make the repatriation sustainable.
The three countries were engaged in a trilateral meeting. Top diplomats of Bangladesh, China and Myanmar held a virtual meet after Bangladesh requested for repatriation of the Rohingya people physically by June this year.
Earlier, two attempts to start repatriation failed in 2018 as not a single Rohingya expressed desire to go back to Myanmar expressing fear over the absence of conducive atmosphere to settle again in their own country.
Chinese vice-foreign minister Luo Zhaohui, Bangladesh foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen and Myanmar deputy minister for international cooperation Hau Do Suan held talks.
Suan showed willingness to take back Rohingyas to Rakhine while stressing the need for Rohingyas to obey local laws.
Momen said Myanmar sought Bangladesh’s support to contain potential resurgence of ARSA, an armed outfit of Rakhine people, after the repatriation of the Rohingya people.
Luo Zhaohui stressed that bilateral negotiation and consultation between Bangladesh and Myanmar should be prioritised’ to find a durable solution.
“There is an urgency to start the process for repatriation at the earliest, as the number of people is increasing with the birth of about 90,000 children in last three years,’ Momen said.
Momen emphasised the need for expediting the repatriation process after verification of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar government considering the lists sent by Bangladesh.
Both the countries agreed to install a hotline at the level of director general of their respective foreign ministries to monitor the repatriation process.
Bangladesh authorities expected flexibility by the Myanmar government.
Chinese and the Myanmar governments fixed the next foreign secretary-level meeting in February in Cox’s Bazar or Dhaka.
Bangladesh foreign secretary further said his country wants Myanmar government to create an environment conducive for the displaced people to return to their homeland with the assurance of the rights of the returnees, their livelihood, safety and security.
He further said that involvement and the constructive role of countries such as China, India, Japan, ASEAN and the UN agencies would also be crucial for ensuring sustainability.
According to the UN agencies, 8,60,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and elderly people, entered Bangladesh to escape murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, beginning from August 25, 2017.