External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has advised Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi not to “destroy” her image over her stance on the Rohingya issue as Myanmar’s military actions in Rakhine state sparked a global outrage. Swaraj referred to Modi’s advice as she called on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after joining the 4th Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission meeting with her counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.
“He (Modi) told her (Suu Kyi) ‘you have a very good international image, don’t destroy it’,” the Bangladesh premier’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told PTI, quoting Swaraj as saying during her meeting with Hasina at her residence.
It is not clear when Modi made the comments, however, Bangladeshi media reports claimed he said this last month when he met Suu Kyi during his first bilateral visit to Myanmar. Karim said Swaraj extended her full support to Bangladesh’s stance that Myanmar must take back its nationals and must not punish innocent people while fighting terrorism.
“Myanmar may punish the terrorists, not innocent people,” he quoted Swaraj as saying. Swaraj appreciated Bangladesh’s stand on the Rohingya issue but described the exodus of forcibly displaced people as a “big burden for Bangladesh”. “It’s a big burden for Bangladesh, and how long will Bangladesh bear this?” she said referring to the exodus of the forcibly displaced people who fled the violence in their homeland and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Swaraj added there should be a permanent solution of the Rohingya issues and international community should contribute to social and economic development of Rakhine state. Karim said she praised Premier Hasina for extending all humanitarian support to the displaced people. He said Hasina narrated the situation after the beginning of the Rohingya exodus since August 25 and her government’s initiatives for their shelter. “We have given them shelter upon the confidence that we would be able to feed the distressed Rohingyas on humanitarian ground,” she told Swaraj.
Hasina said Bangladesh had already established an engagement with Myanmar and the Bangladeshi home minister was set to visit the neighbouring county over the crisis. Nearly 600,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where the Myanmarese army has launched a crackdown against militants. Myanmar doesn’t recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.
Bangladesh has sought India’s “sustained pressures” on Myanmar for resolution of the crisis. Hasina recalled India’s contribution during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War as well as support to her and her sister Sheikh Rehana after the 1975 assassination of their father – the nation’s founder ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – along with most of their family. Swaraj informed the prime minister about her official talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart saying the entire gamut of bilateral relations came up in their discussion and she was very satisfied at the state of bilateral relations.
She said she had a very fruitful discussion with Bangladeshi officials on the projects under India’s Line of Credit (LOC) whose implementation has been delayed. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali, Premier’s Advisor on International Affairs Gowher Rizvi, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Moazzem Ali, Bangladeshi Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, and Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque were present along with India’s Foreign Secretary Joy Shankar and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsha Vardhan Shingla.
Swaraj also handed over some memorabilia of the 1971 Liberation War to Hasina as a gift to the Bangladesh National Museum. The memorabilia includes an Mi-4 helicopter, a PT76 tank, 106 mm recoilless anti-tank gun and some of the military equipment used by the joint forces during the war and a number of artifacts and documents like historical photographs, archival audio and video clippings, maps, battle records, newspaper clippings and documentaries.