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‘Rohingyas big burden on country’, says Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, seeks India’s help to send them back to Myanmar

Sheikh Hasina will pay a critical bilateral visit to India on Monday. Hasina's four-day visit to India is estimated as a chance to strengthen the long-standing partnership between the two fastest-growing South Asian economies.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina described the Rohingya Muslims seeking sanctuary in her country as a “big burden,” and said India might play a significant role in dealing with the issue. She stated that her country is contacting the international community to ensure the repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.

“For us, it’s a big burden. India is a vast country; you can accommodate, but you don’t have much. But in our country. We have 1.1 million Rohingya. We are consulting with the international community and also our neighbouring countries. They should also take some steps so that they can go back home,” Sheikh Hasina remarked in an interview with ANI.

Though she claimed her government made the effort to vaccinate the Rohingya people with COVID-19 vaccines, she underlined that this would be difficult for a long time. According to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, criminality involving narcotics, women, and weaponry is on the rise, and she believes that the return of the Rohingyas to their country is critical for Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina will pay a critical bilateral visit to India on Monday. Hasina’s four-day visit to India is estimated as a chance to strengthen the long-standing partnership between the two fastest-growing South Asian economies. Here are some key takeaways from her interview with ANI Editor Smita Prakash.

Attack on minorities

Sheikh Hasina claimed that her government strongly supports secularism and that any attempt to disrupt communal peace is swiftly dealt with. “As long as we are in power, we always give importance to that and I always tell them that you are our citizens. You should own our country. But some incidents sometimes take place but immediately we take action. It has sometimes happened, but it’s a very unwanted situation,” she said.

“We all, together we celebrate… As a cultural event, even you can see it in Bangladesh, during Durga Puja. In so many places, we have Durga Puja and people celebrate all together. So the religious harmony is there but now some… here and there some incidents happen but our government immediately takes action against it,” the Bangladesh PM further said.

There have been instances of violence and animosity directed towards Bangladesh’s minority Hindu population. According to certain accounts, attacks on Durga Puja pandals or places of worship have occurred. Hasina said that it was crucial for nations to show kindness when asked about incidents of violence against the Hindu minority community.

Economic crisis like Sri Lanka

In response to concerns that Bangladesh may follow Sri Lanka’s example, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that her country’s economy remains robust despite the Covid-19 strike and the unrest in Ukraine and that her government exercised utmost prudence when receiving any loans. She claimed that the world was now dealing with problems that were not specific to Bangladesh.

“Our economy, still it is very strong. Though, we faced this Covid-19 pandemic, now the Ukraine-Russia war. That has its effect here. But in debt rate, Bangladesh always pays timely all its debts. So our debt rate is very low. In the context of Sri Lanka, our economic trajectory and the development, it is (planned) very, very calculatingly,” Sheikh Hasina said.

She went on to add, “I think the whole world is facing an economic problem. We are also. But yes there are some people who raise this issue. Oh, Bangladesh will be Sri Lanka, this and that. But I can assure you, no, that will not happen. Because we… all our development plans, what we prepare and we implement, always we see that what would be the return? How people would be the beneficiary? Otherwise, I don’t take any project (for) just spending money.”

Water dispute between India & Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina called India a loyal friend and said the two nations’ long-standing water-sharing conflict should be settled to alleviate Bangladesh’s problems.

Sheikh Hasina said,” We are downstream, water is coming from India. So, India should show more generosity. Both countries would be beneficiaries. Sometimes, our people suffer a lot because of this, especially the Teesta River. We found that PM [Narendra Modi] is very eager to solve this but the problem is in your country. We share only Ganges water but we have 54 other rivers. It’s a long-standing problem and should be resolved.”

Also, Sheikh Hasina thanked the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi for the help extended to Bangladeshi nationals stranded in Ukraine. She labelled the help as a ‘friendly gesture.’ She also expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative.

The Bangladeshi foreign policy

Bangladesh’s foreign policy, according to Sheikh Hasina, is centred on the country’s growth. Referring to China, she said, “Our foreign policy is very clear — friendship to all, malice to none. If there’s a problem, it’s between China and India. I don’t want to put my nose there.”

Throughout the interview, Sheikh Hasina kept reiterating the strong relationship between India and Bangladesh. She said that she is thankful to India for the help extended during the Bangladesh liberation movement. “India is our trusted friend. We always remember India’s contribution during the 1971 war. Even in 1975, when I lost all my family members, the then-Indian PM gave us shelter in India,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina recalled the days when she and her family used to live at a house on Pandara road in central Delhi with disguised names. “Our names were changed due to security reasons. We were provided with all security until we went back to Bangladesh. We lived in India from 1975 to 1981,” she added controlling her emotions on camera.

Sheikh Hasina will be in India from September 5 to September 8 where she will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar, and newly elected President Draupadi Murmu. Her last visit to India was in October 2019, months before the coronavirus epidemic.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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