As an effect of Myanmar Army’s ethnically cleansing of Rohingyas in the name of countering terrorism created a refugee crisis in Rakhine District at Myanmar. According to Reuters, more than 140,000 of the estimated 800,000 to 1,100,000 Rohingya have been forced to seek refuge in displacement camps after the 2012 Rakhine State riots. On humanitarian grounds, Bangladesh and India governments must rehabilitate them in Muslim majority provinces like Assam, West Bengal, and districts of East Bihar.
Bengal Delta and Rise of China
Kolkata has been identified as an only port city under Maritime Silk Road because of the vast hinterland it caters from Nepal to East Uttar Pradesh and North East provinces of India. Kolkata was also the capital of British India up to 1912. Before Opium Wars when China was number one producer in the global market, Kolkata port is number one. But after Opium wars as the West became top producing countries, the importance of ports of Western India like Mumbai grew and Kolkata’s importance declined. But since the first decade of 21st century, China is back to the top spot, Kolkata and any port in Bengal will see its rise too. But this rise of Bengal ports will definitely be disliked by Mumbai and other West Indian ports. In fact, Delhi-Mumbai based Indian ruling class will hate to see the rise of Kolkata or Chittagong.
China already has put Kolkata in Maritime Silk Road and BCIM corridor map. Kolkata Kunming BCIM Corridor to pass through the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Chinese authority tried a lot to woo West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But neither proved much fruitful for China. India still controls Hassina’s increasingly unpopular government and Banerjee in-spite of anti-Delhi and pro federal rhetorics proving to be too weak to counter Delhi. In fact, even after being invited in Beijing by Communist Party of China, Banerjee failed to go to Beijing since Delhi did not allow it.
Implications of Rohingya on Bengal Delta?
The demographic situation of this region is very volatile. In West Bengal, Bengali Hindus are majority 57% but their fertility rate is below replacement rate for decades. As a result, Bengali Muslim and Hindu Hindi speaker proportion in the population is steadily increasing. Bengali Hindus being both Hindu in religion and Bengali in language acts as a bridge between the high population of the other two. As Bengali Hindu population is becoming aged and less in percentage, Bengali Muslims and Hindi speakers are becoming more important politically. This can be seen when we see that the present ruling party is based on Muslim vote bank and radical Hindu party based on Hindi votes is gaining momentum to become the main opposition party.
The North Bengal districts are becoming Muslim dominated too resulting in religious tensions. East Bihar which is also part of Bengal delta watching rise in Muslim percentage in population and recent electoral success of radical Hindu party in Bihar really heightened the prospect of religious violence in East Bihar districts. North East India has seen years of separatist movements and rise of Muslim population percentage in Assam is adding extra momentum. Radical Hindu parties now spreading anti-Muslim propaganda is adding a religious dimension to already restive region.
Bangladesh under an unelected government is becoming a political volcano waiting to erupt. On the one hand pro India sections controlling media, culture, etc. helping to keep existing government in power and on the other hand pro China business people wants to get rid of it. Rural area also has religious people who see India as an anti-Muslim state. These three forces may result in tremendous political outburst in Bangladesh in the near future.
China in April 2017 scored a success in its quest for Belt Road Initiative when Myanmar government allowed Chinese gas pipeline from Mede Island to Kunming after three years of negotiation. Now China is hoping to get 85% of Kyaukpyu port and also right to develop a special economic zone. So any chaos in Myanmar is not helpful for China. Moreover, China will always side with the stable government. So China will side Myanmar government like it did in Sri Lanka, Syria and Venezuela. Russia also gained a lot of arms and gas deal from Myanmar government recently. So Russia will remain with China too.
The USA is a declining power and so it always finds present situation always going against it. So the USA needs to destabilize the existing equilibrium. In Myanmar too, USA did not miss the chance to raise Rohingya issue in United Nations Security Council which China and Russia vetoed every time. USA may support different Rohingya elements which seek liberation from Myanmar and can create a permanent chaos in the region which will only create problems for China’s BRI projects.
India’s present radical Hindu government will definitely side Myanmar government due to three reasons. One, radical Hindu support base will not support pro Rohingya Muslim stand; two, chaos in the region can result in change of demography in favor of radical Muslims in not only North East India or West Bengal but also its ally Bangladesh and three, India will not want to leave Myanmar government completely dependent on China support.
Iran-Turkey authorities are also showing solidarity for Rohingya Muslims. If they take the matter seriously then Rohingya issue can have huge potential to really change the global geopolitics. After Syrian episode, China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are coming together to form Eurasian Silk Road. China and Russia’s too much pro-Myanmar position may cause a rift in this unity. But since favoring independent Arakan for Rohingyas may stir demand for independent Kurdistan across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, Sunni Turkey and Shite Iran may not take the risk of supporting independent Arakan. But Rohingya issue may antagonize a huge global Muslim population from China-Russia. Already Chechens protested Russian government’s role on the issue.
How to deal with the Crisis
China supported Lanka government against Tamil separatist movement. China and Russia stood firm for Assad and Maduro. In case of Myanmar, China-Russia must ensure the stability of Myanmar government but at the same time must see Rohingya issue from the humanitarian point.
Pakistan-Turkey-Iran and even Russian Chechens must be actively encouraged by multi polar world supporters to maintain refugee camps inside Indian ally Bangladesh. Bangladesh government must be asked to accept Rohingya refugees. Rohingya refugees must also get rehabilitation in Muslim majority provinces like Assam, West Bengal, and districts of East Bihar. Thus, Rohingya refugees will not result in destabilization of Myanmar, they can become soldiers of Eurasian Silk Road. So the point is it would be politically wrong to forget plights of Rohingyas completely.
The more Rohingyas can be pushed into India and Bangladesh the more U.S. Empire’s potential allies will feel the heat. Empire may find itself in a situation in which chaos created by itself is hitting its own allies the most. In fact, this is what happened to Turkey in Empire’s chaos making in Syria. Destabilizing Syria helped Kurds to rise which forced Turkey to come closer to multi polar allies. Same can be done in Rohingya issue too.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.