India’s flip-flops on Rohingya crisis exposes its neighbourhood disconnect

Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination of boats arranged by traffickers who promise the refugees a better life abroad.

“I had to once tell my boss that I deal with the ‘tail of China’ just to get his attention,” a former foreign service official, who looked after Myanmar affairs in the External Affairs ministry’s Bangladesh-Myanmar division, said at a recent private gathering in Kolkata.

As witty as it sounds, there, however, was no hint of a jest on his stoic face while narrating his side of the story. But even if he was joking, the underlying message wasn’t lost on anyone. Smaller countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood do not get serious attention of our policy-makers.

India’s pussyfooting around the Rohingya crisis further lends credence to such stories.

More than two years after one of the most devastating humanitarian tragedies that unfolded in its eastern neighbourhood, India is still reluctant to collaborate proactively with stakeholders to resolve the problem which has larger regional ramifications. This, despite appeals from the United Nations as well as Bangladesh, a country that has played Good Samaritan sheltering over half a million Rohingya refugees, who had fled persecution in their homeland.

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