Scroll

Opinion: It is in Modi’s interest to condemn the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar

If India worries about ‘extremist violence’, the roots of it lie in the brutal policies of the neighbouring state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Myanmar last week glittered with omissions. Take the joint statement put out by Modi and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on September 6. After pleasantries on mutual development and “sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas”, Suu Kyi pledged not to let terror “take roots in our country, on our soil or in neighbouring countries”. Modi expressed concern about “extremist violence in Rakhine state and the violence against security forces”.

Was the Indian prime minister thinking of the hundreds of Rohingya Muslims who have been massacred as he made a passing mention of the “innocent lives” affected? The actual name of the minority group was never uttered in public as he flitted from temple to museum to presidential palace during one of the worst purges launched by the Myanmar army. The army’s rationale: weeding out the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group that recently attacked police posts in Rakhine state.

India’s silence on the civilian killings in systematic state violence is even more pronounced at a time when the international community is finally waking up to the tragedy. On September 7, a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a resolution in Washington condemning the violence against Rohingyas and asking Suu Kyi to speak up. On the same day, the World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development adopted the Bali Declaration, urging “self-restraint”, respect for human rights and humanitarian assistance.

India, which is preparing to deport thousands of Rohingya refugees, refused to sign the global declaration. On September 9, the ministry of external affairs put out a statement expressing concern about the situation in Rakhine, and revealed that Modi had urged for a solution based on “respect for peace, communal harmony, justice, dignity and democratic values”. But the word “Rohingya” was missing, as were words of condemnation on Myanmar’s policies.

But then, Modi may not have strayed from Indian foreign policy habits that have endured for decades now. On Myanmar, it has chosen a strategic pragmatism that aligns with the alleged demands of national interest. As a pragmatic India has grown increasingly focused on national security, terror has become its mainstay in most international conversations.

Strategic silences

If India does not stand by Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingyas now, it did not distinguish itself with support to Suu Kyi when she was imprisoned by the military junta during her fight to bring democracy back to her country. Not, at least, since the late 1980s.

Post Independence, Nehru and his Burmese counterpart, U Nu, had closed ties, with shared ideals of democracy and positions on international issues such as Indonesian freedom from the Dutch and the Korean war. Then Burma became Myanmar, falling under military rule in 1962 and expelling a large number of Indians from its territory. Relations would be strained or distant for the next couple of decades, apparently because of India’s “commitment to democracy”. In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government even gave moral support to Suu Kyi’s “pro-democracy” movement and gave refuge to those fleeing military oppression.

After 1990, India began to move away from the Nehruvian notion of a principled foreign policy towards a pragmatic policy based on national and strategic interests. This meant it did business with some of the world’s most controversial leaderships, including the military junta. With the advent of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre in the late 1990s, the rationale of “realpolitik” was pushed further and the Congress governments that succeeded it saw no reason to return to idealism.

Myanmar, which shares a 1,640 kilometres border along India’s troubled North East, is of strategic and material interest for three reasons. First, as militancies spread in the states of the North East, so did training camps across the border in Myanmar. The interests of national security, it was felt under this new foreign policy regime, meant that India had to warm up to Myanmar’s generals and gain room for manoeuvre.

Second, as Myanmar retreated further into isolation under the junta, China began to wield considerable influence in the country, leading to Indian fears about “encirclement” by territories friendly to the Chinese. Modi, visiting Myanmar after a trip to China and weeks of military tensions at Doklam, would have had Beijing very much on his mind.

Finally, India embarked on its “Look East” policy in 1991, eyeing markets and interests farther east. Myanmar became a gateway to the Far East and the focal point of several infrastructure, trade and energy projects. India has financed and constructed a deep sea port in Sittwe in Myanmar’s Rakhine province, which would connect landlocked Mizoram to the Bay of Bengal. Reportedly, Delhi also plans a special economic zone 60 kilometres upstream from Sittwe.

A report on India’s Myanmar policy, published in 2007, wonders if wholehearted support to the military junta was wise; if democracy were ever restored to that country, Delhi might find itself on the wrong side. It seems these fears were unfounded. Some form of democracy did come to Myanmar in 2011 and Suu Kyi, the country’s great hope, swept elections in 2015. But it was a half victory, with the military retaining significant powers. Suu Kyi in power is happy to play along with the junta she fought for decades.

The terror principle

As the policy of idealism was upturned in India, “security concerns” were prioritised over a moral commitment to human rights. India has raised terror threats at every international forum in the recent past, from the United Nations to the BRICS summit in China, as well as in bilateral talks with neighbours. The perceived threat of terror has now become a convenient rationale to expel Rohingya refugees.

With no legal obligations under global treaties, there is very little to keep India from deporting its refugees, apart from the principle of non-refoulement, recognised by international customary law. This principle states that refugees seeking asylum cannot be sent back to countries where their life and liberty may be threatened. As a petition against the Rohingya deportation goes to the Supreme Court, it has been argued that national security will trump abstract principles of non-refoulement.

Apart from punishing thousands of men, women and children who have no links with armed groups, India’s current approach is shortsighted. As Modi and Suu Kyi agreed on the perils of “extremism” emanating from Rakhine state, they were, no doubt, speaking of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and scattered intelligence reports that the community had become recruiting grounds for groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

But they failed to recognise the roots of such violence in a far greater violence: the systematic elimination of a minority by a state possessed by a brand of religious nationalism. For decades, Rohingyas have been a stateless people, targeted by pogroms in 1978, stripped of their citizenship rights and branded as illegal settlers from Bangladesh in 1982.

Within Rakhine state, communal tensions between local Buddhists and Rohingyas led to lethal riots in 2012. Reports indicate that Rakhine Buddhists were aided by state forces even then, though both sides suffered. Today, Rakhine State is out of bounds for journalists as the Myanmar army carries out raids classed under the chilling term, “area clearance operations”.

The Rohingya army and its previous iterations took birth in this context of persecution, no matter what its ideological leanings and who its benefactors may be now. Pushing Rohingyas to the edge, in both India and Myanmar, could only deepen the problem.

Arguably the best way to contain such violence is to strike at the roots of it, in Myanmar’s own policies. The language of idealism, urging respect for human rights, unequivocally condemning the state violence, would be more suited to this than the pragmatic calculations of national security.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.