UN Secy Gen urges India to press Myanmar for reconciliation on Rohingya issue
Refuses to comment on alleged rights abuses in Kashmir
New Delhi, Oct 2: Asserting that those involved in violence against the Rohingyas should be held accountable, United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said India can help in the crisis by supporting Bangladesh in humanitarian assistance and using its influence with Myanmar to bring about reconciliation.
He also said that to keep a population in such a "discriminatory situation" is "an invitation for terrorist groups" to exploit the situation.
The top UN official said India "is an absolutely essential component" of a future multi-polar world and that the country can also play a role of an "honest broker" in some of the on-going conflicts in the world.
In response to a question on the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), proposed by India in 1996, he said the reason for the delay has been due to non-agreement on the definition of terrorism by countries.
After attacks by the Mynamarese security forces, Rohingyas, an ethnic minority in Myanmar that mostly resides in regions bordering Bangladesh, have fled the country.
According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over seven lakh people have fled Myanmar, and majority of them reside in Bangladesh. India has over 40,000 refugees scattered across the country.
"I have never seen a community so discriminated in the world as Rohingyas," Guterres, who arrived here on Monday on his maiden visit to India, said in response to a question on the issue. He was delivering a lecture on 'Global Challenges, Global Solutions' here.
He said the Rohingyas don't have access to health and education and there was deep rooted feeling of racism against them within the Myanmarese society.
Guterres recalled his visit to the country as the High Commissioner for Refugees, during which he said the president of Myanmar asked him to resettle Rohingyas in some other countries.
"To make them refugees is not my role. My role is to solve the problem of refugees. This shows how deeply rooted is the negative perception of the Rohingyas. This was intensified by some hate speech by some monks on social media. There are over one million people in Bangladesh. They were people burnt, raped.
"Even if there was a provocation, the reaction of the armed forces was brutal," he alleged.
Guterres stressed on political reconciliation so that the Rohingyas could go back to their country.
"What can India do? Support Bangladesh in helping these people because there is a huge humanitarian problem. Second, to pressure on Myanmar, the military in Myanmar for reconciliation and create conditions for these people to go back. These people will not go back in present circumstances," he said.
"There should be accountability to those crimes," he said on the treatment meted out to Rohingyas and added "to keep a population in such a discriminatory situation is an invitation for terrorist groups" to exploit the situation.
In May, during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Myanmar, India had offered to help in safe, speedy and sustainable return of Rohingyas. India has also been helping Bangladesh in providing humanitarian assistance to Rohingyas.
Responding to a question on why the CCIT could not be adopted, Guterres said there is no agreement on definition of terrorism and there were several complexities involved in it.
"The problem of definition of terrorism is (due to) several complexities. There are number of things which are complicated to have a common definition of terrorism. We have never managed to have it and we have never managed to have a true convention because of the definition," he said.
Guterres said India has been in the frontline of supporting CCIT and the UN fully supports India in this regard.
To a question on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir, which was rejected by India, he said the reports are not endorsed by the Secretary General.
"I don’t discuss reports about human rights commissioner. They have independence. The countries can agree or disagree with the reports. Their reports are not endorsed by the secretary general. The reports are done in a strictly independent way."
He said as a principle, he does not make any comment on reports of both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and High Commissioner for Refugees.
Responding to another question on communalism and religious fundamentalism, he said he "does not think India is in the worst situation" at all.
"I have always seen India as a country with extreme diversity. Of course, there are forms of extremism as any other parts of the world. I don’t think that is the major problem that you face," he said.
Guterres said poverty and inequality are two major problems faced by the Indian society.
India can also play a role of an "honest broker" in some of the on-going conflicts in the world, he said, adding, "We need people and countries that all sides can respect. India does not have any specific agenda in many of these areas."
The Secretary General also noted that never in the recent times was multilateralism and rules based international order under so much of fire, citing the trade wars
He said it is necessary to create factors of equilibrium and no country was better than India because of its dimensions, its technological and innovation capacity and of its geo-strategic location. "India is an absolutely essential component of our future multi-polar world," he said.