WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is looking for ways to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for their safe and voluntary return, a senior US official has said.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August last year when security forces launched a crackdown on insurgents.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in November to start repatriating Rohingya refugees who volunteered to return to Rakhine state, but the process has not yet begun.
The senior US administration official, on the condition of anonymity, said that there is interest in trying to work more closely with India.
"We think India also has an interest in seeing this situation resolved," he said yesterday.
The Trump administration is looking for ways to try to work with India in terms of providing for the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and also ways to work together to put pressure on Myanmar to create the conditions for their safe and voluntary return, the official said.
"India is a like-minded partner. There are ways we can explore coordinating diplomatic approaches to the Burmese in building on that common interest that we have in supporting Bangladesh and making sure that this doesn't become a situation which complicates their own socio-economic situation or socio-political situation and the radicalism; avoiding that problem of exacerbating a radicalism in Bangladesh," he said.
While the US and India have a lot of joint interests, the official said that there has been no helpful response from China on this.
"What I heard from the Bangladeshis was frustration with China's unhelpful role in this crisis. And they certainly were noticing the stark contrast between China's actions and the generous US humanitarian response," the official from the White House told a group of reporters.
He said that Lisa Curtis, who is Deputy Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, visited Bangladesh and held a wide range of consultations with its top officials.
"President Trump is very concerned about the Rohingya situation," the official said, adding that the president wants to help resolve the situation.
During the trip, Curtis discussed with top Bangladeshi officials various aspects of the relationship.
While counter-terrorism is very important for Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee crisis is the most pressing issue right now, the official said.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to Bangladesh for opening its arms to the Rohingya refugees," the official said.
"However, there is concerned with the coming monsoon rains, posing a real challenge, given the risk of flooding and mudslides," the official said, adding that the organisations estimate that more than 100,000 refugees face imminent danger.
The Bangladeshi government seeks to put pressure on Myanmar to create conditions for the peaceful and voluntary return of these refugees, he said.
While currently there is no evidence of extremist groups penetrating these refugees camp, the Bangladeshi government is concerned about this, he said.
"We didn't see any evidence, but it's something they're watching for, they are monitoring for. It is a threat because the kinds of atrocities that these people have witnessed and you already have terrorist groups operating in Bangladesh. So there is concern that the camps could become a recruitment ground," the official added.