China and EU set to move on the Rohingya crisis
The head of EU diplomacy has promised help to find a "sustainable solution" to the emergency. Europe strongly supports the democratic transition in Myanmar. The new Beijing approach to the emergency in Rakhine. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi illustrates a "three-stage plan". Economic interests push China to play a more active role in the humanitarian crisis.
Naypyitaw (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The thirteenth Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers Meeting (ASEM) opened today in the Burmese capital Naypyitaw. The informal forum aimed at promoting co-operation in each sector between the leaders of the two continents, sees the participation of 51 countries among members of the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). The event will end tomorrow.
Commitment to Peace, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, as reported by diplomatic sources, the Rohingya humanitarian crisis will be at the center of the talks, opened today by Burmese Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The presence at the summit of delegations led by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi aroused the particular interest of analysts.
Bangladesh, which since last August has welcomed about 600,000 refugees from the Burmese state Rakhine, is confident in the intervention of the two nations to pressure Myanmar and speed up the return process. The return of refugees is at the center of discussions that begun several weeks ago between Naypyitaw and Dhaka, which are currently being stalled. The Burmese Army chief, accused by the United Nations of "ethnic cleansing," recently said it was impossible to repatriate the refugees as proposed by Bangladesh.
In Dharma's view, Dhaka has sought to get support from world diplomacy on official visit to Bangladesh in the last two days. Yesterday, a delegation composed of Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Japan, Sweden and Germany, went to the first reception camps set up by the government on the border with Myanmar (photo 2).
The EU's chief of diplomacy promised the help of the European bloc to find a "sustainable solution" to the emergency. "Rather than exerting pressure, our approach has been and will always be to provide room for negotiations," said Federica Mogherini, adding that "the European Union firmly supports the democratic transition in Myanmar."
In the same hours, the Burmese government welcomed Chinese Minister Wang Yi's arrival at Naypyitaw. The previous day he also met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in the first stage of his tour to outline Beijing’s new approach to the emergency in Rakhine.
Since the outbreak of violence in August, Beijing has expressed its support for what it called "Myanmar's government's efforts to protect stability," and has repeatedly resisted the United Nations greater involvement in tackling the crisis . In March, China blocked a UN Security Council declaration on the Rohingya issue. Despite the Beijing opposition, on 16 November, the UN Human Rights Commission of the UN General Assembly adopted, with 135 votes in favor and 10 against, a resolution calling on the authorities of Myanmar to end military operations against the Rakhine Islamic minority.
Beijing intends to play a more active role in ending the humanitarian crisis by offering its help both to Dhaka and Naypyitaw. After yesterday's meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese President Htin Kyaw and Military Chief Min Aung Hlaing, Wang outlined a "three-stage plan" to address the emergency. "“The first is to have a ceasefire and to restore order and stability, so the people can stop running away and live in peace,” he said. “In the second stage, all parties should encourage and support Myanmar and Bangladesh to strengthen exchanges, to find a way to solve this issue through consultation on the basis of equality.” The third stage was for the international community to help develop Rakhine, he said. “Rakhine is rich in resources but develops them inadequately,” Wang said. “We call on the international community to help the region eradicate poverty and increase investment ... China is willing to help and play its part.”
Chinese analysts say that since Beijing intends to protect its strategic interests, the offer is in line with China’s search of greater leadership in the region. Bangladesh and Myanmar are both strategically important for China, especially in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping's policy of connecting China with Europe through a new silk road. Wang Dehua, director of the Institute for South and Central Asia Institute at the Shanghai Municipal Center for International Studies, argues that Beijing does not want the Rohingya crisis to hinder the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor, a key component of Chinese initiative.
Within its economic development plan, Beijing has invested massive amounts in Myanmar, engaging in the construction of roads, railways, ports and oil pipelines. About $ 10 billion in Chinese investment is intended for the construction of a deep-sea port, a commercial area, a special economic zone, and other infrastructure projects at KyaukPhyu, Rakhine. In 2013, the governments of China and Myanmar signed an agreement to create a 17kmq area in the region that serves as an industrial and infrastructural basis for more trade relations between the two countries. Private companies are also involved in the project, with a Chinese consortium ready to cover the $ 7.3 billion for the port. In April, a pipeline costing more than $ 2.45 billion to the Chinese came into operation. Along the 770km, it connects the remote shore of Rakhine to the southwestern Yunnan province of China.
China, which has been providing unshakeable support to Myanmar's military junta for over two decades, has also invested heavily in emerging Burmese democracy in an attempt to compete for influence with the United States and other Western powers. Minister Wang's trip, following US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit, according to experts, is also aimed at strengthening Beijing's position in Myanmar to counteract Washington's influence.