Primacy of National Interests over Humanitarian Crises | 2017-09-11 |

Primacy of National Interests over Humanitarian Crises

Dr Akhter Hussain     11th September, 2017 12:34:33 printer

Primacy of National Interests over Humanitarian Crises

The current Rohingya humanitarian crisis has gone out of proportion. The Rohingya ethnic population is crossing the international border and coming to Bangladesh.


They have been subjected to extreme form of violence leading to ethnic cleansing as the Myanmar forces have resorted to all forms of atrocities including mass murder, rape and arson.


The Myanmar forces are bent upon to drive out the whole Rohingya population out of the country.

The crimes that are being committed also fall under the definition of crimes against humanity. But it is surprising that the regional and super powers like India, China, Russia and United States of America are not reacting or trying earnestly to stop these atrocities committed against civilian population including women and children.


It is alleged that their national interests have overtaken humanitarian considerations or in other words it can be inferred from their recent moves of the primacy of their national interests over humanitarian crisis. Here humanitarian crisis may be defined as events that are threatening life, safety, security and livelihood of a particular community or large number of people. These could be internal or external conflicts that usually occur throughout a wide or large area. Such crisis can also cause large displacement of people turning it into refugee crisis. On the other hand, national interests include claims, objectives, goals, demands and interests that a nation tries to preserve, protect, defend and secure in relations with other nations.


It has been observed that on many occasions in history because of narrow national interests compared to global concerns and interests the nation states that matter in the global scenario have failed to act on time causing huge loss of lives and unbearable miseries to the victims of such circumstances. Some of the recent glaring examples include the Bosnian, Rwandan and Syrian crises. In action or delayed action on the part of the international community in these cases led to innumerable loss of human lives and large scale displacement of people for their ancestral homelands.       


In the case of Myanmar, the immediate national interest holders are Myanmar, China, India and the USA. On the other hand, the ultimate burn is endured by the Rohingya population and Bangladesh as the immediate neighbouring country. Now the pertinent question arises why Myanmar is being favoured in spite of its security force’s proven records of crimes against humanity. The answers may be Myanmar has oil and gas, and China and India particularly want to get hold of those crucial resources so much needed for their rapid industrialization and economic growth. It has vast potential for hydropower resources because a number of mighty rivers flow down through it from the Himalayas. China particularly wants that electricity to meet its ever increasing energy needs. Myanmar has a population of about 50 million.


In terms of market potential the prospect is quite huge in terms of total number of population. In the days of open market economy, all the three countries China, India and the USA have an eye on that prospective market of 50 million populations. Again, Myanmar is strategically located next to India, the world’s largest democracy and China’s rival for dominance. In this case, the United States would be happier to have Myanmar on its side along with India to minimise rising Chinese influences in the region. Myanmar’s strategic location on a trijunction between South Asia, Southeast Asia and China is economically and strategically significant to especially China and India. Strategically, Myanmar can offer with opportunity to China to ensure its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. In this case, India also has an important stake along with China.


It can be inferred that the above considerations concerning respective national interests is dictating the responses especially of China, India and the USA in the case of humanitarian crisis causing large scale exodus of ethnic minority called Rohingyas because of indiscriminate murder, rape, arson and any other crime that can be thought off to drive them out from the Rakhayine province. In recent times, the USA has become more vocal in condemning and urging the Myanmar authorities to stop these crimes. But China and India are quite silent about this state of affairs in Myanmar.


The media reported that India did not sign the Bali Declaration of the International Parliamentarian Union on Rohingya issue. In his recent visit to Myanmar, the Indian Prime Minister appreciated the security concerns of Myanmar. It appears that the Rohingya issue did not receive due importance in bilateral talks. On the other hand, it was also reported that in the UN China and Russia together stalled moves against Myanmar on Rohingya issue.


All these dismal developments in the international arena and the roles played by the concerned stakeholders especially like China, India and the USA speak of primacy of the national interests over humanitarian considerations. But what is puzzling is that whether this phenomenon has always been the case or new development in the international arena in the age of globalization and free market economy.    


The writer is Professor and Chairman, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka and Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh. The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude