United Nations:UN chief Antonio Guterres has said that the Rohingya people are one of the most discriminated against people in the world, emphasising that there must be accountability for the gross violations and abuses committed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
According to the UN estimates, nearly 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 25 last year when the army launched a military crackdown.
“Addressing the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar is essential to ensure they have legal recognition, freedom of movement and equal access to education, health services, employment and other rights,” Guterres told PTI in an exclusive interview ahead of his three-day visit to India that begins Monday.
“There can be no peace and reconciliation without ensuring that all people in Myanmar regardless of their ethnicity or religion can have equal enjoyment of their rights,” Guterres said.
Responding to a question on the worsening Rohingya crisis, Guterres said he had visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in July this year and had met with refugees and heard “heartbreaking” stories of massive violence of killings, of rape, of torture, of house or villages burnt. As High Commissioner for Refugees, Guterres had twice visited Northern Rakhine state.
Almost a million Rohingya refugees live in Cox’s Bazar under tarpaulins, on steep, sandy slopes 25,000 of whom are said to be at the highest risk of landslides.
“I have no doubt that the Rohingya people are one of the most, if not the most, discriminated against people in the world, lacking any recognition of their most basic rights, starting with the recognition of their right to citizenship by their own country Myanmar,” he said.
In April, Guterres had appointed Christine Schraner Burgener as his Special Envoy on Myanmar.
She is undertaking a process of broad consultations, including with the Government and the military, and with civil society, women’s groups and Member States in the region and beyond to help address the pressing situation in Rakhine State, advance the peace process and support broader democratization and human rights issues.
Guterres called on “accountability” for the gross violations and abuses committed in the Rakhine State.
“Holding perpetrators accountable is critical to end the cycle of violence and prevent the recurrence of violations, to give Rohingya refugees the confidence to return to Myanmar to rebuild their lives, and to give hope for a new future to those who remain in Rakhine,” he said.
The UN has called for different accountability options to be considered, he said adding that very strong recommendations have been made by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar appointed by the Human Rights Council.
Effective international cooperation will be critical to ensuring that accountability mechanisms are credible, transparent, impartial, independent and comply with Myanmar’s obligations under international law, Guterres said.
This August marked one year since hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled persecution and violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Bangladesh now hosts nearly one million refugees, most of whom are Rohingya women and children who have taken refuge since the start of the violence.
Myanmar does not recognise Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.
Guterres further said that the world faces urgent challenges, from climate change and inequality to armed conflict and intolerance, especially targeting migrants and refugees.
“We must raise our ambition across the board. But this is also an era in which we have the technology, the knowledge and the wealth to move our world forward leaving no one behind.”
“At a time of fragmentation and polarisation, the world must be reminded of the value of international cooperation,” he said.
He made a call to harness the power of diversity, with people of different traditions and backgrounds coming together at the United Nations to share burdens, solve problems and seize opportunities, to resolve today’s complex challenges. We must continue to heed that voice of grace and reason that voice of morality and solidarity. Our world needs it now more than ever, he said in the email interview.
Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process
Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.
“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.
Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.
“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.
Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.
“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.
Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.
US, India in talks over strategic missile defence cooperation: Pentagon
Washington: The Trump administration has discussed a potential missile defence cooperation with India as part of its effort to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon has said, asserting that New Delhi is a “key element” in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
The Pentagon’s announcement in the 81-page ”Missile Defence Review” report released by President Donald Trump gains significance in view of India placing a USD 5 billion order to purchase S-400 air defence system from Russia, for which the US had publicly expressed its displeasure.
Noting that the threats posed by offensive missile capabilities are no longer limited to a few regions around the world, the Pentagon in its report said there were now a number of countries in South Asia that are developing an advanced and diverse range of ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.
“Within this context, the United States has discussed potential missile defence cooperation with India. This is a natural outgrowth of India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and key element of our Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said the Pentagon report on Thursday.
The report, which identifies missile development projects by Russia and China as major threats to the US, did not give any further details about its potential missile defence cooperation with India.
The US has shown reluctance to offer its missile defence system to India.
Given the tough neighbourhood that India is in, New Delhi several years ago had approached US and expressed its desire to acquire a missile defence system from it, particularly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system popular as THAAD.
The previous Obama administration was not very forthcoming in sharing its advance missile defence system with India, following which New Delhi went ahead to procure it from Russia.
As part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration now seems to be more than inclined to let India procure its missile defence system with talks between the two countries having already started.
“We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region,” said the 2017 National Security Strategy of the US, which has been mentioned in the Pentagon report.
The Missile Defence Review report said that the cornerstone of US’ security and diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region is its strong bilateral alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging security relationships with others such as India.
Japan and South Korea are working with the US to build missile defence systems that are increasingly interoperable with American defences and increasingly capable against regional offensive missile threats and coercion.
This cooperation includes bilateral missile defence training exercises with the US.
Australia participates in a trilateral discussion on missile defence with the US and Japan. The US and Australia meet annually to discuss bilateral missile defence cooperation. New areas of focus include joint examination of the challenges posed by advanced missile threats, it said.
400 migrants detained after crossing under fence into US
Washington: Nearly 400 migrants burrowed under a fence on the US-Mexico border earlier this week and crossed into the US, informed sources told CNN. US Border Patrol officers stationed in Yuma, Arizona, took about 375 migrants into custody after they had made it into the US, the officials said on Thursday, calling it an unusually large apprehension.
It was not immediately clear if the migrants voluntarily surrendered to Border Patrol officials or if they were caught after attempting to evade authorities. The “vast majority” of the group were family members arriving from Guatemala, said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd.
“It`s the largest I`ve ever heard of,” said Judd when asked if this was a significant number for a single group. There are often groups of 20 to 30 people, sometimes as large as 100, apprehended in the Yuma area, according to a Customs and Border Protection official.
The incident comes as President Donald Trump continues to demand funding for new barrier construction on the US-Mexico border as the government shutdown entered its 27th day , saying there was a “crisis” at the border that can only be solved with the construction of new border walls or fencing.
In November, a group of around 80 migrants from Guatemala — primarily families — were apprehended by Border Patrol after climbing over the legacy landing mat border wall east of the San Luis Port of Entry.
Hours later, another group of around 80 people entered the US by digging a shallow hole underneath the same portion of the wall, according to CBP. There has been a recent spike in total Border Patrol apprehensions in Yuma, up from 2,117 in fiscal year 2017 to 26,244 last year.