Rohingya Crisis: When ‘strategic interests’ override human rights

Published at September 11, 2017 12:26 AM 0Comment(s)2417views

Suhail Ahmad

Rohingya Crisis: When ‘strategic interests’ override human rights

Amid the massive outrage over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, India refused to sign global declaration against Myanmar. India dissociated itself from a declaration adopted at an international conference held in Indonesia as it carried a reference to violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar. The Indian stance came in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar where he expressed solidarity with the Aung San Suu Kyi government against the "extremist violence" in the Rakhine state instead of raising the burning issue of human rights violations faced by Rohingya Muslims. In its editorial on the issue, ‘Hindustan Times’ conceded that India has said and done far too little on behalf of the Rohingyas, but defended the official position citing “overriding security and geopolitical interests” India has with Myanmar. “New Delhi, in any case, is hardly in a position to give lectures on humanitarianism when it has rhetorically spoken of expelling of Rohingyan refugees and passed the matter to the Supreme Court,” reads the HT editorial.


The problem with this approach is that rights of people will continue to be systematically undermined as long as the countries give precedence to politics and their so-called strategic interests. There seems to be a tacit deal between different countries when it comes to human rights violations. Two countries remain friendly as long as they don’t talk about rights abuses in each other’s territory.


Some years back when the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a US-backed resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of war crimes during the country’s conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels, India voted in support of the US sponsored resolution. In response, Colombo was quick to warn India of possible repercussions over Kashmir. Official spokesman of Sri Lankan government, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena hinted that said some countries or groups might use the vote on Sri Lanka as precedence to bring a similar resolution on India over the Kashmir dispute.  Infact, many people in the Indian politics and intelligentsia criticized New Delhi for this very reason. They feared that by backing its resolution on Sri Lanka and to appease US, India’s vulnerability of a similar resolution on Kashmir or Northeast will increase. 


Ironically, around the same time, United States of America supported Israel after UNHRC called for an inquiry into how Israeli settlements affect the rights of Palestinians. There are very few countries in the world today which are clean in terms of the human rights violations. Ironically, the country which is most vocal about the rights abuses has the worst record. The hypocrisy of America and the countries endorsing its stand on human rights is quite evident from the way it has been seeking intervention to stop or probe rights abuses in some countries while there is blood of thousands of people on their own hands. While they seek focus on North Korea and Iran, they simply don’t like to mention Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many countries abetting rights abuses committed by US do so expecting that Washington will overlook their crimes.


Unfortunately, human rights are being used as a political tool today. While the real work to help the victims is left to aid agencies, the politicians use human tragedies for political bargaining.   US has all along been condoning the atrocities committed by Israel while the United Nations and much of the world considers the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, as a violation of international law.

The US has a notorious record of human rights violations. The US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused huge civilian casualties. It is also known for overthrowing or attempting to overthrow regimes around the world who stand up to the American aggression or who unwittingly come in the way of Uncle Sam’s interests. Instead of dealing with real issues of human rights in the world, countries like US are preoccupied with their own strategic interests. At the same time, they expect their own atrocious human rights record to be ignored.


History stands testimony to the role played by the West in sowing the seeds of Israel-Palestine conflict. It was the West’s sponsorship of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East that laid the basis for the intractable Arab-Israeli antagonism. Since then Israel has grown from strength to strength while the Palestinians have gone from bad to worse. At the end of the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the new state of Israel controlled 77.4% of the country. The UN partition plan had allocated them 56.4%. 


The West has always attempted to sustain its preeminent position and defend its interests by defining those interests as the interests of the "world community." As Samuel Huntington observes in his book ‘Clash of civilizations’, this phrase has become the “euphemistic collective noun (replacing "the Free World") to give global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other Western powers”.


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