DHAKA: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has advised Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi not to “destroy” her image over her stance on the Rohingya issue as Myanmar’s military actions in Rakhine state sparked a global outrage.
Ms Swaraj referred to PM Modi’s advice as she called on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after joining the 4th Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission meeting with her counterpart AH Mahmood Ali.
“He (PM Modi) told her (Suu Kyi) ‘you have a very good international image, don’t destroy it’,” the Bangladesh premier’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told PTI, quoting Ms Swaraj as saying during her meeting with Ms Hasina at her residence.
It is not clear when PM Modi made the comments, however, Bangladeshi media reports claimed he said this last month when he met Suu Kyi during his first bilateral visit to Myanmar.
Mr Karim said Ms Swaraj extended her full support to Bangladesh’s stance that Myanmar must take back its nationals and must not punish innocent people while fighting terrorism.
“Myanmar may punish the terrorists, not innocent people,” he quoted Ms Swaraj as saying.
Ms Swaraj appreciated Bangladesh’s stand on the Rohingya issue but described the exodus of forcibly displaced people as a “big burden for Bangladesh”.
“It’s a big burden for Bangladesh, and how long will Bangladesh bear this?” she said referring to the exodus of the forcibly displaced people who fled the violence in their homeland and took shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Nearly 6,00,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state where the Myanmarese army has launched a crackdown against militants.
Myanmar doesn’t recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.
Bangladesh has sought India’s “sustained pressures” on Myanmar for resolution of the crisis.
Ms Hasina recalled India’s contribution during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War as well as support to her and her sister Sheikh Rehana after the 1975 assassination of their father – the nation’s founder ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – along with most of their family.