The Rohingya Issue : A Balancing Act of National Security and Humanitarianism

The Rohingya Issue : A Balancing Act of National Security and Humanitarianism

The Rohingya crisis is a complex issue that has gained international attention due to the atrocities committed against the Rohingya community in Myanmar. While Bangladesh has been the primary host country for Rohingya refugees, the issue has also had implications for neighboring countries, including India. This article examines the Rohingya issue in the context of India, focusing on its impact on national security. The Rohingyas are a predominantly Muslim ethnic community from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Historically, they have faced severe discrimination and statelessness in Myanmar, their home country. The Myanmar government denies them citizenship, labeling them as ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh, a claim that Rohingyas vehemently refute. The situation escalated into a full-blown crisis in 2017 when a brutal military crackdown in response to a Rohingya militant attack led to mass killings, rapes, and arson, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to flee their homes. Many sought refuge in Bangladesh, while others migrated to India and other neighboring countries. India, home to approximately 40,000 Rohingyas, has been grappling with this issue with a dualistic approach. On one hand, there are security concerns and fears of radicalization within the Rohingya community. On the other hand, there are humanitarian considerations of providing refuge to a persecuted minority.

Human rights concerns – Back in 1982, the Burmese government passed a law that excluded a group of people called the Rohingyas from citizenship and discriminated against them. This goes against a really important human right that says nobody should be unfairly stripped of their nationality.It’s also considered a form of genocide to harm or create conditions that lead to the destruction of a certain group of people.The Rohingyas have experienced some of these terrible acts, including mass rape. 

. The Rohingya population has faced persecution, violence, and discrimination in Myanmar, leading to their displacement and seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Human rights organizations and international bodies have highlighted various human rights violations against the Rohingya, including arbitrary detention, restrictions on movement, denial of citizenship, sexual violence, and mass killings.

In the context of India, the treatment of Rohingya refugees has also raised human rights concerns. The Indian government has expressed concerns about national security and has taken measures to identify and deport Rohingya refugees. However, these actions have been criticized by human rights organizations, who argue that such actions may violate the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of individuals to a country where they may face persecution.

The human rights concerns surrounding the Rohingya issue emphasize the importance of upholding the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. It is crucial for governments and international bodies to work together to address these concerns and find sustainable solutions that respect human rights and ensure the well-being of the Rohingya population.The Myanmar government has perpetrated all these atrocities against the Rohingyas, and in accordance with international law, this constitutes a deliberate genocide against the Rohingya people.

Threat to National Security –

The Rohingya issue in India is not solely a humanitarian concern; it also has significant implications for national security. The year 1974 marked the emergence of the Rohingya Patriotic Front (RPF), an extremist armed group inspired by global pan-Islamist movements. Over the years, the RPF split into various factions, with the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) emerging as the more radical faction in 1982. These extremist elements received backing from multiple Muslim groups, including Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in Bangladesh and Pakistan, Hezb-e-Islami (HeI) in Afghanistan, Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir, and Angkatan Belia Islam sa-Malaysia (ABIM) in Malaysia. The presence of radical elements within the Rohingya community poses a significant threat to national security in India. The 2012 Azad Maidan riots in Mumbai serve as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of such radicalization. The protest against the violence in Rakhine turned violent, resulting in widespread clashes, molestation of women police officers, and the desecration of the Amar Jawan memorial. Bangladesh, which provided sanctuary to Rohingya refugees escaping the Myanmar military’s crackdown in 2017, is currently facing challenges due to their rapidly-growing population and increased incidence of criminal activity. Despite ongoing efforts, a satisfactory resolution to the crisis has yet to be achieved after a period of five years. It has been observed that the growth rate of the Rohingya population stands at an estimated five per cent, while the growth rate of the local population is merely one per cent. This disparity in the growth rate between the two groups has resulted in mounting pressures for Bangladesh to deal with the influx of refugees.

India’s Stand –

On 14th September 2017, India launched “Operation Insaniyat” to provide relief assistance to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Indian government’s decision to extend help to the refugees can be attributed to its efforts to de-incentivize Rohingya refugees from entering India. As the Indian government recalibrated its strategy to address the issue, the government of West Bengal expressed its support for the Rohingya refugees, which was in direct contrast to the central government’s policies.

While the stated position of the West Bengal government didn’t lead to any significant change in the central government’s approach, it did highlight the importance of considering the voices of state governments in formulating policies. In October 2017, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Dhaka and reiterated Delhi’s commitment to addressing the Rohingya crisis.

The Indian government has adopted various measures to address the issue of the Rohingya refugees in the country. More recently, it decided to deport around 150-160 Rohingyas who were detained in Jammu, citing national security concerns. However, the government’s actions were challenged in the case of Mohammed Salimullah vs. Union of India and others before the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the government, allowing the deportation of the Rohingyas but with due legal procedures.

It should be noted that the Indian government has long been a promoter of deporting Bangladeshi “illegal immigrants” in India’s Northeast region, with a promise made in its 2014 election manifesto to make addressing the issue of infiltration and illegal immigrants a priority. Furthermore, All foreign nationals, regardless of whether they are refugees or not, are subject to the provisions of The Foreigners Act, 1946; The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939; The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920; and The Citizenship Act, 1955, as well as their respective rules and orders. Foreign nationals entering India without valid travel documents or whose travel documents expire while they are here will be considered illegal migrants and dealt with under existing legal provisions.

Legal Issue –

The government of India has provided its reasoning behind its actions against the Rohingya refugees, stating that they are foreigners who have sought asylum from another country. Under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, the Indian government is authorized to regulate the entry of refugees into India in the interest of national security concerns. Additionally, due to India’s status as a non-signatory to certain refugee conventions, such as the principle of non-refoulement, these regulations are deemed necessary. India has also pointed out that it is not bound to follow the principle of non-refoulement as it is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, 1951. Therefore, Article 51(c) of the Indian Constitution, which requires the government to honor international law and treaties, is deemed non-applicable in this particular circumstance.

However, the recent ruling from the International Court of Justice in Gambia v. Myanmar has recognized that the Burmese army has been involved in ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population and that the lives of the Rohingya people are at risk in Myanmar. As such, the policy of non-refoulement becomes all the more important as it has been confirmed that the refugees face a genuine risk to their lives if they are forced to return to their homeland.

Although India is a non-signatory to the 1951 Convention, it has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which encompass the principle of non-refoulement. This creates an obligation on the government to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, regardless of whether they have ratified the refugee treaties or not. The obligation to follow these laws in India comes not only from being a signatory of these treaties but also from its own Constitution and judicial precedents. In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court of India made clear that any international agreement that is in harmony with the ideas of the Constitution can be used to provide meaning to policies. Further considering the recent development Citizen Amendment Act(CAA), 2019, it doesn’t speifically consider the rohingyas issue. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a law enacted in India in December 2019. It provides a path to Indian citizenship for certain religious minorities from neighboring countries, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, who entered India before December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution. A key objective of the CAA is to provide a path to citizenship for religious minorities from specific neighboring countries, but Muslims are not included. According to critics, the CAA violates the Indian Constitution’s principles of equality and non-discrimination by excluding Muslims.

If we Look At the Other Legal provisions the 1946 Foreign Nationals Act is the primary legislation governing entry, stay, and deportation of foreign nationals. Apart from that , the Indian government has also issued specific orders and advisories regarding Rohingyas. In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to all states and union territories, directing them to identify and deport illegal immigrants, including Rohingyas, as they were deemed to be a potential security threat.


The Rohingya issue in India goes beyond a humanitarian crisis; it has significant implications for national security. The presence of radical elements within the Rohingya community, linkages to international terrorism, and the government’s response to the issue all contribute to the complex nature of the problem. Balancing national security concerns with human rights obligations is a challenge that requires careful consideration and a comprehensive approach. The government must take steps to address the issue while upholding its legal and ethical obligations. The Rohingya refugee crisis poses significant challenges to India’s peace and stability. The influx of Rohingya refugees into India has raised concerns about national security, social cohesion, and strained resources. The large number of refugees seeking shelter and assistance has put pressure on India’s infrastructure, including healthcare, education, and housing systems. 

The presence of Rohingya refugees has also led to tensions between local communities and the refugees themselves. There have been reports of clashes and conflicts, which further exacerbate the fragile peace in affected areas. Additionally, the integration of Rohingya refugees into Indian society has proven to be a complex task, as cultural and language barriers pose obstacles to their successful assimilation.

Furthermore, the Rohingya crisis has implications for India’s diplomatic relations, particularly with Myanmar. India’s response to the crisis has been a delicate balancing act, considering its strategic interests in maintaining a positive relationship with Myanmar while addressing the humanitarian concerns of the Rohingya population. Addressing the Rohingya refugee issue requires a comprehensive approach that involves cooperation between the Indian government, international organizations, and civil society. Efforts should focus on providing humanitarian aid, ensuring the protection of human rights, and exploring long-term solutions such as voluntary repatriation or resettlement.

It is crucial for India to find a balance between its humanitarian obligations and its national interests. By addressing the challenges posed by the Rohingya refugee crisis, India can work towards maintaining peace and stability within its borders while upholding its commitment to human rights and international norms.

By Kartik Kanodia, Student At DBRANLU, Sonipat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *