Earlier this month, Myanmar's shadow government called on the Rohingyas to help it overthrow the military Junta. In exchange, they promised the persecuted minority group citizenship and repatriation.
This call from the shadow government – a group of deposed lawmakers who set up the National Unity Government (NUG) against the military Junta – was not a surprise because numerous international groups have been calling on them to address the Rohingya issue for a long time.
It was a necessary announcement for the NUG to have strong international backing for their fight against the Junta.
Within a few weeks of the shadow government addressing the Rohingya issue, the UN General Assembly resolution calling on member states to prevent the flow of arms into the country and condemning the worsening crackdown on peaceful protesters received support from 119 countries. Belarus was the only country to vote against the resolution.
Among 36 countries that abstained from the vote were China and India. The abstention of these two neighbours of Myanmar was predictable.
But what surprised everyone was Bangladesh's abstention. Dhaka also abstained from the UNGA resolution, protesting the absence of a strong message for the Rohingyas.
Experts of international relations and former diplomats we spoke to, however, said Dhaka's move and the rationale its UN ambassador mentioned for abstention was actually a well-thought out move for Bangladesh.
Former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain echoed Bangladesh's UN ambassador.
He told The Business Standard that "any resolution about Myanmar should have a strong mention of the Rohingya issue."
Bangladesh has been bearing the burden of Myanmar's refugee problem for a long time, and it needs a long-term solution for the successful repatriation of the refugees. But experts in Bangladesh said no effort ever since the greater influx of Rohingyas began in 2017 has provided a long-term solution. This resolution, too, cannot play an effective role in addressing the Rohingya issue.
Dr Rashed Uz Zaman, a professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, regards Bangladesh's abstention as an "astute" and "well-thought" decision.
The Professor said that the immediate concern for Bangladesh is to highlight the Rohingya issue. Since the Rohingya repatriation and citizen rights have not been raised in this resolution, Bangladesh voting for this wouldn't make sense. This resolution doesn't take care of what bothers Bangladesh.
Secondly, what do the ban on selling weapons and the criticism of the coup mean in the long run? It is like a band-aid to suppress a broader problem – it doesn't solve the core problem in the long run.
Why? Foreign investment in Myanmar.
Numerous countries of Asia and the west, even some ASEAN countries, have investment in Myanmar. Besides, the ASEAN is apparently not very willing to take on the military Junta. Remember the special ASEAN summit in Jakarta? They invited the Junta to participate in the summit.
So, in this light, how much the UN resolution would benefit Myanmar by preventing selling of arms and condemnation of the Junta will be clear in the future.
Bangladesh may not like the present military government in Naypyitaw, but it remembers that the previous democratic government also failed to get along with Dhaka.
"We have seen how they (previous government) used rabid nationalism. No one expected such behaviour from the leadership of a democratic government. So, I do not find a reason to block discussion with the military regime by criticising it. And why should you close the door of negotiation by participating in a criticism that does not even address the main issue? Bangladesh understands this," Professor Rashed said.
This expert of international relations further interprets, "Bangladesh abstained means, at the same time, that we didn't give a negative vote as well. This abstention is also a message. I don't like what is going on in Myanmar. It doesn't mean I will block all routes of discussion by criticising it."
However, balancing and opening up the door for everyone to discuss also has a limitation. Therefore, Bangladesh needs to observe what is happening inside Myanmar carefully.
With NUG endorsing rebel groups, the country is now heading towards a civil war that the United Nations warned could escalate into a Syria-like situation. The country already had dozens of active rebel groups fighting the government on different fronts. The NUG joining them in forces has rattled the military script to a great extent already.
So, with the main political group joining hands with the rebels, Bangladesh's borderline with Myanmar could be a hotspot of attention over the next few years.
What should be Bangladesh's approach to the changing situation in Myanmar? We asked Touhid Hossain.
"Our approach should be to wait for the civil war to end and focus on creating an environment so that the Rohingyas can return to their land," he replied, adding, "We cannot take a side in the current Myanmar crisis. However, the Rohingya leadership should take a decision. If they remain undecided during a significant change, it may turn out to be a problem for them. And their problem is our problem."
The former foreign secretary advises that Bangladesh should maintain a safe distance in the overall development in Myanmar. However, he also admitted that with the situation changing, "if necessary, we may need to change our stance."
"Myanmar's stability is important for us. The country needs a political solution as soon as possible. However, if various groups with vested interests continue to create instability, its ramification will be felt in the neighbouring countries. Consequently, Rohingya repatriation could become farfetched; even the chances of a new influx cannot be ruled out," said Professor Rashed Uz Zaman.