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India needs law on refugees, says Salman Khurshid

PTI | Hyderabad |


India needs a well thought-out law to deal with refugees so that the government of the day does not get carried away by “subjectivity”, says former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

Being a senior member of the United Nations, New Delhi should also sign international convention and protocol relating to refugees, the senior Congress leader advocated.

Also a former Union law minister, Khurshid noted that India had accommodated refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, among others, as he spoke about many problems, including those associated with their settlements and looking after them.

“Despite every thing (many problems on refugee issues), for a nation that claims a place at the high table of the world, and that claims to get a seat in security council of United Nations, and which has a remarkable record of participating in UN peacekeeping forces across the globe, I think we cannot shy away from responsibility of accommodating refugees (in general),” he said.

“Europe, under great stress, has done it (accommodated refugees). Of course, United States of America has done it in the past; but under the present administration they have problems about it (on accommodating refugees),” he said.

“But I think as a country that stands apart from many others in terms of democracy, human rights, and basically of compassion for all human beings, India deserves to have not just a policy but deserves to have a well thought-out law, so that there is no ambiguity and the government of the day is not really allowed too much freedom,” Khurshid said.

He said while some leeway given to the government on dealing with refugees (in general) is fair, it should work within certain objective principles and not be carried away by subjectivity.

“I think that is what we should be doing, a good law in the matter of refugees. I suppose we should sign refugee convention and protocols as a senior member of United Nations.

I think that’s what we should do, and replicate it (international convention and protocols) with a law within the country,” Khurshid argued.

On India’s policy towards the Rohingyas, he said, “It’s not a policy on Rohingyas alone. They (the government) have a policy… There is a policy which somehow seems to be influenced by religion and that I think is absolutely appalling.”

Speaking about accepting refugees in general and not referring to the Rohingyas issue in particular, Khurshid said if the government wants to accommodate refugees from anywhere, it should certainly extend them support, but not make a distinction between “people of one religion or other”.

Meanwhile, former diplomat Talmiz Ahmad said India, a strong supporter of political liberalism, should engage with Myanmar to ensure the return of Rohingyas as their normal citizens amid concerns in some sections in this country over their stay.

“The most important point to address is neither Bangladesh nor India, it’s the government of Myanmar. We have to engage with the government of Myanmar to ensure that these people are accommodated in Myanmar as normal citizens of that country,” he said.