Sarkar Publishes Op-Ed on the Rohingyas in The Diplomat


Jayita Sarkar, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, recently published a feature essay in The Diplomat on the history of the Rohingyas and its impact on the current conflict in Myanmar.

Entitled, “Rohingyas and the Unfinished Business of Partition,” the essay examines the history of this Bengali-speaking Muslim population since the Burma Campaign of the Second World War and the Partition of British India until the present-day situation. Sarkar concludes that since no great power interest would be served in siding with the Rohingyas, a humanitarian intervention is improbable.

From the text of the essay:

Today, the basic pattern of ethnic conflict involving the Rohingyas in Myanmar— Bengali-speaking Muslims (and some Hindus) of South Asian heritage vs. Buddhists of Sino-Tibetan heritage— is observable in violent localized conflicts experienced across multiple nation-states in South Asia. This includes the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram, the Chittagong region of Bangladesh, and the Arakan or Rakhine state of Myanmar. Ethnic conflicts and related mass migration have led to multiple standoffs, including the 1979 Marichjhapi incident in West Bengal, the 1980 Kaokhali massacre in Chittagong, and the 1983 Nellie massacre in Assam, among others.

The insurgencies against the nation-states that have plagued these borderlands have benefited from popular sympathy, benign neglect, and even active government support on the other side of the border. The informal economies of the borderlands characterized by smuggling and criminal networks have offered a steady supply of weapons, people and money, thus leading to a thriving ecosystem of insurgencies, Islamist and otherwise.

Jayita Sarkar, a historian by training, is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. Her expertise is in the history of U.S. foreign policy, nuclear proliferation, the global Cold War, South Asia and Western Europe. Her research has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Cold War Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, Cold War HistoryInternational History Review, and elsewhere. Dr. Sarkar has held fellowships at MIT, Harvard, Columbia, and Yale universities, and obtained a doctorate in International History from the Graduate Institute Geneva in Switzerland.