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New Delhi Correspondent
India said on Thursday that it will hand over to Myanmar fifty housing units built in Rakhine province for accommodating Rohingyas and made it clear that it was in its own interests and the interests of the region that the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh return home as soon as possible.

In the first phase, the 50 dwelling units, part of a total of 250 that India is building in Rakhine to shelter Rohingyas as and when they return from Bangladesh, will be handed over to Myanmar authorities next week during Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s maiden three-day official visit to Myanmar from December 10, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters here.

The handing over of the 50 houses will take place through video conferencing, he said.

Gokhale said the 250 houses India is constructing in Rakhine as part of the development programme in that area is a “manner of our support to Myanmar to ensure the necessary infrastructure exists for the displaced persons as and when they return.”

He also pointed out that India had also been extending humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh for the Rohingyas sheltered there. Asked if the situation in Rakhine is conducive for the return of the Rohingyas, he said it was for the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to decide that because these two countries have recently signed an agreement for their repatriation.

He said since India is the only country which neighbours both Bangladesh and Myanmar “we believe that it is in our own interest and in the interest of the region that the displaced persons return as soon as possible and that the bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar is implemented so that these displaced persons return as soon as possible.”

“As to the timing, conditions and the law and order situation (in Rakhine), it is for the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to determine,” the Indian Foreign Secretary said adding that he would draw a distinction between India’s help to the development programme in Rakhine from the repatriation of “displaced persons” to that area.

Gokhale said India has over the years ramped up its relations with Myanmar from strategic, economic and cultural perspectives, extended financial assistance of one billion dollars in the form of grant and 750 million dollars as line of credit. India is also building a trilateral highway connecting India and Myanmar with Thailand and the Kaladan multi-modal transport project in Myanmar.