Wait for NRC final outcome: Modi tells Bangladesh PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina launches a bilateral project after a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (PTI Photo)

India will have to wait for “final outcome” of the process to prepare the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam in its Northeast region before it could discuss with Bangladesh about its implications for the neighbouring country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his counterpart from Dhaka, Sheikh Hasina, on Saturday.

New Delhi had earlier conveyed to Dhaka that the process to prepare the NRC in Assam was an “internal matter” of India and it would have no impact on Bangladesh.

Hasina reiterated to Modi Bangladesh government's concerns over the NRC leaving out 1.9 million people in Assam. She also expressed concern over the growing clamour by the leaders of the ruling BJP for preparing similar registers of citizens across India.

New Delhi, however, turned down Dhaka's request to incorporate in the joint statement issued by both sides after Modi-Hasina meeting an explicit assurance from India that the exercise to prepare the NRC would have no impact on Bangladesh.

Dhaka is particularly keen to know if India has any plan to send the people, who were left out of the NRC, to Bangladesh. The exercise to draft the NRC was started with the objective to identify the illegal immigrants, who had allegedly sneaked into India from Bangladesh and settled in Assam.

Hasina's government in Dhaka already ruled out the possibility of Bangladesh “taking back” from India the people, who could not make it to the NRC.

Dhaka, in fact, has never accepted that a large number of people from Bangladesh illegally migrated to India.

The issue was discussed when Prime Ministers of the two countries had a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday, sources in Government of India said.

Modi conveyed to Hasina that preparing the NRC for Assam was a process mandated by the Supreme Court of India and it was still ongoing.

India would have to wait till the “final outcome” of the process before it could discuss about its implications, if any, for Bangladesh, government sources said in New Delhi.

This was the second time Hasina conveyed to Modi that her government's concerns over the implication of India's NRC exercise on Bangladesh.

She had also discussed the issue with Prime Minister when the two leaders had met on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 27 last.

Media reports on the discussion between two prime ministers in New York had quoted Bangladesh Foreign Minister, A K Abdul Momen, saying that Modi had assured Hasina that Dhaka should not be worried as the NRC process of India would have no impact on the neighbouring country.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had also told media persons during his visit to Dhaka on August 20 that the preparations of the NRC was an “internal matter” of India.

What however has apparently added to the concerns of Bangladesh government is the recent comment by Home Minister Amit Shah that the Modi government would not force any Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian refugee to leave India.

Dhaka perceived his comment as a signal that New Delhi would drive out the Muslims, who were left out of the NRC, from India and might mount pressure on it to allow them to go to Bangladesh.

Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma, had said soon after the publication of the NRC on August 31 that New Delhi should start discussing with Dhaka the modalities of Bangladesh taking back its citizens, who had illegally migrated to India.

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