B'desh Foreign Minister cancels India visit over CAB

B'desh Foreign Minister cancels India visit over CAB

Photo: Twitter/ANI

 A day after expressing displeasure over Indian Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks on persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh, the neighbouring country's government on Thursday called off proposed visits of its Foreign Minister and Home Minister to New Delhi and Shillong.

The remarks made by Amit Shah while piloting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or the CAB through Parliament this week did not go down well with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Government in Bangladesh. A K A Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, on Wednesday not only dismissed the allegation of persecution of minority Hindus in his country, but also went on to say that the CAB would weaken India's “historic position” as a “tolerat and secular nation”. He postponed his visit to New Delhi on Thursday, citing preoccupation with commemoration of “Vijay Divas” in Dhaka on Monday.

Asaduzzaman Khan, Home Minister of Bangladesh, also cancelled a proposed private visit to the capital of Meghalaya, in view of the unrest in the north-eastern region of India due to protest against the CAB.

New Delhi claimed that Bangladesh Foreign Minister's decision to postpone his visit had nothing to do with the CAB, which had been passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Monday and Wednesday respectively. The Government of India also tried to soothe the ruffled feathers in Dhaka, clarifying that Home Minister had just said that the minority Hindus in Bangladesh had been subjected to persecution during the military rule and the tenure of the erstwhile regimes in the neighbouring country, not under the present Awami League government.

The CAB seeks to expeditiously provide citizenship to people of Hindu and other non-Muslinm religious minority communities migrating from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to India.

Momen was expected to arrive in New Delhi on Thursday. He was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a combined session of Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue on Friday. He was also scheduled to hold a meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar before leaving New Delhi on Saturday.

Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of the MEA, told journalists that Dhaka had informed New Delhi that Bangladesh Foreign Minister had to change his schedule “on account of domestic issues pertaining to the commemoration of the Victory Day” on Monday.

Bangladesh celebrates December 16 as “Victory Day” every year to commemorate defeat of Pakistan Army in the war with its Liberation Army (Mukti Bahini) and Indian Army in 1971.

Kumar underlined that any speculation about the connection between Bangladesh Foreign Minister's decision to call off the visit to New Delhi and the CAB adopted by Parliament would be “unwarranted”.

The MEA spokesperson quoted Home Minister saying in Rajya Sabha on Wednesaday that the religious minorities in Bangladesh had not been subjected to persecution when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was holding the office of the neighbouring country's President. He was also quoted saying that current Government in Bangladesh was also taking care of the religious minorities. Shah, however, was quoted alleging that a large number of minority Hindus of Bangladesh had to escape to India due to religious persecution during the period after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur in 1975 and before his daughter Sheikh Hasina's ascent to power – first in 1996 and then again in 2009.

Hasina, who was on a visit to New Delhi on October 5, conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Bangladesh Government's concerns over 1.9 million people being left out of the National Register of Citizens in Assam. She also expressed concern over growing clamour by the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for preparing similar registers of citizens across India.

Bangladesh 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 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.

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