New Delhi-Dhaka ties take a hit post Citizenship Act

New Delhi-Dhaka ties take a hit post Citizenship Act

The New Delhi-Dhaka relations took a beating as two Bangladesh ministers—Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan—cancelled their separate visits to India at the last moment.

The dip in relations comes just weeks after Hasina visited Kolkata to attend the day-night cricket Test played there between India and Bangladesh.

Not many may have expected that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act would bring turbulence in India’s ties with Bangladesh, its warmest neighbour for decades. This also sparked off speculation of leading to a 'churn’ in the ties.

Even as the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in Parliament and became an Act, all in a span of a mere four days, the New Delhi-Dhaka relations took a beating as two Bangladesh ministers—Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan—cancelled their separate visits to India at the last moment.

The BJP-led NDA government pushed through the Bill which seeks to provide citizenship to illegal and 'persecuted' migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsis and Christian religions from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Muslims are not included in this. Nor are migrants from other neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar or Nepal. 

One of the Bangla ministers went on to criticise the move that sparked violent reactions in Assam and West Bengal and protests across the country. Bangladesh shares nearly 4,100 sq km of the border with India, a majority of it with Assam and WB. 

Not just this. Ever since the Bill was introduced in Parliament last week, India’s standing globally has taken a nosedive with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights lashing out at the ‘discriminatory’ legislation.

The US State Department, too, has tacitly criticised the move, nudging India to protect rights of minorities. As Assam erupted in violence, Japan cancelled the annual summit between prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi scheduled for December 15 in Guwahati.

READ: Citizenship Act row: Japanese PM postpones India visit

All these come at a time when India is already drawing flak from US lawmakers for detentions of politicians and restrictions in Kashmir.

The two Bangladesh ministers were to participate in the government-sponsored events. A day before he was to land in New Delhi, Momen criticised the legislation saying, "it weakens India's historic character as a secular nation... Naturally, our people (Bangladeshis) expect that India won't do anything that could create anxiety among them". He denied that minorities in his country faced religious persecution. (He, however, later said pressing engagements at home led to the cancellation of the visit). 

This was perhaps the first time that a Bangladesh minister criticised India since Sheikh Hasina's Awami League returned to power in Dhaka in 2009. Bangladeshi and Indian leaders often described the last 10 years as the golden chapter in the relations between the two neighbours. 

The dip in relations comes just weeks after Hasina visited Kolkata to attend the day-night cricket Test played there between India and Bangladesh.

Ever since Hasina assumed power, the ties between the two countries began to strengthen in spite of the anti-India sentiments and opposition from certain quarters there. 

The steadfast growth in relations was in stark contrast with India’s ties with the other neighbours—Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar, which have warmed up to China in the last decade.

Beijing made huge investments in these countries in both infrastructure and arms. Although Bangladesh has military ties with China, it has not bowed to Beijing's pressure on more investments after seeing Lanka’s failure in returning Chinese loan taken for its Hambantota port.

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