Dhaka has sought information from Delhi on any Bangladeshi citizens living in India illegally, amid concerns that people are being pushed in to Bangladesh from the country.
“We said if there are any Bangladeshis illegally staying in India, then let us know. We have a standard procedure [for repatriation]. We will bring them back as per the procedures,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters at his ministry office yesterday.
He denied that India was pushing in any undocumented Bangladeshi, but said some people may intrude into Bangladesh as the country’s economic prospect was very good. He also said there were job shortages in India, which may be why some were entering Bangladesh.
At least 329 people were arrested on charges of trespassing into Bangladesh from India in November and sent to the district jails in Jhenaidah and Jashore. The arrestees claimed to be Bangladeshis, but could not provide any evidence to support their claims.
“If they are not Bangladeshi citizens, we will send them back,” Momen said and added if they were Bangladeshis, they had the right to come to Bangladesh.
The statements come when the National Register of Citizenship in Assam has excluded more than 19.96 million persons. Those excluded can go to courts to prove that they are citizens, but what happens if they fail to do so is not clear.
Dhaka and Delhi in formal meetings said NRC is India’s internal issue and won’t affect Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Momen also repeated that Dhaka raised the NRC issue with New Delhi a number of times and was assured that it would in no manner affect Bangladesh.
Indian Home Minister and ruling BJP President Amith Shah, however, on various occasions said NRC would be implemented all across India and the illegal migrants would be identified and deported.
Asked on Amit Shah’s remarks, Momen said, “We will trust the Indian government. We don’t trust in what any person says. Individuals may say many things for political reasons.”
On Shah’s recent remarks in the parliament that minorities were persecuted in Bangladesh, the minister said that Amit Shah specifically said that there was no persecution of minorities during the regimes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League.
“Before that, when there was a military-government or other governments, there was some level of persecution against the minorities. And, that is true…even in 2001, the Awami League and minorities faced persecution,” he added.
Amit Shah’s remarks came last week before passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which would grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians “who faced persecution” in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The bill triggered demonstrations in India, especially in the northeastern states.
Against this backdrop, Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan cancelled their trips to India, triggering speculation that these were signs of rough patches in the Indo-Bangla relationship.
Momen refuted this, saying he had other domestic issues, especially the celebrations of December 14 Martyred Intellectuals Day and Victory Day on December 16. Besides, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam and senior foreign ministry officials are also out of the country.
Home ministry officials said Asaduzzaman cancelled the trip due to instability in the northeast.
Asked if cancellation of the visit would impact Indo-Bangla relations, Momen said, “Our relationship is normal... very normal. So, we don’t have any special concern over it. Bangladesh-India relationship now is the sweetest, best relationship.”
Meanwhile, during a programme at the Awami League’s office in the city, the party General Secretary Obaidul Quader said Dhaka and Delhi would solve any problems, if any, and don’t want any crisis over the friendly relations between the two countries.
BANGLADESH HOPES MYANMAR WILL BE MORE TOLERANT
Momen also said Bangladesh expects Myanmar will be more tolerant towards the Rohingyas after the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“My expectation is that Myanmar will also be quick and sincere in implementing the bilateral deal that it signed with Bangladesh on repatriating the Rohingya,” he said, adding that there are signs Myanmar is shifting from their previous stance.
“They have invited me to visit Myanmar. These are good initiatives,” Momen said, adding that he, however, asked Myanmar to come to Bangladesh and talk to the Rohingyas to persuade them to return to Rakhine.
“That’s how the repatriation would be easy,” Momen said.
He said the hearing of the case of the Rohingya genocide at the ICJ has globally established that there were horrendous crimes against the Rohingyas in Rakhine.
Asked why Bangladesh Army Chief General Aziz Ahmed visited Myanmar when the ICJ hearing was going on, Momen said the schedule for that was made much earlier and had no relations to the ICJ hearing.
“We feel good that another channel of communication has opened. This is good for our country.
“Myanmar is our friend, not our enemy. If there are more channels of communication, it is good for us,” he said, adding, “As Myanmar’s army has a special status… this type of communication is much better.”