Two ministers cancel trips to India
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan have cancelled their scheduled trips to India.
The cancellations come at a time when India is seeing protests over the passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill in parliament.
Farid Hossain, minister (press) at the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi, confirmed the cancellation of the foreign minister’s visit. He, however, did not give any reason.
The minister was scheduled to fly to Delhi yesterday afternoon to attend the Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue XI, to be held today and tomorrow.
During his three-day visit, Momen was also expected to meet Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Dialogue.
This newspaper could not reach the minister for comments.
A foreign ministry official said Momen rescheduled his tour to join programmes at home on the Martyred Intellectuals’ Day and the Victory Day. He is likely to visit India next month.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan was scheduled to fly to Meghalaya today at the invitation of its Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma.
Sharif Mahmud, public relations officer at the home ministry, confirmed the cancellation of the trip.
Another home ministry official said the minister would not visit India now as the northeastern Indian states were seeing protests over the citizenship bill.
In New Delhi, the spokesman for the Indian external affairs ministry, Raveesh Kumar, yesterday said cancellation of Momen’s India visit would not have any effect on bilateral relations.
“We know the visit has been cancelled... I understand the foreign minister has given an explanation. Our relations are strong, like our two leaders have said repeatedly, and I don’t think this cancellation will have any effect,” he told reporters.
He said the cancellation of the visit and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill should not be linked.
“We will have to go by the reason stated. As for his [Momen’s] comments on Citizenship Amendment Bill, there is some confusion. Religious persecution was in reference to military regime and past governments,” Kumar said.
The Indian parliament on Monday passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill that would grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who faced “persecution” in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
ATTACK ON ENVOY’S CONVOY
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has protested an attack on the convoy of its assistant high commissioner in Guwahati and vandalism of signposts near the mission.
Acting foreign secretary of Bangladesh, Kamrul Ahsan, lodged the protest with Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das when the latter met him at the foreign ministry in Dhaka yesterday evening, the ministry said in a release.
Kamrul requested the Indian government to protect the personnel and property of the mission.
Riva Ganguly said the Indian government was immediately alerted to enhance security of the chancery and residence premises of the Bangladesh assistant high commission.
Yesterday, the security vehicle escorting Bangladesh assistant high commissioner, Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur, from the airport to Guwahati city was attacked by mobs protesting adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
The foreign ministry release said some people from the processions and agitations knocked down two signposts of the mission approximately 30 yards away from the chancery premises.
The Indian authorities have already stepped up security to protect the Assistant High Commission, its personnel and members of their families, added the release.
The passage of the bill triggered protests in Assam. Several hundred troops, alongside paramilitary forces, were deployed in Tripura and Guwahati.
During a recent debate on the bill at the Lok Sabha, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said torture on Hindu communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan was taking place.
The debate continued for about nine hours before the lower house of the Indian parliament eventually passed the bill amid protests from opposition parties.
Denying the allegation of torture, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Momen told reporters in Dhaka on Wednesday that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 could weaken India’s “historic position” as a tolerant and secular country.
There were also concerns over the Indian National Register of Citizens (NRC) which excluded nearly two million people in Assam, raising fears they could be rendered stateless.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah on several occasions said the NRC would be implemented across India and all illegal migrants would be expelled.
Bangladesh maintains that the NRC is an internal issue of India and it will not affect Bangladesh.
Our diplomatic correspondent and New Delhi correspondent contributed to this report.