Reassure Dhaka; bring ties back on track
Bangladesh deputy foreign minister Shahriar Alam has become the third leader from that country to call off a visit to India in less than two months, against the backdrop of the controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), which the government has now said is not on the agenda. Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said Mr Alam, who was to attend the Raisina Dialogue, an event backed by the external affairs ministry, is not coming ostensibly because he has to travel with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have sought to convey the impression the cancelled visits are not linked to the CAA, but it has become evident the Sheikh Hasina government is facing criticism at home.
India has clarified CAA will benefit religious minorities in Bangladesh who faced persecution in the past, and that the situation has improved since Ms Hasina’s Awami League came to power. But Bangladeshi leaders have expressed their annoyance at how Dhaka has been characterised in Indian discourse and the implications of the legislation. The issue was raised by Ms Hasina in her meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, and she was given an assurance this was India’s internal matter. But with BJP leaders continuing to insist that all illegal migrants will be deported, Dhaka has grown uneasy.
Bangladesh has emerged as India’s key development and security partner in the region, especially under the leadership of Ms Hasina, who has been facing growing criticism in recent months for not getting India to agree to some of Bangladesh’s outstanding issues. New Delhi must reassure Dhaka of its intent.