Bangladesh raises NRC issue with PM Modi, told it’s India’s internal matter
Dhaka takes comfort from assurances by New Delhi that the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is an internal matter but will keep a close eye on developments, Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said on Saturday.
The NRC issue was raised by the Bangladeshi side during the meeting here between visiting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, and it also figured briefly during their talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York last month.
“Prime Minister Modi has explained to Prime Minister Hasina the process that India has put up, in terms of making sure that everybody is eventually included in this, and we were told that this is an internal matter of India,” Haque told a news briefing.
“Our relationship is currently the best of the best, and the relationship is extremely warm and friendly but at the same time, we are keeping our eyes quite open...,” he said, adding Bangladesh wasn’t currently worried about the issue.
Ever since some 1.9 million people were left out of the final version of the NRC in Assam in August, Bangladesh has been concerned by statements by some BJP leaders that these people would be deported. The Bangladeshi side has pointed to the divergence between assurances given by PM Modi and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, and public remarks by home minister Amit Shah, who has said every infiltrator will be driven out.
People familiar with discussions at Saturday’s meeting said the Bangladeshi side raised the NRC issue and sought an update on the process. The Indian side pointed out it was an “ongoing process” mandated and directed by the Supreme Court, and whose final outcome was awaited, the people said.
“They asked us what is happening and what is going to happen. We said we have to see where the process leads to,” said a person who declined to be identified.
Both sides appeared keen to play down the matter, with the people cited above saying the Indian and Bangladeshi delegations discussed the NRC issue and moved on.
Haque said: “I think we shouldn’t make a crisis out of nothing at this stage, and we should be able to wait and see.”
The Bangladeshi foreign secretary, who has served with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the movement of people is a global issue and cited the example of Mexico and the US while pointing out there have “always been issues regarding mobility between neighbouring states”.
“I think this is not something new, something that cannot be resolved through discussions, but we will have to ensure that it will continue to remain an internal matter of India,” Haque said.
India has already said the people left out of the NRC wouldn’t become “stateless” or “foreigners” until they have exhausted their right to seek legal remedies. The external affairs ministry has said the process of deciding the fate of the 1.9 million people left out of the NRC is expected to be “fairly long” and they have the right to appeal to Foreigners Tribunals and higher courts.