Ahead of Modi’s Dhaka visit, India’s top diplomat allays Bangladesh’s NRC concerns

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh later this month, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured Bangladesh leader Sheikh Hasina that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise will not impact the neighboring country, stressing it is India’s internal matter.

The NRC exercise is a “process that is entirely internal to India. Therefore, there will be no implications for the government and the people of Bangladesh. You have our assurance on that count”, Mr Shringla said in his first visit to Bangladesh as a foreign secretary.
The foreign secretary also met his counterpart Masud Bin Mamun, Transport Minister Obaidul Qadir, and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader during his visit to Dhaka on March 2. There have been concerns in Bangladesh over the NRC’s objective following rumors that it may be aimed at targeting the Muslim minority community.

Earlier this year, the controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC had led to deferment of visits by Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan to India late last year.

Mr Shringla is the first seniormost Indian official to visit Bangladesh after the CAA-NRC controversy. In his meeting with PM Sheikh Hasina, he discussed bilateral ties and preparations for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka later this month.  He also attended a press conference in Dhaka where he discussed defence cooperation between the two sides. “We believe that our ongoing efforts to develop robust ties between our militaries emphasize the trust of a high order. Especially, since we are willing to share with you any and all military hardware being manufactured in India for use by our military. We also welcome the opportunity for our officers to train at your top military institutions, just as we are ready to open military training institutes at all levels — from officer cadet training to specialized higher command training — to Bangladesh,” he said.
India has also already offered $500 million defence cooperation assistance to Bangladesh. Mr Shringla said that India wants the “closest possible ties with Bangladesh, and it is entirely in India’s interest to fully support your efforts to build a strong, prosperous, progressive, peaceful and harmonious Bangladesh; to build a nation that stays true to the extraordinarily inclusive vision of Bangabandhu.”
Addressing the same conference, PM Sheikh Hasina’s adviser Gowher Rizvi said that Dhaka does not want to see a situation in India that could affect Bangladesh’s secular social fabric. “Our commitment to secularism is central and we do not want to see any situation where our secularism will be threatened anyway,” a news report quoted him as saying. Mr Rizvi asserted that minorities were “equal citizens” in Bangladesh, and the government attaches the highest priority in protecting their rights and issues.

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