New Delhi: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that the amendments to India’s citizenship law were unnecessary according to an interview published by the Gulf News paper on Saturday.
In an interview to an English language daily in the United Arab Emirates, Hasina, however, deemed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the process of compiling a National Registry of Citizens (NRC) in Assam state to weed migrants as internal matters of India.
The comments are significant since they are the first expressed publicly by Sheikh Hasina on the matter.
“We don’t understand why [the Indian government] did it," she told Gulf News during an interview in Abu Dhabi, a report on which is available on the news website. “It (CAA) was not necessary," she said.
The CAA, approved by Parliament on 11 December, aims to fast track citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. In Northeastern states, demonstrators feel the Act will erode their ethnic identities by granting citizenship to foreigners on religious grounds.
“Bangladesh has always maintained that the CAA and NRC are internal matters of India," Hasina said. “The government of India, on their part, has also repeatedly maintained that the NRC is an internal exercise of India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in person assured me of the same during my visit to New Delhi in October 2019," she said.
The Bangladesh prime minister denied that minority communities left her country because of persecution. She also denied any movement of people from India to Bangladesh in the wake of the CAA and NRC.
Bangladesh with which India had dramatically improved ties between 2014 and 2019 during the first term of the Narendra Modi government is upset with India for clubbing it along with Pakistan and Afghanistan where Islamist hardline groups like the Taliban have targeted religious minorities. Dhaka is also upset with India over its plans for a National Registry for Citizens that aims to weed out migrants or illegal immigrants — seen as those coming in from Bangladesh. Last year, a court mandated process had identified 1.9 million people in Assam who could not furnish papers to prove their citizenship. Bangladesh, which already hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar is wary of the possibility that the 1.9 million people could be pushed across into its territory.
In recent weeks, several high level visits from Bangladesh have been called off. Last week deputy foreign minister of Bangladesh Shahriyar Alam called off his visit after home and foreign ministers of Bangladesh had canceled their trips to India.