New Delhi appreciates Dhaka for offering shelter to Rohingya refugees, says foreign secretary Shringla
Shringla confirmed a visit by Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh on 17 March
India on Monday reassured Bangladesh that its process to identify illegal migrants in the border state of Assam will not impact Dhaka.
India also assured Bangladesh of its “deep appreciation" of the “spirit of humanism that motivated Bangladesh to offer shelter to nearly one million" displaced Rohingya refugees who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on a visit to Bangladesh, addressed both issues, which have seemingly cast a shadow on the ties between India and Bangladesh with whom New Delhi has worked hard to cultivate close ties by extending unprecedented lines of credit, liberalizing visa norms, and cutting tariffs to boost trade. The two issues had the potential to create ripples in Bangladesh, Shringla added.
He also confirmed a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh on 17 March for the inauguration of the centenary celebrations of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, a key figure in Bangladesh’s freedom movement.
“Let me clearly state here what our leadership has repeatedly confirmed at the highest level to the government of Bangladesh. This is a process that is entirely internal to India," Shringla said at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies think tank. He was referring to India putting together a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to weed out illegal migrants in Assam. The process to locate illegal residents is one that has taken place “entirely at the direction and under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India", he said.
“Therefore, there will be no implications for the government and people of Bangladesh. You have our assurance on that count," said Shringla, a former high commissioner to Bangladesh.
The assurance comes against the backdrop of worries in Dhaka that almost 1.9 million people in Assam, whose citizenship is seen as questionable, may be deemed illegal migrants from Bangladesh and pushed into the country. This comes as Bangladesh is already sheltering some 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on its soil.
Bangladesh is also miffed with India due its Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which aims to fast track citizenship for religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, according to news reports.
On the issue of Rohingya refugees, Shringla said: “There is also often interest and sometimes uninformed speculation about our position on the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State of Myanmar, and its impact upon Bangladesh."
“Let me clearly say that India is deeply appreciative of the spirit of humanism that motivated Bangladesh to offer shelter to nearly one million displaced people. And we fully recognize and sympathize with the enormous burden that you are facing."
“As the only country that is an actual neighbour of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, we are committed to offering the fullest support for any mutually-acceptable solution that will enable the earliest possible return of the displaced persons to their homes in Rakhine State and to a life of dignity. This should be done in a manner that is safe, secure and sustainable," he added.
India had provided five tranches of aid to the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar area through the Bangladesh government, Shringla said, and promised to do more.
“In parallel, we are investing in the socioeconomic development of the Rakhine area, including housing, so that there is an incentive not only for the people to return, but for all communities to focus on cooperative solutions for economic development, rather than compete for limited resources," he said.
The reference was to India taking up quick impact projects and building prefabricated houses in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar for the speedy return of the Rohingya refugees, who, Buddhist majority Myanmar says, are illegal settlers from Bangladesh—something Dhaka refutes.
Shringla said one “obvious" area whether India and Bangladesh “could and should do much more is in the management of our shared river waters".
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