Out of 3.3 crore applicants, over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published recently.
New Delhi: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on an official visit to India, brought up her country’s concerns over the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue as well as discussed the Rohingya refugee crisis with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during talks in New Delhi on Saturday.
At the meeting, which tool place in an “atmosphere of great cordiality and warmth”, with the two countries signed seven pacts and decided to boost defence cooperation to tackle the menace of terrorism. The two leaders also launched three projects through video link that include import of bulk LPG gas from Bangladesh, something that will reduce the prices of LPG gas supply to India’s north-eastern states.
Indian government sources on Saturday said, “On the NRC, the matter did come up. It was pointed out that it was an ongoing process and taking place under court direction. We will have to await the full outcome of this whole process. They asked us what is happening in the process and what is going to happen because we have to see where this process leads… we’ll see how the situation emerges.”
The controversy over NRC in Assam continues even as Bangladesh has consistently said that it would not accept any alleged illegal immigrants from Assam in the wake of the completion of the NRC process. Bangladesh maintains that any alleged illegal immigrants in India are not Bangladeshis. The NRC had been prepared to reportedly identify Indian citizens living in Assam since March 24, 1971 or before. Out of 3.3 crore applicants, over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published recently.
The two neighbours inked seven pacts, including an MoU on “Establishment of Coastal Surveillance Radar System in Bangladesh”, and “conclusion of Standard Operating Procedures for the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports” that will make movement of goods from the Indian hinterland to North-eastern states much easier.
A joint statement issued by the two countries said, “Both leaders emphasised the need for greater cooperation to commemorate the two important anniversary years —Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary in 2020 as well as 50 years of Bangladesh’s War of Liberation; and the establishment of India-Bangladesh bilateral diplomatic ties in year 2021.”
This is significant given that India is keen to strengthen the historical legacy of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Sheikh Hasina’s father) whose leadership led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 after Indian military intervention. Pakistan’s influence in Bangladesh has considerably waned under the government of Sheikh Hasina and this is something that New Delhi hopes will continue.
On the Rohingya issue, the joint statement said, “Prime Minister Modi appreciated Bangladesh’s generosity in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. India will supply a fifth tranche of humanitarian assistance to support the government of Bangladesh’s humanitarian efforts to shelter the Rohingyas in temporary camps in Cox’s Bazar.” In the last one year India has till now spent about Rs 120 crore on humanitarian aid to Bangladesh.
This instalment of aid comprises tents, relief and rescue material as well as 1,000 sewing machines for skill development of forcibly displaced women from Myanmar.
India has also build 250 houses in Rakhine state of Myanmar that cost $4.5 million.
Sheikh Hasina “conveyed the gratitude” of her government for the humanitarian assistance provided by India since September 2017 to help meet the needs of the displaced persons from Myanmar.
Welcoming Sheikh Hasina, PM Modi said, “India prioritises its partnership with Bangladesh. We are proud that India-Bangladesh relationship is a great example of cooperation between two friendly neighbours.”
A joint statement issued by the two sides said, “The two Prime Ministers held detailed discussions in an atmosphere of great cordiality and warmth… Both Prime Ministers agreed to... ensure that this irreversible partnership enhances the legacy that started with the Great War of Liberation of Bangladesh... They paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War, the Muktijoddhas, the Indian soldiers who fought in the War and the citizens of Bangladesh, for their great sacrifices in the Liberation War of 1971... Both leaders vowed to uphold these shared values, in line with the dream of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
The pacts inked between the two countries include one for “withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni River by India for drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town, Tripura, India and another for cooperation between between the University of Hyderabad and University of Dhaka.
On strengthening defence cooperation, the joint statement said, “Both Prime Ministers welcomed the initiatives for development of closer Maritime Security Partnership, and appreciated the finalisation of an MoU on Establishment of Coastal Surveillance Radar System in Bangladesh. Both leaders also agreed to expedite work towards drawing upon a $500mn Defence Line of Credit extended by India to Bangladesh, for which implementation arrangements have been finalised in April 2019.”
The Teesta issue also figured during the talks. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted that the people of Bangladesh are awaiting early signing and implementation of the Framework of Interim Agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both governments in 2011. Prime Minister Modi informed that his government is working with all stakeholders in India for conclusion of the agreement soonest possible,” the joint statement said.
On tackling the menace of terrorism, the two countries declared, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the zero-tolerance policy of the Government of Bangladesh against terrorism and commended Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her resolute efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the region. Recognising that terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to peace and stability of both countries and the region, the two Prime Ministers reiterated their strong commitment to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror. Both leaders ... agreed that closer cooperation against extremist and radical groups, terrorists, smugglers, smuggling of fake currency, and organised crime remain a shared priority.”
On prevention of violent incidents at the border, the two sides said, “Both leaders emphasised the importance of effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border. Towards this goal, the Leaders directed their respective border forces to complete border fencing at all pending sectors at the International Border between both the countries at the earliest.”
On the three projects jointly launched through video-link, PM Modi said, “The supply of bulk LPG from Bangladesh will benefit both countries. This will also increase exports, income and employment in Bangladesh. Reduction of 1500 km transportation distance will also result in economic benefits and reduced damage to the environment. The second project- Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute will prepare skilled manpower and technicians for the industrial development of Bangladesh. Last but not the least, the project of Vivekananda Bhavan at the Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka, which takes inspiration from the lives of two great human beings, Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda”.