‘Don’t understand why’: Bangladesh PM on India’s amended citizenship law
Sheikh Hasina’s comments mark the first time the Bangladeshi premier has publicly spoken on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that has created considerable disquiet in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has questioned the need for India’s new Citizenship Act that fast tracks citizenship for persecuted non-Muslim minorities from three countries and said people within India are “facing many problems because of the law”.
Hasina’s comments, made in an interview with Gulf News newspaper, mark the first time the Bangladeshi premier has publicly spoken on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that has created considerable disquiet in Bangladesh. Three Bangladeshi ministers have called off their visits to India after the CAA was passed by the Parliament.
“We don’t understand why [the Indian government] did it. It [CAA] was not necessary,” Hasina said during the interview in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.
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She said there has been no recorded reverse migration from India. “No, there is no reverse migration from India. But within India, people are facing many problems,” Hasina said.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Hasina’s remarks.
The CAA speeds up the process for granting citizenship to members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities who fled Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan because of persecution before December 2014.
Bangladeshi leaders have expressed annoyance at being clubbed along with Pakistan in the law. The external affairs ministry has clarified that persecution of minorities occurred in Bangladesh before Hasina’s government came to power.
About 10.7% of Bangladesh’s population of 161 million is Hindu. Bangladeshi politicians and experts have also expressed concerns that Indian Muslims unable to prove their citizenship could seek shelter in Bangladesh.
Hasina also acknowledged that the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) were India’s internal matters.
“[Still], it is an internal affair,” Hasina said. “Bangladesh has always maintained that the CAA and NRC are internal matters of India. 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.”
The implementation of the NRC in Assam and repeated comments by a section of the BJP leadership that all illegal migrants would be deported had first hit bilateral relations last year. Hasina raised the issue of NRC during her meetings with Modi in New York in September and in New Delhi in October. The problems were exacerbated after the passage of the CAA.
However, Hasina contended the India-Bangladesh relationship is currently at its best, with cooperation in a “wide spectrum of areas”.
She highlighted concerns with Myanmar, from where 1.2 million Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh and are currently living in camps in southeastern Cox’s Bazar.
“The Rohingya crisis originated in Myanmar and the solution lies with them. But unfortunately, Myanmar is yet to take any meaningful step to address the core concerns of the Rohingya [for their] safe and dignified return. Two repatriation initiatives [so far have] failed as not a single Rohingya wants to go back voluntarily. It revealed that Myanmar did not succeed in creating an environment conducive for repatriation,” she said.
Bangladesh cannot indefinitely shoulder the burden of providing for more than a million refugees, she said. “If the problem persists, it may seriously affect the security and stability of the region. [This is why the] international community should remain [engaged] with the Rohingya issue until it reaches a sustainable solution,” she added.