NRC: Dhaka says it’s reassured by Narendra Modi’s briefing

NRC: Dhaka says it’s reassured by Narendra Modi’s briefing

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy adviser Gowher Rizvi says Dhaka officials won’t comment on what politicians say.

Dhaka will go by the assurances given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not the public statements by other Indian leaders on the National Registration for Citizens (NRC) issue, said a senior Bangladesh government official, adding that visiting PM Sheikh Hasina and her delegation felt “reassured” after the conversation with Mr. Modi on Saturday.

During the restricted talks, Mr. Modi “went into great depth” to explain that the process should not concern Bangladesh at present, said Gowher Rizvi, Ms. Hasina’s Adviser on International Affairs, in an interview to The Hindu.

Long-drawn process

Mr. Modi had reportedly clarified that the NRC was a long-drawn, multi-phase process which had been mandated by the Supreme Court, and the government was only “carrying out court rulings.”

Asked how Bangladesh officials reconcile that view with public statements made by leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah, who indicated at a rally in West Bengal last week that the 1.9 million people declared as non-citizens would be deported and that the government planned to make the NRC a national policy, Mr. Rizvi said that Mr. Modi had made no such comments during talks.

“These are things your Ministers tell the people of India, but we don’t go by what Ministers say. Prime Minister Modi spoke to us directly and didn’t remotely suggest any of what was said [by Mr. Shah]. We will not comment on what Indian politicians say,” Mr. Rizvi said, adding that the final NRC would only be completed after all legal appeals had been concluded in court, and that point was “far from here.”

Significantly, Mr. Rizvi said that after the process was completed, Bangladesh was prepared to study cases of Bangladeshi-origin migrants “individually”, and take them back if the claims were verified. Ms. Hasina herself raised the fate of the 1.9 million non-nationals in the conversation, said Mr. Rizvi, because of misgivings over media reports on the government’s plans.

Mr. Modi and Ms. Hasina had met for over an hour on Saturday at Hyderabad House in Delhi, discussing agreements on energy, water, coastal surveillance and a series of measures to improve trade infrastructure.

NRC: Dhaka says it’s reassured by Narendra Modi’s briefing

According to Mr. Rizvi, she suggested special economic zones where Indian companies could invest, use Bangladeshi land and labour to produce for the Indian market and export it back duty-free. The two sides are also talking about regional Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal road connectivity and a Bhutan-India-Bangladesh regional energy supply arrangement.

“After the talks between the two leaders, the first since they were both re-elected, relations have been re-energised,” he said.While the Teesta water sharing issue remained unresolved, PM Modi committed to completing the agreement that had been inked as a framework agreement eight years ago at the earliest. “In Bangladesh there is a popular feeling that India hasn’t lived upto its commitment on Teesta,” said Mr. Rizvi. “But there is a limit to how far we can push this issue,” he added, suggesting that it may be time for New Delhi and Bangladesh to appoint special envoys to pursue incomplete bilateral projects and the unutilised Line of Credit offered by India , which was a role Mr. Rizvi had himself played during 2010-2012.

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