Indian foreign secretary Harshvardhan Shringla
Indian foreign secretary Harshvardhan Shringla

The updating of the National Register of Citizens in Assam will have “no implications” for Bangladesh and its people said Indian foreign secretary Harshvardhan Shringla.

He was speaking at a seminar titled Bangladesh & India: A Promising Future held in Dhaka.

“Updation of National Register of Citizens is a process that is entirely internal to India,” Shringla said.

“India assures Bangladesh that NRC will have no implications for the country and its people,” he reiterated.

Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan cancelled their visits to India in December over prevailing situation following the passage of the new citizenship bill by Parliament.

Dhaka was also apparently upset over the rollout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam even though India conveyed to it that the issue was an internal matter of the country.

The Foreign Secretary, who previously served as India’s high commissioner in Dhaka, is the first senior-most Indian official to visit the neighbouring country after the amended citizenship bill and the NRC.

Dhaka is worried over reports that India may send back some Bangladeshi immigrants to the country whose names have not found a place in the NRC.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had taken up the issue of NRC with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their bilateral meeting in New York in September.

During his visit, Shringla is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Hasina and Foreign Minister Momen and hold talks with Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen.

He is expected to discuss the preparations for the likely visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dhaka on March 17 to attend the birth centenary of the country’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“Bangabandhu is iconic – as a globally recognised statesman and iconic symbol of liberation for Bangladesh and for our subcontinent. He is as revered and remembered in India as he is here in Bangladesh,” Shringla said.

“Let me wish you on the centenary of this great son of Bangladesh: a man of letters, a man of action, courage and conviction, and most of all, a true hero, for he liberated from oppression the spirit of a people and brought forth a nation. As Prime minister Modi has said, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is our national hero too,” he said.

“India and Bangladesh have been able to address and resolve some of the problems that bedevil relations between any neighbours – problems such as those of borders and land exchanges. We have done so with maturity, grace and sophistication,” Shringla said referring to differences over some bilateral issues.

“Our partnership will reach its true potential when we recognise that our interests converge. It is in the spirit of finding common ground rather than being bogged by a few differences that we have jointly agreed to work to enhance navigability of waterways,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary lauded Bangladesh’s “astonishing successes” in improving socio-economic indices from infant mortality to women’s education and from primary health to literacy.

He said Bangladesh had given “new energy” by the world’s most impressive economic development rates.

“Today it is Bangladesh that is leading Asia’s development race, a miraculous achievement that merits every word of praise,” Shringla said.

Bangladesh today has become India’s largest development partner in the world and is the country’s largest trade partner in the region, he said.

“At the level of people-to-people ties, our largest visa operation anywhere in the world is in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi friends constitute the largest number of tourist arrivals by far in India,” he said.

According to the Citizenship Amendment Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, following religious persecution there will get Indian citizenship.

Bangladeshis are particularly peeved at Home Minister Amit Shah’s description of migrants from that country as ‘termites.’

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