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Foreign minister: Indians entering Bangladesh for its good economy, free food

  • Published at 02:41 pm December 15th, 2019
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen
File photo of Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Current Dhaka-Delhi relationship ‘sweetest’, at its best, he says

Indians from India are entering Bangladesh for its more prosperous economy than the Indian one and free food, foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said on Sunday, describing the present Dhaka-Delhi relationship as the ‘sweetest’ and ‘at its best’.

Noting that some are entering being enticed by middlemen, he said Indians living here  illegally will be driven away from the country. 

“(People from India) are entering because conditions in Bangladesh are very good. The economic situation is also good. Those who come here are getting jobs here, especially the marginally poor, and getting free food,” the foreign minister told reporters at his office when asked about the reports of Indians entering Bangladesh. 

“They (Indians) have been enticed by these factors. Compared to India, our economy has more potential. There is a shortage of jobs for many Indians. That’s why they are perhaps coming. And, some middlemen are saying to Indians that you will get free food in Bangladesh,” he said. 

“The Indian government has been saying repeatedly and said today that India is not pushing anybody into Bangladesh. We have said if there are any Bangladeshis illegally living in India, inform us and we will bring them back with a standard procedure in place,” he added. 

Dr Momen held a meeting with the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka on Sunday and discussed bilateral issues, including entering of Indians and the national register of citizens (NRC). 

To a question, he said: “We always keep our border protected. We are keeping it that way.” 

Replying to another query, he said: “Our relationship is very normal. So, there is no reason to worry that much. The Bangladesh-India relationship is now the sweetest and at its best.” 

“Citizens of Bangladesh have the right to return home. If there are people from other countries we will definitely drive them away,” said Dr Momen.

The minister refused to admit that the last moment cancellation of his India visit had anything to do with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in the Indian parliament and the statement of Indian home minister Amit Shah, mentioning the persecution of minorities in Bangladesh. 

He attributed theIndia   visit cancellation to Victory Day celebrations, the absence of the state minister for foreign affairs, the foreign secretary, and another key secretary in the ministry. 

According to Indian media and officials of their foreign ministry, the visit by the foreign minister was scheduled long before. 

Dr Momen said the cancellation of his visit that was scheduled to take place from December 12 to 14, will not have any negative impact on the Bangladesh-India relationship. 

Acknowledging some oppression of minorities during the tenures of military and other governments, he said: “What he (Amit Shah) said in parliament is that during the tenure of Bangabandhu there was no torture of minorities and there is no torture of minorities during the tenure of Sheikh Hasina.” 

“But, during the military and other governments before, there was some oppression of minorities and it is true. It has to be believed. In 2001, along with minorities there was also harsh oppression of Awami League activists,” he added. 

According to media reports, in parliament, the Indian home minister expressed his gratitude that not a single incident of atrocities on religious minorities in Bangladesh took place as long as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was alive. 

He listed a number of instances of gang rape of Hindu women and attacks on Hindu houses and temples in October, 2001, when BNP was in power.

Without naming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, he also commended it for ensuring the safety and security of religious minorities in Bangladesh and said only “a very few” incidents of atrocities on them had taken place.

About the NRC, the foreign minister told reporters that “We don’t want our relationship to deteriorate in relation to the NRC.”

About the formal government stance on the NRC that is being carried out in Assam, he said: “We have asked the Indian government (about it). We said there is some anxiety among people of our country and it is being extensively covered by the media. Then, the very Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, emphatically said that this is a legal process of India. And, it is an internal affair of India. It will in no way affect Bangladesh.”

“Some politicians are using the name of Bangladesh with respect to the NRC in their own political interest. The Indian government told us...We will believe the Indian government rather than individuals. Officially they have told us that it will not affect us,” he added.