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Dispur no to visa proposal

- Bus route cleared

Guwahati, June 19: The Assam government has opposed the Centre’s proposal to allow Bangladeshi nationals below the age of 18 and above 65 to visit the country without visa.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said the Narendra Modi government had recently sought Dispur’s opinion on the issue and the state government is against the idea.

“We have replied to the external affairs ministry saying that we are opposed to it,” he said.

“A large number of Bangladeshi nationals, who had come with regular visas, have either gone missing or have been overstaying in the country. We are already having problems with Bangladeshi nationals who came with regular visas and it would be more difficult for us to keep track of those who come without visa,” Gogoi said.

He said that the Centre may be considering allowing visa-free entry for the two above-mentioned categories of Bangladeshi citizens as a gesture of goodwill to improve relations with the neighbouring country. An announcement to this effect could be made during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Bangladesh.

Gogoi clarified that the state government is not against good neighbourly relations with Bangladesh, but it should not be at the cost of Assam’s interests. The state government has adopted a cautious approach on this issue since anything related to Bangladesh is considered very sensitive in Assam because of unabated illegal influx from the neighbouring country.

The state had witnessed widespread protests against the land-swap deal signed between India and Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2011 in the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gogoi.

The Constitution amendment bill to facilitate the land-swap deal could not be passed in Parliament because of stiff protests by AGP MPs.

“Even during the erstwhile NDA regime, there was a proposal to issue work permits to Bangladeshi immigrants which we had also opposed. Some parties speak differently when they are in the Opposition and while in the government,” said Gogoi in an oblique reference to the tough stand taken by Modi against illegal migration from Bangladesh during his election campaign.

Gogoi said the external affairs ministry had also sought the state government’s opinion on introducing a Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service and the river transit agreement with Bangladesh. The state government has no problems with these two issues.

He said the state government had sought Rs 489.24 crore from the Centre to update the NRC.


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