Monday, 30th October 2017

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Bangla minister latest to skip India

The Bangladesh foreign ministry sought to dispel speculation about Alam’s decision

By Anita Joshua in New Delhi
  • Published 12.01.20, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 12.01.20, 3:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Bangladesh minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam (Wikipedia)

Bangladesh minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam will not be travelling to India next week to participate in the Raisina Dialogue, making it the fourth visit from Dhaka to be cancelled in the month since Parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, on December 11.

The Bangladesh foreign ministry sought to dispel speculation about Alam’s decision being linked to the contentious legislation that essentially fast-tracks citizenship for persecuted non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“State Minister Md Shahriar Alam was invited as a speaker in the Raisina Dialogue which coincides with his visit to (the)UAE to accompany the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. As such State Minister Alam could not avail the participation,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to media reports.

“A regret letter, on this regard, has already been communicated with (the) ORF (Observer Research Foundation). It may be noted that there was no bilateral engagement scheduled during the visit. The inability of his participation has no other connection,” the statement added.

The ORF has organised the Dialogue in collaboration with India’s external affairs ministry and key speakers at the multilateral meet include Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The external affairs ministry has not commented on media queries about Alam’s decision.

Last month, Bangladesh foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen had cancelled his visit to India on the morning of the day he was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi to participate in the combined session of the Delhi Dialogue XI and the Indian Ocean Dialogue VI, and a breakfast meeting with counterpart S. Jaishankar the following day.

The amended law had been cleared by Parliament the previous day.

Scheduling issues were cited then too as the reason for the cancellation but Momen had also openly questioned Union home minister Amit Shah for includingBangladesh in the list of countries where minorities are persecuted, triggering speculation and putting the external affairs ministry into damage-control mode to ensure that the act did not eclipse the bilateral relationship.

A part of Shah’s speech in Parliament where he acknowledged the efforts being made in Bangladesh under the present dispensation to ensure the safety of minorities was cited to show that his comments on persecution of minorities was not a commentary on the current situation.

Later that day, Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan too had called off his visit to Shillong at the invitation of Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma whose party had supported the citizenship bill in Parliament.

A week later, technical-level talks of the India-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission were cancelled at the last minute, purportedly because of the delay in exchange of data on six common rivers.