Assam’s citizenship register is ‘internal matter’ for India, says Jaishankar amid concerns in Bangladesh

  • Senior Correspondent
    Published: 2019-08-20 13:20:09 BdST


India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has termed the National Register of Citizens in Assam the country’s “internal matter” amid concerns in Bangladesh.

Jaishankar also said India’s position and commitment to the pending Teesta water deal remained as it was. He, however, did not make any comment on the tensions in Jammu and Kashmir.

The new external affairs minister was replying to questions at a joint briefing with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen at the state guesthouse Jamuna after bilateral talks.

Momen said he was “excited” as they had a “very good meeting”.

“We more or less came to a consensus on all issues,” he said, without naming the issues on agenda.

Jaishankar arrived in Dhaka on Monday night in a courtesy visit, first after becoming the minister. He started his official engagements on Tuesday by paying respects to Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the ‘Bangabandhu Museum’ in Dhanmondi.

The minister will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina later in the day.

Bangladesh and India currently enjoy the best of relations and officials expressed optimism for deeper ties. Over 100 agreements have been signed in the last 10 years, with 68 of them having been penned in the last three years alone.

The decades-old land boundary as well as maritime issues have been resolved. But the equitable share of Teesta river water remains the one thorny issue.

There are serious concerns in Bangladesh about the NRC in the neighbouring state of Assam as the media reports four million people risk losing their citizenship because of the test.

“This is an internal matter for India,” Jaishankar said.

On water sharing in his opening remarks, he said water resource is an “important subject” for Bangladesh and “we look forward to making progress to find a mutually acceptable formula from 54 shared rivers. We are ready to make a start wherever possible.”

“We have a position you are aware of that. We have a commitment on that position and that does not change,” he said when asked to comment specifically on the Teesta, indicating New Delhi’s previous position that it is ready to sign the deal once the West Bengal government agrees to it.

Jaishankar, who was earlier the foreign secretary of India, said his courtesy visit is also aimed at discussing issues during Hasina’s upcoming visit in October.

He said the relations are more than strategic partnership and it’s his “privilege” to be associated with this relationship earlier as the foreign secretary and today as the foreign minister.

“We believe that when it comes to security, improved partnership against crimes, terrorism and extremism and terrorist group is the direct benefit of the people of both countries.”

Jaishankar said connectivity between the countries has been increased on all routes and “we would like to step up this partnership”.

On energy cooperation, he said both countries have stakes in each other’s success.

On trade, he said, the progress would be made at a pace which is “comfortable” for Bangladesh. The two-ay trade is heavily in favour of India.

On people-to-people ties, he said India operates the largest consular service in Dhaka and “we want to make it seamless”.

Jaishankar said they are also looking forward to celebrating both the centenary of Bangabandhu and the 50-year anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence.

They also discussed the Rohingya issue and agreed on their “safe, speedy and sustainable return” to Myanmar.

“Our partnership with Bangladesh remains an example what neighbours can do together,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to ensure partnership remains a “role model” in South Asia.

Jaishankar will leave Dhaka on Wednesday morning.