12/12/2019 4:09 PM IST | Updated 12/12/2019 4:33 PM IST

India Plays Down Cancellation Of Bangladesh Minister's Visit Over Citizenship Amendment Bill

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has cancelled his visit to India.

A chink seems to have appeared in India’s “good” and “strong” friendship with Bangladesh after the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday. 

The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities on grounds of religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. 

While introducing the bill in the Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that minorities in these three countries were not treated equally. “Their population has declined by 20 percent as they were either killed or forced to convert or migrated to India.” 

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“They took refuge (in India) but were barred from availing basic facilities like homes, jobs, healthcare and education,” he had said.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said that the bill could weaken India’s historic character as a secular nation. He also rejected the allegations that minorities faced religious persecution in his country.

He said Bangladesh and India enjoyed close friendly relations and “so, naturally our people [Bangladeshis] expect that India won’t do anything that could create anxiety among them,” PTI quoted.

Dismissing allegations of oppression of minorities, he said that no one from other religions is oppressed in Bangladesh. “We have respect for all religions. We see those (minorities) in equal eyes and as the citizens of Bangladesh,” he was quoted as saying by Dhaka Tribune.

“It is not true that minorities are being tortured here,” he said and added, “Whoever gave them the information, it is not correct.”

Momen has cancelled his three-day visit to India beginning Thursday. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the Foreign Minister has given an explanation for the cancellation of the visit and the relationship between the two countries is strong.

In response to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Momen told the Bengali service of the BBC (The Hindu cited the remarks), “We can say that the condition of the minority communities in Bangladesh is very good now. Those who went abroad earlier are now returning home.”

As BJP party president, Amit Shah had previously referred to immigrants from Bangladesh as “termites”, a remark that was widely criticised.

(With PTI inputs)