India not pushing anyone into Bangladesh: FM

India is not pushing anyone into Bangladesh, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said contrary to media reports. “Some people are coming (to Bangladesh) lured by middlemen with a hope of getting free food,” he said while talking to reporters at his office on Sunday. “Indian government told us that they are not pushing anyone into Bangladesh,” he said, adding that they have ‘to believe the Indian government, not any person in India’.

The issue came to the fore following unrest in the Indian state of Assam, bordered with Bangladesh, over a controversial legislation that will allow for Hindu, Buddhist and Christian but not Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to become citizens of India. There are serious concerns in Bangladesh about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that left over four million people at risk of losing their citizenship.

The Indian government, however, maintained that it is an “internal issue” of India, and it will not affect Bangladesh. Highlighting the socio-economic progress, the foreign minister said Bangladesh is doing well in many fronts comparing to India. “Some people are coming here with a hope to get jobs also”.

He, however, said Bangladeshi citizens have their rights to come back. “But illegal entry of other citizens will not be allowed.” “We have requested India to give us a list of illegal Bangladeshis if there is any. We have standard procedure to bring them back,” he said. Bangladesh and India currently enjoy the best of relations. 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. Teesta river water sharing issue, however, remained pending. The foreign minister also brushed aside speculations over the last-minute cancellation of his visit to India. “Our (India-Bangladesh) relations are normal and very strong,” he said, citing “busy schedule” in Dhaka ahead of Martyred Intellectuals Day and Victory Day as reason for cancellation.

The Indian side on Thursday, when the visit was called off, also termed speculations linking the cancellation of the visit to the Indian Parliament's adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Bill "unwarranted."

“We've been informed by Bangladesh side that the change in the programme was due to domestic issues related to commemoration of Bangladesh Victory Day on December 16," official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar told reporters at a briefing in New Delhi on Thursday.