Bangladesh on Thursday cancelled the scheduled December 12-14 India visits by its Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momin and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, diplomatic sources said.
Dhaka has not yet elaborated upon the reasons behind the cancellation of the trip, but it is understood that it is a sign of its displeasure over repeated reference by Indian political leadership of alleged minority persecution in Bangladesh.
Mr. Khan was scheduled to visit Shillong on Friday and it was learnt that Dhaka was concerned about the law and order situation in Meghalaya, where protests were reported following the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, by Parliament.
Mr. Momin was one of the first foreign leaders to respond to Home Minister Amit Shah’s reference to ‘atrocities’ against Hindu women in Bangladesh during 2000 to 2003, while introducing the CAB in the Lok Sabha, and repeat of some of his arguments in the Rajya Sabha.
“There are a very few countries where communal harmony is as good as in Bangladesh. If he [Amit Shah] stayed in Bangladesh for a few months, he would see exemplary communal harmony in our country,” Mr. Momin told the Bangladesh media.
Mr. Momin told the Bengali service of the BBC that such persecution did not exist in Bangladesh. “We believe that religion is a personal affair, but festivals belong to all.”
Mr. Momin, who should have been the keynote speaker at Friday’s combined session of Delhi Dialogue XI and India Ocean Dialogue VI, said: “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.” The BBC cited him as saying that there were reports of persecution of various minority communities in India.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, maintained that Dhaka had conveyed that the Minister's cancellation was because of “domestic issues pertaining to the commemoration of the ‘Victory Day’ in Bangladesh on December 16”.
The Bangladesh Foreign Minister also briefed the ambassadors of the U.S. and Japan to Dhaka, Earl R. Miller and Ito Naoki, on Thursday on the current issues in the region. “India is historically a tolerant country which believes in secularism... their historic position will be weakened if they deviated from that. What India has done is an internal matter of the country. But I hope that friendly India will not do anything that will create a sense of terror among the people of both countries. I will have to read the CAB,” he said.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan was expected to attend an event in Shillong to pay tribute to the sacrifice of the guerrillas of the Mukti Bahini, who assisted India in the war against Pakistan in 1971. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had urged the Minister to visit the places where he stayed during the war of 1971.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Shah stated that the persecution of Hindus had not stopped in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which called for bringing the CAB to Parliament. “As long as Sheikh Mujib was alive, there were no atrocities on the Hindus. But after his assassination in 1975, the atrocities broke the backbone of the minorities in Bangladesh. The current government also deserves appreciation as it has reduced the number of atrocities,” said Mr. Shah.
Earlier this year, Mr. Momin expressed concern over the impact of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Bangladesh. During the October visit to Delhi, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the South Asian countries to look beyond the “majority-minority mindset”. Her comments were interpreted by veteran diplomats as a sign of growing disapproval of Dhaka of India's political discourse on the CAB and the NRC.