New Delhi: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to do some tough talking with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday over India’s plans on the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) and repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Both leaders are also expected to sign an agreement on the purchase of defence items.
The two prime ministers will be meeting for the second time in a span of 10 days. They had last met in New York on 24 September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.
During their meeting in New York, Hasina did discuss the NRC issue with Modi and was assured by the prime minister that it will not impact Bangladesh. She is, however, planning to raise the issue again as recent comments, especially those by Home Minister Amit Shah, have not gone down well with Bangladesh, sources told ThePrint.
“Naturally Bangladesh is very concerned,” a diplomatic source, who refused to be named, said. “Prime Minister Modi has assured that it is India’s internal matter and Bangladesh won’t be affected but not everyone in his government thinks like that.”
The source also said that while India did give an assurance that the NRC won’t affect Bangladesh, the statement that was issued after the leaders’ meeting in New York did not mention anything on it.
Hasina, who is in India to attend a business summit, has come with a delegation comprising her Commerce and Industry Minister Tipu Munshi and Education Minister Dipu Moni.
Home Minister Shah had Tuesday stated in Kolkata that his government would “identify each and every infiltrator and drive them out”.
So far, the NRC in Assam has left out 19 lakh people. So, Dhaka is concerned that those who have been labelled as non-citizens will be sent to Bangladesh.
“NRC is a concern for Bangladesh but the Prime Minister has assured her that it will not impact her country so I do not think they should be overly worried on that,” said veteran diplomat and former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia.
Rohingya refugee issue to figure prominently
The Bangladeshi prime minister will also be discussing the issue of repatriating the Rohingya refugees with her Indian counterpart as Dhaka continues to reel under the pressure to accommodate them, sources said.
During one of her addresses at the India Economic Summit Friday, Hasina said there are at present 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
On his last visit to Dhaka, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had said the process of documenting and identifying illegal immigrants in Assam is India’s “internal matter”.
Jaishankar also said Thursday that India is doing all it can to repatriate Rohingya refugees. He said India has completed a housing project in Rakhine state of Myanmar with the hope that the Rohingyas will come and settle in them.
Arms purchase and agreements to be signed
India and Pakistan are also expected to sign a number of agreements across various sectors. According to Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, there will be six to seven documents that will be signed on transport, capacity building and culture.
According to sources, India may also grant a $500 million line of credit to Dhaka for the purchase of defence items from New Delhi.
Besides, Hasina will also stress on the need to maintain the importance of connectivity under the framework of BCIM (Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar) Economic Corridor, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
While India, under PM Modi’s second tenure, has put its weight behind the progress of BCIM and BIMSTEC, the movement on SAARC has been at snail’s pace due to tensions between India and Pakistan.
“Bangladesh is very keen on these connectivity plans as they want to become this regional hub. This is very crucial for them,” said Bhatia, now a Distinguished Fellow at the Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House.