New Delhi: Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Lok Sabha Monday India shares a border with Afghanistan, much to the dismay of many inside Parliament and outside.
Shah was speaking during the debate on contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that was tabled in Parliament Monday. The bill makes illegal migrants of religious minorities such as Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan eligible for Indian citizenship.
Certain Lok Sabha members asked Shah why Nepal and Sri Lanka were not included in the bill, and how Afghanistan is India’s neighbour.
Replying to this, the home minister said, “We share 106-km land border with Afghanistan. Maybe the opposition thinks PoK is not part of India.”
Incidentally, Shah and the opposition are both right, depending on what one would like to believe.
Amit Shah was referring to the 106-km abutting Wakhan Corridor in the Badakhshan province that separates Afghanistan from Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
India has always claimed its right over PoK. The Indian maps show PoK as Indian territory and hence one can argue India does share a border with Afghanistan.
If India gets access to PoK, there can be direct trade with Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
Interestingly, Wakhan Corridor was annexed by British to actually create a buffer between Russia and India.
However, Shah’s own ministry does not recognise any border with Afghanistan. The official document recognises that India has border only with Bangladesh (4,096.70 km), Pakistan (3,323 km), China (3,488 km), Nepal (1,751 km), Bhutan (699 km), and Myanmar (1,643 km).
What the citizenship bill says
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is contentious for many reasons — one of it is the fact that it excludes Muslims.
Amending the Citizenship Act, 1955, the bill makes illegal migrants of religious minorities such as Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan eligible for Indian citizenship. The cut-off date for citizenship is 31 December 2014.
Currently, Indian citizenship is given to those who are born here or have been residing in the country for at least 11 years.
(With inputs from Ananya Bhardwaj & Snehesh Alex Philip)