Amid criticism over Citizenship Bill, Bangladesh foreign minister cancels India visit hours before arrival

  • According to an earlier advisory issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Momen was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi at 5.20 pm on Thursday.

  • Diplomatic sources said Momen cancelled his trip over the situation arising out of the passage of the controversial legislation in the Parliament.

  • However, issuing a statement in Dhaka, Momen said he had to cancel his trip to New Delhi due to pressing engagements.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has cancelled his three-day visit to India which was supposed to begin on Thursday. The development comes amid strong criticism from the neighbouring country over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

According to an earlier advisory issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, Momen was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi at 5.20 pm on Thursday.

Diplomatic sources said Momen cancelled his trip over the situation arising out of the passage of the controversial legislation in the Parliament.

However, issuing a statement in Dhaka, Momen said he had to cancel his trip to New Delhi due to pressing engagements.

"I had to cancel my trip to New Delhi as I have to participate in the Buddijibi Debosh and Bijoy Debosh and more so as our State Minister is out of the country in Madrid and our Foreign Secretary is in The Hague," the minister was quoted as saying.

 Amid criticism over Citizenship Bill, Bangladesh foreign minister cancels India visit hours before arrival

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. ANI

A statement released by the Bangladeshi government said the foreign minister decided to cancel his trip given "increasing demand" at home.

On Wednesday, Momen had said that the Bill could weaken India's historic character as a secular nation and rejected the allegations that the minorities are facing religious persecution in his country.

According to the legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till 31 December, 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill or CAB has been passed by both the Houses of the Parliament.

"India is historically a tolerant country which believes in secularism, but their historic position will be weakened if they deviate from that," Momen told reporters.

He said that Bangladesh and India are currently enjoying close friendly relations "that is termed as "golden chapter" of bilateral ties and "so, naturally our people (Bangladeshis) expect that India won't do anything that could create anxiety among them".

Momen termed as "untrue the allegations of minority repression in Bangladesh by India's Home Minister Amit Shah, saying whoever gave them the information, it is not correct".

"Many important decisions of our country are taken by persons belonging to different religions...we never judge anybody by their religion," he said, expecting the minority community representatives in the country to echo his remarks.

Momen said Bangladesh maintains strong religion harmony and ensures that followers of all faiths enjoy same rights in every area. He said during his talks earlier on Thursday with US ambassador in Dhaka Earl R Miller, the envoy expressed America's concern about the CAB.

"They (US) are being critical about that (as well) . . . they believe India weakened its position by doing it (passing the bill in Lok Sabha)," he said.

With inputs from PTI 

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2019 16:51:26 IST