THE fact that Bangladesh’s national anthem, Amar Sonar Bangla, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore, is historical evidence of our shared past and organic cultural ties. The visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi was a step to cement relationships between the two neighbours. That it came in the wake of the NRC exercise in Assam and the possibility of India trying to deport 1.9 million people labelled as ‘non-citizens’ is unfortunate.
The visit was Hasina’s first after the 2018 Bangladesh elections and considering that she has a very good rapport with Indian leaders, is important. What is heartening is that Bangladesh has chosen to go by PM Narendra Modi’s assurance that the NRC exercise is an internal matter of India mandated by its Supreme Court. Modi received support for the NRC at Houston from US President Donald Trump, who railed against Mexican immigrants. India’s own illegal immigrants in countries like the US and Canada do get deported regularly, even as Bangladesh deals with the Rohingya problem. Illegal immigration is a global phenomenon which has to be understood in all its socio-political complexities, going beyond communal considerations and police verifications.
The issue of refugees from Bangladesh is an old one and lakhs of them settled in India in the aftermath of the 1971 war. In its acknowledgement in Bangladesh’s liberation, Hasina has invited the Indian leaders to attend the 50th anniversary of the country’s freedom which should go a long way in softening attitudes. Irritants remain, like the sharing of Teesta river waters, opposed by Mamata Banerjee. Meeting the West Bengal CM was not part of Hasina’s itinerary. The two countries have focused on positives — chalking out a scheme to supply LPG to India’s North-East and improving rail and road network as Bangladesh seeks to pitch itself as a fast-growing economy. The concern over the NRC is overstated by Haryana and Delhi CMs. The states should keep in mind the domicile policy proposed by Jharkhand’s first CM Babulal Marandi that proved divisive, with tribals and non-tribals on the warpath, eventually leading to his fading away.