Momen cancels India visit


A foreign ministry official confirmed to Dhaka Tribune about the minister’s visit cancellation on Thursday

Amid widespread protest in India following the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in parliament, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has cancelled his planned three-day visit to the neighbouring country.

A foreign ministry official familiar with the visit confirmed to Dhaka Tribune on Thursday about the cancellation.

The delegation to India is now being led by a director general of the foreign ministry, said the official.

The foreign minister was scheduled to leave the country on Thursday for New Delhi to attend the sixth edition of the Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD) on Friday.

During the visit, Abdul Momen was also scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on the sidelines of the dialogue.

The foreign ministry official, however, claimed that the cancellation of the minister’s trip has no link with the passage of the bill and its subsequent protest in India. 

For the cancellation, he cited several other reasons including the preparation for the celebration of the Victory Day, and the absence of State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, and Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque in the country.

State Minister Alam will leave for Madrid on Friday while the foreign secretary is leading a Bangladesh delegation at The Hague currently.

The official said there is a possibility that the foreign minister will visit India next month. 

Despite repeated attempts, the minister could not be reached for his comments over the cancellation of his trip.

The trip cancellation coincided remarks made by Abdul Momen, who outright rejected Indian Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks on the condition of religious minorities in the country.

The Indian minister, during a debate on their controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sobha on Monday night, said Hindus, a religious minority in Bangladesh, had “found it impossible” to conduct their religious activities in the country.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday night, Abdul Momen said: “What they are saying in regards to torture on Hindus is unwarranted as well as untrue.

“There are very few countries in the world where communal harmony is as good as in Bangladesh. We have no minorities. We are all equal. If he [Amit Shah] stayed in Bangladesh for a few months, he would see the exemplary communal harmony in our country,” he added. 

On Wednesday, the foreign minister also feared the neighbouring country’s citizenship law would rather affect its historic character as a secular nation.

Meanwhile, India has been hit by violent protests as its parliament on Wednesday passed the contentious bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from some countries.

The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 – but not if they are Muslim.

The move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faced stiff resistance from opposition parties, minority groups and student bodies, with some calling it discrimination against Muslims.