Insights into Editorial: The spectre of deportation
Assam government moved the Supreme Court for extension by a month of the deadline to file claims and objections for inclusion in the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The last date for filing claims and objections for Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been extended by the Supreme Court to December 31, from December 15.
There was some disquiet in Bangladesh when the Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, lent support to the NRC drive, claiming that those settled in Indian territory without legal jurisdiction posed a threat to national security.
This exercise of compiling the NRC in the first place has sparked a debate around its political, economic and humanitarian consequences, and its implications for India’s relationship with its neighbours, particularly Bangladesh.
India adopted Neighbourhood first?
Mr. Modi came to power with proclamation of a ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. But the reality speaks quite differently.
How Relation strained with Nepal:
- Nepal, once a time-tested ally, has tilted towards China since the 2015 Nepal blockade barring the entry of fuel, medicine and other vital supplies and holding the state to a literal siege.
- Nepal now has been given access to four Chinese ports at Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang in addition to its dry (land) ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse, as well as roads to these facilities, ending India’s monopoly to its trading routes.
India’s recent with Bhutan:
- The India-Bhutan relationship has also been strained ever since India temporarily withdrew subsidies on cooking gas and kerosene in 2013, constraining bilateral ties.
- The Doklam stand-off in the summer of 2017 reinforced Bhutan’s scepticism towards Chinese expansionist plans across the region.
- Simultaneously, Thimphu has been underlining the landlocked kingdom’s aspiration to affirm its sovereignty.
- It has, for instance, stepped out of India’s diplomatic influence, as evidenced by its withdrawal from the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement.
- The India-China power play has also cast its shadow over Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the last few years.
Against this backdrop of China making inroads into South Asia and India’s backyard, Bangladesh has so far been the most trusted ally of India.
India With Bangladesh:
There are legal as well as illegal Indian immigrants in Bangladesh too.
- According to the latest available Bangladesh government estimates of 2009, more than 500,000 Indians were working in Bangladesh.
- More recently, Bangladesh was reported to be among the highest source of remittances to India, behind the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.K.
- Many Indian citizens are securing coveted employment opportunities in Bangladesh through multinational companies, non-governmental organisations, and trading activities.
- To put things into perspective, most of them are employed in advantageous jobs in Bangladesh while Bangladeshis in India are largely employed in low-paying jobs.
- On the security front, it has cooperated in India’s crackdown on insurgents. Border Security Force (BSF) said that because of close cooperation with Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) “the number of training places and hideouts of these insurgents (in Bangladesh) has been reduced to almost zero.”
- Annual bilateral trade is set to cross the $9 billion mark, making it India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia.
- In addition, Bangladesh has facilitated connectivity with the Northeast by allowing the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports.
- However, the Teesta water-sharing issue remains unaddressed, non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi exports persist and border killings are yet to become a thing of the past.
The NRC issue threatens to disturb the equilibrium in India-Bangladesh ties.
Plans for deportation of those not on the NRC list are not only politically imprudent but also risk inciting unrest across the region.
The State asked the court to direct the Application Receipt Numbers (ARN) of those already included in the final draft NRC to be made available online to enable filing of objections against wrongful inclusions.
Yet, some remain apprehensive, pointing out that Bangladesh had been similarly unconcerned about the Rohingya issue, which did not prevent the country from ultimately hosting more than a million Rohingya.
It has also sought an “intensive sample re-verification of 20% inclusions in the final draft NRC.”
Previous similar exercises have not been effective and only resulted in alienating individuals from their natural rights.
The primary goal of India’s external engagement has been to seek peace and stability, enabling a supportive environment for pursuing our nation’s multifarious development needs.
This approach of foreign policy for economic progress and development is nowhere more relevant than in our South Asian neighbourhood and the extended neighbourhood, including Central Asia.
Both South and Central Asia face enormous challenges with regard to development as well as security.
These range from ensuring economic growth and stability to dealing with trans-national security threats such as the scourge of drug-trafficking and terrorism.
Our approach to both the regions has been to build bridges of friendship and cooperation, establish greater physical and people-to-people connectivity and foster closer integration for overall progress and well-being.