The Union Home Ministry has shot down a proposal by the Ministry of External Affairs to grant visa-on-arrival facility to Bangladeshi nationals and visa-free entry to citizens of that country under the age of 18 and over the age of 65.
The Home Ministry’s decision has been made after the MEA had sought its opinion on, including the two issues as part of the agenda of discussions during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Bangladesh from June 25-27. The External Affairs Minister had discussions with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Mujib on a range of issues, including the sharing of the Teesta waters.
However, a sweeping visa-free entry to Bangladeshis has run into a wall, with the Home Ministry putting its foot down. “We have rightly rejected the two proposals. We have already communicated to the MEA our strong objection to the proposals,” according to a Home Ministry official said.
Visa-free entry for Bangladeshis is an issue that evokes strong reaction in many parts of India, particularly Assam, which borders Bangladesh and has been bearing the brunt of unrelenting illegal infiltration from Bangladeshi Muslims, who have upset the demographic balance in some of the state’s districts.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had strongly opposed any move to grant visa-free entry for Bangladeshis and also criticized the Narendra Modi government for even entertaining the idea. The Assam CM’s reaction is significant, as the MEA sought the opinion of the Assam government, which is a key stakeholder on the issue.
However, another proposal of the MEA has not been disapproved of by the Home Ministry. This is the issue of long-term multiple entry tourist visa for Bangladeshis under the age of 18 and over the age of 65. The Home Ministry says that this proposal could be considered subject to certain conditions, including appearance of the visa-holder before the Foreigner Regional Registration Office every year. Moreover, Modi’s election campaign for the 2014 general elections had also included a pledge to deport all illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India if the BJP came to power.
Currently, Bangladeshis get multiple-entry visa for one year. The Ministry of External Affairs wants to extend the facility up to five years. The visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is considered a part Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to neighbouring countries. The leaders of SAARC countries had been invited to attend his swearing-in ceremony on May 26. After taking over as Prime Minister, Modi had made an early visit to Bhutan last week.
~ Indian Express