FM cancels India visit amid protests over citizenship bill

Published: December 12, 2019 17:27:18 | Updated: December 12, 2019 21:56:34

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has cancelled his scheduled visit to India amid violent protests over a contentious citizenship bill in the country's northeastern state of Assam.

Momen was scheduled to travel to New Delhi on a three-day visit from Dec 12 to Dec 14, reports bdnews24.com.

But the visit was subsequently cancelled on Thursday, said an official of the foreign ministry.

It came a day after the foreign minister said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill -- which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- could weaken India's historic character as a secular nation.

“We have the Martyred Intellectuals Day on Dec 14 and Victory Day on Dec 16. It’s important that he (Momen) remains in the country during this period. Therefore he cancelled the visit,” said the official.

State Minister Shahriar Alam is currently in Madrid while Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque is attending the hearing of the lawsuit against Myanmar over the alleged genocide of the Rohingya people in The Hague, according to the official.

Ferdousi Shahriar, the director general of the foreign ministry’s Americas Wing, will lead the Bangladesh delegation on the visit to New Delhi, he said.

India moved thousands of troops into the northeastern state of Assam, where a movement against illegal immigrants from its neighbouring Bangladesh has simmered for decades.

As India's upper house of parliament passed the bill in the early hours of Thursday, protests took place across India's northeast. In Assam, protesters defied a curfew, torching cars and tyres and chanting anti-Modi slogans.

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