Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)
Theme of the article
The outcome of the NRC exercise has implications for India’s ties with Bangladesh.
Why has this issue cropped up?
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.
The exercise of compiling the NRC has sparked a debate around its political, economic and humanitarian consequences, and its implications for India’s relationship with its neighbours, particularly Bangladesh.
How India can lose from the NRC exercise ?
- 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.
- Most of the Indians are employed in advantageous jobs in Bangladesh while Bangladeshis in India are largely employed in low-paying jobs.
Is Bangladesh in a position to accept people who get deported due to NRC?
Bangladesh, already stretched in terms of resources and manpower to host Rohingya refugees, would not be acceding to a request of taking back Bengali-speaking Muslims in case deportation is initiated.
Is India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’ being pursued?
- The present government came to power with proclamation of a ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. However, the reality seems different which has had its consequences:
- 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 ending India’s monopoly to its trading routes.
- The India-Bhutan relationship has also been strained ever since India temporarily withdrew subsidies on cooking gas and kerosene in 2013, constraining bilateral ties. Bhutan 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.
Bangladesh: A trusted neighbour and ally of India
- Against the backdrop of China making inroads into South Asia and India’s backyard, Bangladesh has so far been the most trusted ally of India.
- On the security front, it has cooperated in India’s crackdown on insurgents.
- 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.
The NRC issue threatens to disturb the equilibrium in India-Bangladesh ties.. Previous similar exercises have not been effective and only resulted in alienating individuals from their natural rights.