The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has shot down two proposals of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to grant visa-free entry to Bangladeshi nationals under the age of 18 and above the age of 65, and to put the neighbouring country in the “visa on arrival” category.
The two proposals were being considered among “deliverables” to make External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh later this week a success.
Bangladesh has for long been requesting for these facilities for its citizens but this was for the first time that the MEA — keeping in mind Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stand on having cordial ties with neighbouring countries — decided to seek the MHA’s view on the proposal ahead of Swaraj’s visit as the matter could come up for discussion there.
MEA had written to MHA to give its opinion on inclusion of the two issues as part of the tentative agenda of discussions during Swaraj’s two-day visit to Bangladesh from June 25.
The visa-free entry proposal has generated strong reactions in Assam with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi last week slamming the Modi government for toying with the idea. Gogoi’s reaction came after the MEA sought the opinion of the Assam government, among other stakeholders, on the two issues.
“We have rejected the two proposals. We have already communicated to the MEA our strong objection to the proposals,” a senior MHA official said.
The MHA, however, did not rule out another MEA proposal — long-term multiple entry tourist visa for Bangladeshis under the age of 18 and over the age of 65. “This proposal can be considered subject to certain conditions, including appearance of the visa-holder before the Foreigner Regional Registration Office every year,” the official said. Currently, Bangladeshis get multiple-entry visa for one year and the proposal is to extend the facility up to five years.
“This is also for the first time MHA has given in writing that such visa-free entry facilities for Bangladeshis was not possible. Though the matter had been discussed verbally between the two countries earlier, the External Affairs Ministry, in a bid to make this trip of the minister a success, considered it as one of the key agenda points for the meeting. We decided to reject it considering security implications,” said a senior official.